The Wii U isn't going to win the next-gen console race. Anyone predicting an unexpected revival at E3 2013 due to Nintendo's Wii U Game Showcase is experiencing a bout of wishful thinking. If Microsoft doesn't start playing straight and coming clean about the role of the Internet and used games in relation to the Xbox One, Nintendo's console may have a shot at second place, but even that's being a little too optimistic. No, the Wii U is lodged firmly in its underdog position, but that isn't such a bad thing. It just means it's going to be another GameCube.
The Wii U is a good machine with a lot of potential, just like the GameCube. However, it also shares some of that console's downfalls. It is technologically going to lag behind its fellow eighth-generation friends. The third-party game library is lacking, with EA already coming forward to say its Frostbite 3 Engine doesn't work with the system. It also is pretty much purely a gaming machine, despite the inclusion of Netflix and TVii. Even the PS4, which is being marketed as a system for gaming, will still be able to at least play other forms of media.
Which means that in order to survive, Nintendo's going to have to treat the Wii U like the GameCube. To start, it means there's going to have to be a massive first-party game push. Just think about some of the games that made the GameCube great. The system had titles like Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime, Pikmin, Animal Crossing, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, Super Mario Sunshine, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Luigi's Mansion, Chibi-Robo!, and Pokemon Colosseum. These were more than just "good games." Almost all of these are legendary. Most importantly, all of the above were also first-party games. Sure, the GameCube had other, fantastic third-party games from companies like Capcom and Namco Bandai, but it was Nintendo that carried that machine.
And now, Nintendo's going to have to do that with the Wii U. We're going to need an infusion of first-party games stat to keep this console going. Fortunately, it seems like Nintendo's already started to see that and take action. We already have New Super Mario Bros. U, Lego City Undercover, and Nintendo Land. It isn't the strongest trifecta for a new console, but all three are solid games. Not to mention, Pikmin 3 is finally fast approaching.
Plus, the future does seem bright for first-party Wii U games: Bayonetta 2, Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem, The Wonderful 101, X, Yarn Yoshi, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. We also keep hearing rumblings about the next Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. Toss in more definite indications of a new Metroid, Zelda, Animal Crossing, and perhaps a Pokemon spin-off, and gamers will have something they can work with and actually enjoy. Get enough people buying the system for first-party games, and, eventually, other developers and publishers will start tossing us a bone as well.
There's another Wii U and GameCube similarity that Nintendo's going to have to draw on, and that's the focus on local multiplayer. The GameCube was the kind of system you could take anywhere. I remember one of my best friends in college bringing hers, along with her copies of Mario Party 4 and Super Smash Bros. Melee, to various events. Whether we were spending time at another friend's dorm, a club event, or home, she'd be able to toss it in her car and we'd all enjoy a delightful multiplayer experience as a result.
The Wii U is in the same situation despite its free, online multiplayer and move from Friend Codes to Nintendo IDs. It doesn't have the convenient carrying handle of the GameCube, but it is still the kind of system you're supposed to enjoy with friends. Gather everyone in the same room, toss someone the GamePad, and then either compete in Nintendo Land or see how well you work as a group with a New Super Mario Bros. U speedrun. I imagine Game & Wario will have the same potential. I really think it will help the system if Nintendo keeps local multiplayer in mind when it comes to future Wii U games. Online gaming is fun, but there's something special about playing with the people around you and seeing the look on their face when you blue-shell them or snatch their only star.
The Wii U's situation could be a lot better, but things could also be much worse. Nintendo already seems to be taking the steps necessary to at least make the system viable to die-hard fans, which would result in the Wii U becoming the GameCube 2.0. A solid system with a substantial library of first-party games isn't such a bad thing. We survived the GameCube years and came out of it appreciating that adorable square for what it is. I think the same thing will happen with the Wii U. A surprise twist in which both the PS4 and Xbox One reject used games and people flock to the Wii U in response would be nice, but Nintendo will survive regardless.