Author’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2015 on another website. It has been brought over to Skirmish Frogs for your viewing pleasure.
The Wii U has, in terms of sales, not been the most successful console, but has not been the worst selling console, either. Anyone who has owned a Wii U during the time it has been out has generally loved the system. I was a day one adopter of the system, and I have no regrets purchasing it even with its bad launch and the tendency for the console to freeze early on in its life. As I look at my Wii U, I begin to notice some similar patterns with it that began from another console that tried to be different and innovative: the SEGA Dreamcast. I ask the ultimate question today on Gaming Crossroads: Is the Wii U the next Dreamcast?
As one of my college professors once said, “History never repeats itself precisely.” Both the Dreamcast and Wii U were released under different situations. However, the two consoles have some similarities and differences between them.
Both have a second screen — Outside of the Nintendo DS family, second screens for video game consoles have not been popular among players. The Dreamcast introduced the VMU, or Visual Memory Unit, to the world. This memory card not only stored save data, but it also had a screen, a D-pad, and two buttons. Certain games had additional minigames that could be played on the VMU. One of the best examples was Pinta’s Quest, a VMU game for Skies of Arcadia, which allowed players to gain items and money while they were not playing the main game and transfer the results to their save file. Some games, such as the NFL 2K series of games, had unique VMU features, such as the ability to call plays from the VMU so your opponent is always guessing your next play.
The Wii U took the concepts from the VMU and expanded upon them to create the GamePad. Some find the GamePad to not be a great concept while others love it. I am in the camp that finds the GamePad to be great. I will admit it has never been used to its full potential, but the games that have successfully used the GamePad are fun and engaging. The best feature of the GamePad is the off-TV play feature to allow people to play games solely on the peripheral’s screen without the TV. For someone who is single and lives alone, I can understand off-TV play not being an appealing feature. But, to families and households with multiple people, off-TV is a blessing. If someone wants to watch their favorite show on the television, the GamePad can be used to continue the game without having to turn off the console. I believe this feature will be seen in the future as being ahead of its time, just like the Dreamcast’s online capabilities predating Xbox Live and PSN.
Both consoles have strong first-party support — First-party support played a significant role for both consoles by force, as third-party support was not strong for either console in comparison to their competition. The Dreamcast and the Wii U both have a good, strong first-party lineup. I would argue the Wii U’s first-party lineup is much stronger than the Dreamcast’s, but that’s just me. Either way, this is another common trait I have seen with the Wii U.
Good exclusives — Both systems were propelled to some extent by a number of good exclusives. The Dreamcast had Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, Grandia II, Skies of Arcadia, Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, and some great exclusive sports games for the time. As I will explain shortly, the system also had good exclusive arcade and fighting games back in the late 90s and early 2000s. The Wii U has Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2, Super Mario Maker,Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, and other yet-to-be-released exclusives slated for this year and next. When the console is replaced by Project NX, these exclusive titles will be remembered for years to come.
While the Wii U has the above mentioned similarities, there are some key differences between its life cycle and the Dreamcast’s.
The Mastering of Genres — The Dreamcast was home to the best arcade and fighting games back when it was out in the market. There was Power Stone 1 and2, Marvel vs. Capcom 1 and 2, Crazy Taxi 1 and 2, Hydro Thunder, Soul Calibur,Dead or Alive 2, and Daytona USA. And the list goes on. Fans of either genre will think they went up to heaven. Sure, there were other popular genres on the Dreamcast, but there wasn’t the high quality of praised titles. Meanwhile, the Wii U has been the best console for fans of the platforming genre. Whether it is platformers from Nintendo themselves or from other parties, the best-selling games in the genre have generally been on Nintendo consoles.
Past results brought in different expectations — The Wii U and Dreamcast had different expectations placed in front of them. After the failure of the SEGA Saturn internationally and its decent run in Japan, SEGA had one last shot to make up for the losses the company suffered from when the SEGA CD, 32X, and Saturn were created and to make up for their third-place position against the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation. The Wii U had to live up to the Wii’s high successful sales, even when its older brother suffered at the end of its lifecycle. As we have all seen, the Wii U is not going to see the same success as the Wii or even outsell the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. It could possibly have, at best, moderate success, but we will see what the final results are when the ninth generation of consoles walk into the party.
Is the Wii U the next Dreamcast? Only time will tell. I know it’s a cliché answer, but it’s the honest truth. We do know that the Wii U will differentiate itself from the Dreamcast as Nintendo is going to be releasing Project NX in the future, whereas the Dreamcast was the last console for SEGA. As things stand now, I see the Wii U becoming more popular in 10 years and looked upon favorably for having quality over quantity and maybe being ahead of its time in one to two aspects like the Dreamcast. Yes, I know some of you are going to call me crazy for making such a statement. For all I know, my predictions could end up being way off the mark. But I want to ask all of you this one question: For the eighth generation of consoles, if you can own two consoles, which two would you choose? If you happen to play games on PC more than consoles, which one of the current three consoles do you think pairs up well with the PC? I invite you to share your answers to those two questions in the comments below.