Wii U was supposed to be the Wii, but better. It’s the same principle as with the SNES–it was the NES, but “Super.” So what’s the difference between Wii U and SNES? About 36 million lifetime consoles sales. People just didn’t buy Wii U, and when people don’t buy a console, it creates a negative feedback loop where developers stop wanting to make games for a console that nobody owns.
But Ubisoft did something even more extreme–they decided not to release a Wii U game that they had almost finished before the Wii U had even released.
As the “DidYouKnowGaming?” YouTube channel reveals, Ubisoft created a Wii U game called Know Your Friends, a party game that challenged players to answer silly or embarrassing questions about the other players. The types of questions asked could be tweaked by the player so that players didn’t need to answer questions about their sex life while playing with mom and dad. It used a low-budget, cardboard-cutout art style and took photos of players in order to insert them into the game as a character.
If that sounds kind of lame to you, don’t worry–it sounds lame to me too. But Ubisoft apparently believed very strongly in the game, it tested well internally, and they thought Know Your Friends could even rival their best-selling Just Dance series for popularity.
So why did Know Your Friends never release? Well, internal politics clogged things up a bit, but mostly, it’s the fact that Wii U just never sold enough units to satisfy Ubisoft. Know Your Friends was too good to release to a small Wii U install base, but it couldn’t easily be ported to other consoles either because it made extensive use of the Wii U touchpad to answer questions in a secretive manner. So time marched on and Know Your Friends just quietly disappeared, without having ever been officially announced by Ubisoft.
Wii U continues to be a costly reminder that Nintendo is not infallible, but it’s easy to forget while the Switch is making money hand over fist.