I've seen a lot of complaining and whining about the WiiU lately. A lot of gamers--a lot of WiiU owners and Nintendo fans--all seem to be under the false impression that the WiiU is a failure.
This sentiment, while justified to a degree, is incorrect. To see how, let's approach the WiiU with as close to an objective analysis as possible.
The WiiU has been compared to a number of other gaming consoles, most notably the Nintendo Gamecube, Nintendo Wii, and SEGA Dreamcast. These comparisons are not very useful, as those platforms were marketed in a different time, in a different market, under conditions. For the purposes of this analysis, let's examine the WiiU compared to the Nintendo 3DS, which most (if not all) gamers agree is an excellent console with a fantastic library of diverse titles.
1. The WiiU released 19 months after the 3DS, and is therefore subject to roughly the same market conditions as its predecessor.
2. Both the WiiU and 3DS are "underpowered" compared to their direct competition (Vita, PS4).
3. At launch, the 3DS was $250; the WiiU was $300--each console slightly cheaper than its direct competition.
4. The design of both consoles is dependent on the same basic gimmick--twin displays--that most critics complain about as poorly utilized.
5. Both consoles suffer brand confusion--consumers who do not realize the WiiU is not the same thing as a Wii; that a 3DS is not the same thing as a DS.
As we can see, the WiiU and 3DS are very similar gaming consoles, at least so far as the hardware and launch circumstances are concerned. But we're gamers, and the best measure of a console's viability is always the games.
Right now, we can all agree that the 3DS is in a good position. With games like Animal Crossing, Kid Icarus, Kingdom Hearts, Super Mario 3D World, Paper Mario, Monster Hunter, Professor Layton, Tales of the Abyss, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Fire Emblem and Luigi's Mansion, there's a whole lot to love.
But it wasn't always this nice for the 3DS. In fact, the 3DS' first year was pretty disappointing for early adopters--and for Nintendo, as evidenced by the Ambassador Program. But, I would argue, if you compare the 3DS' first year library to the WiiU's first year library, you'll probably find that the WiiU has it better than the 3DS.
In fact, let's do just that.
Please look at the following table. It comprehensively details every single Nintendo WiiU and Nintendo 3DS game released on either platform in it's first eight months.
--Oh! Did I forget to remind everyone? The WiiU is only eight months old.
The table also includes all of the 3DS games that were released in the following four months, as well as all of the WiiU games that are expected to be released in the next four months.
Games that appear in RED are "failing" games with an average metacritic score of less than 65%; games in BLUE are "passing" games with an average metacritic score of greater than or equal to 65%. Game titles that are not colored either have no metacritic score, or (in the case of the last row of 3DS games) were intentionally not given colors to prevent comparison with their analogous, unreleased WiiU titles.
The 3DS has 19 games that "pass."
The WiiU has 25 games that "pass."
We can see that the WiiU had far more titles available at launch than the 3DS, and that those launch titles were of greater quality than the 3DS titles. We can also see that, in general, the WiiU has more titles aimed at core gamers than the 3DS did in its first year.
That's not to say there aren't visible problems. Too great a portion of the better games on both lists are multiplatform. The WiiU is currently nearing the end of a four-month long drought. And neither list has any "exclusive" titles of much merit.
But look to the bottom of the table. To the last row. To the tail end of the respective first years. In those four months, the 3DS finally began to pick up speed with Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and Tales of the Abyss. And in the analogous four months we're just about ready to go into for the WiiU, we have even more to look forward to: Pikmin, Donkey Kong and Zelda to say the least. Looking at where the 3DS was then and where it is now, I think it is dangerously ignorant to write off the WiiU as a platform. The WiiU is only just beginning, and anyone who declares it to be failure is (as I hope this brief analysis has demonstrated) quite clearly talking out of his or her ass.