The Wii U is having a bit of a rough time. While it’s a bit of a cliche to mention that in a Nintendo article, it’s hard to ignore their relatively weak 2014 software release schedule, which is not really the improvement that everyone was expecting. Sure, the spectacular Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was released in February and Mario Kart 8 drops at the end of May but, other than that, what else is there? It’s evident that Nintendo can’t seem to keep up with a consistent release schedule, despite promising gamers that they learned from their mistakes with Wii and 3DS software droughts.
Besides playing some great Game Boy Advance titles and watching Robocop on Netflix, the last time I invested in something was Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag — just to clarify, I bought this after Donkey Kong. It was my first title into the series and it completely floored me. It’s been a long time since a video game gave me this sense of wonder and excitement.
There is truly an organic nature to ACIV, and it’s why I love the game so much. I could sail a ship with the sun beating down on my shanty-singing crew; the next minute, I could be trapped in a hurricane or boarding another ship to steal its booty. I could engage in the missions or sail miles in the opposite direction, or jump off of my ship and look for buried treasure. It never sacrifices gameplay for a set piece a la Call of Duty — the gamer is in control of everything and often triggers these big blockbuster moments themselves. This may not seem like a big deal to multiplatform owners, especially with other open-world games like Grand Theft Auto V or Infamous Second Son out there, but to me, it meant a fresh experience that Nintendo had never offered on the Wii U. That brings me to the point of this whole article: Wii Need Ubisoft.
Now, I don’t live under a rock — I know that Nintendo fans are having some trust issues with Ubisoft lately — but I honestly think that they are a crucial part of the Wii U. Looking at my library and thinking back to the most stand-out moments, Ubisoft is near the forefront, whether I’m sailing through rough seas (the aforementioned Black Flag), surviving the zombie apocalypse in London (ZombiU), sneaking my way out of Guantanamo Bay (Splinter Cell: Blacklist), or playing a game to “Eye of the Tiger” (Rayman Legends). In my opinion, Ubisoft has been making better use of the Wii U’s strengths than Nintendo has so far (be it displaying maps and gadgets on the GamePad, controlling UAVs in Splinter Cell with motion controls, or giving a fresh take on the 2D genre with the touch screen).
I know that some may believe that the sole reason to own any Nintendo console is to play Nintendo games, but that doesn’t apply to me. I have always enjoyed my third-party titles on their consoles and always will. I will admit that no one does it quite like Nintendo, but that’s a double-edged sword in and of itself, since they seem to be quite content with releasing software very similar to the 3DS and the Wii. While I love Donkey Kong and Mario titles, I need more The Wonderful 101 and Pikmin 3 — fresh experiences that prove what the GamePad can accomplish. Acknowledging the GamePad’s functions is where Ubisoft shines the brightest. Whenever I play one of their games, I make sure it’s with the GamePad. But when I play a Nintendo game? The only times the GamePad is utilized is for a map in Pikmin 3, the two levels that required it in Super Mario 3D world, as well as The Wind Waker HD. If a game isn’t designed to make good use of the available second screen, I don’t feel the need to use the GamePad, as I do prefer the Classic Controller Pro.
Another popular argument is that, if I want third-party games, I should buy a non-Nintendo console. Just because I only have time in my life for one major console, why must I be “punished” that my decision was Nintendo? I shouldn’t be, and thankfully, Ubi has been there for me thus far. They have really proven themselves to be the yin to Nintendo’s yang, and I personally can’t imagine one without the other, as I’ve been more than eager to grab new games from them both. Nintendo’s charming aesthetics and rock-solid gameplay combined with Ubisoft’s more mature narratives and themes (along with unique settings and ideas) are a winning combination in my eyes.
Sadly, it seems that this combo is breaking apart. Ubisoft recently unveiled Assassin’s Creed: Unity for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One, with the Wii U conspicuously absent from the announcement. Meanwhile, on current-gen machines, Assassin’s Creed: Comet is rumored to be for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. At the time of writing, other upcoming games, like The Division and Far Cry 4, are also bypassing the Wii U. The biggest disappointment is the delay of Watch Dogs, with a tentative “fall 2014″ release window for the Wii U. It’s understandable why many people would be so upset, considering this happened after the Wii U version of Rayman Legends was delayed (some corners of the web seem confident that Watch Dogs will eventually end up cancelled). The lone title that we are certain to get is the gorgeous Child of Light, but is the paucity of the release schedule all Ubisoft’s fault?
It seems like most only want to acknowledge one issue as the primary source of the problem. Sadly, it’s not one simple issue to fix, as I believe there are multiple reasons that combined to drive the Wii U into this software rut. I personally blame Ubisoft for breaking trust with gamers, having released Splinter Cell with a broken online component and, of course, the infamous Rayman Legends debacle. I also blame them for often limiting the amount of resources that must go into the Wii U build of a given title and then releasing said broken components. I blame gamers for begging for support and then not supporting them in turn, Nintendo for forgetting how marketing works and failing to get the Wii U install base to what third parties need.
Among third parties, Ubisoft undoubtedly has been the largest supporter of the Wii U since its launch, and it’ll be a shame if they disappear. They’re great at demonstrating what the GamePad can do and offer wonderful experiences that aren’t otherwise covered by Nintendo’s own software. They have made some slip-ups, but frankly, I think they deserve far more support than they have been receiving. They’re the company that Nintendo fans need, but not the one they deserve right now — so we’ll complain, because they can take it. They’re not our hero, but rather, a silent partner; a watchful contributor. The night is darkest before the dawn, after all.
It seems Nintendo plans on daybreak arriving with Mario Kart 8. One hopes Ubi stays through the night.