As 2016 draws to a close, the gaming community fixes its eyes upon the new year. 2017 is slated to bring a wealth of highly-anticipated games to our collective door, from big-budget showstoppers like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Persona 5 to promising indies like Cuphead and Cosmic Star Heroine. 2017 will also see the debut of a new piece of hardware that has the potential to rock the industry like nothing else before it: the Nintendo Switch.
With Nintendo's new console only a few months away, there are likely quite a few projects in development behind closed doors that we'll be hearing about in the coming months. In the meantime, however, another Nintendo console sits in many of our living rooms, underutilized save for the odd Super Smash Bros. session every now and then. The Wii U released only four years ago, and its imminent departure from the mainstream console lineup will make it one of the shortest-lived Nintendo consoles ever. (The Wii, in comparison, stuck around for a full six years - outliving its ancestor, the GameCube, by a year.)
I look upon the death of the Wii U neither with sadness nor joy; I merely believe that its time has come, and that the Switch is a far more promising machine than the Wii U ever was. I've come to regard the Wii U as a lackluster piece of hardware with a small but absolutely brilliant software lineup. Xenoblade Chronicles X, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon, Super Mario 3D World, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Super Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2... every one of these games is exceptional, yet I can imagine all of them being a better fit for a more powerful, more portable console, i.e. the Switch.
It seems developers are ready to break from the aging console as well. In a recent high-profile news story, the developer of Kickstarter-backed platformer Yooka-Laylee announced that production on its Wii U version had officially ceased. Playtonic's official statement reads: "Despite our best efforts and exploring every possible avenue, we've encountered unforeseen technical issues that unfortunately mean it will be impossible for us to release the game on Wii U as initially planned." Instead, Playtonic has shifted its focus to creating a Nintendo Switch version of the game, and is offering free upgrades or refunds to backers who pledged for the Wii U version. Seems fair to me.
Playtonic isn't the only developer to ditch the system, either; Harvest Moon-inspired farming sim Stardew Valley released earlier this month for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One following the cancellation of its Wii U port. Developer ConcernedApe explained his reasoning: "Looking at Wii U and the current gaming landscape, we made the difficult choice to shift our development efforts to creating a version for Nintendo Switch. I am really looking forward to the Switch, and I believe that the Switch’s unique capabilities could create some exciting opportunities for Stardew Valley." Bloodstained, the spiritual successor the Castlevania series, might also make the jump to the Switch if creator Koga Igarashi's recent comments are indicative of the trouble he's encountered with the Wii U hardware. There are even rumors going around that the Wii U version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been cancelled due to technical difficulties.
I've gotten plenty of mileage out of my Wii U, but if developers are having this much difficulty making games for it after four years of it being on the market, it's time to bid it farewell. The Switch holds so much more possibility, not only in terms of raw horsepower, but in its potential to provide innovative game experiences unlike anything we've ever seen. I feel for everyone who invested money into Kickstarters with the promise of Wii U ports, but everyone is going to be better off in the long run once developers no longer have to jump so many hurdles to get their games up and running.
Image credit: Gamesbeat