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It might have been a bad console, but I'm still sad the Wii U is dying today

Gone, but probably eventually forgotten.

A Nintendo Wii U with Mario Kart 8 playing on the gamepad, images of a Splatoon squid kid, Mario, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker's Link, and Animal Crossing's Isabelle in the background.
Image credit: Nintendo

Oh, the Wii U. You weren't the best console in the world, but I don't think you deserve the fate you're receiving. Last year, following the closure of the eShops for both the 3DS and the Wii U, Nintendo subsequently announced that the console's online services would soon follow. That day is today, in fact, with only hours to go at the time of writing until it's impossible to play either console's games online forever. I know that the Wii U wasn't a perfect console, but you know what? I'm sad about its death all the same.

This might be a strange way to start this argument, but let me get there: I admittedly haven't played tons and tons of the Wii U's library. I've certainly played a good few rounds of Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon, and had a good go at Super Mario Maker, but outside of playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Wind Waker in crispy HD, it's mostly become a way to play OG Wii games with HDMI quality visuals.

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So why am I sad that the console is on its deathbed today, if it's not the Nintendo console I've spent the most time with? Well, it's because it represents a big change for Nintendo, one that has made its even deeper dive into being just another video game corporation all the more obvious.

Nintendo has always been a company with personality. Its signature Directs used to be full of those, with Nintendo of America's former boss Reggie Fils-Aimé regularly happy to poke a bit of fun at himself alongside the company's veterans like Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto. In recent years though, it feels like that part of Nintendo has been left behind.

The Wii U is certainly a clunky way to play video games. You have to use this giant pad, that you also have to look at sometimes, just to play a video game? Meaning third party devs would have to jump through hoops just to make the screen functional, resulting in not all that many major third party games releasing on the console? OK, yeah, you can kind of see why the 3DS stayed as king for Nintendo through to the launch of the Switch.

But, the user experience was still one that had personality. You could see all your Miis, as well as friends, on either your TV screen or the gamepad's, it had the classic Nintendo elevator-esque music, and everything felt just a little bit Y2K, despite the turn of the millennium having taken place more than a decade prior. It wasn't quite as charming as the original Wii, with its fancy splash screens for its games, and TV-channel-like vibe, but it was certainly better than the PS4 and Xbox One's functional-but-boring home screens.

When you look at the Switch, though, all of that personality is gone. That's no doubt likely because Nintendo knew that most people would be spending time in-game as opposed to the home screen, what with the sleep function that lets you jump right back in and all, but it's still so… plain. There's not even any music when you visit the eShop, one of the impactful elements of the original Wii. Many were of course hopeful that much like the 3DS, themes would later be introduced, as the option is there, but that never came to fruition.

It feels like the very experience of booting up a game, and the excitement that comes with it, has disappeared; the Switch's home screen is just an annoying stopgap before the game itself, why bother putting any kind of sense of identity there? This too ties into Nintendo's obvious move towards brand awareness and expansion, with the introductions of theme parks and film adaptations, all of which are attempting to create a canon that is easy to interpret and digest, free from any blemishes or personality.

No wonder then that I constantly see TikToks of Gen-Z playing on their custom 3DS', adorned with stickers and keychains alike - it almost harkens back to the days of flip phones. And sure, you don't see similar TikToks or the like for the Wii U, probably because no one is that nostalgic for it, as I wouldn't say that out of all of Nintendo's consoles it has the strongest of vibes (again, bar the Switch). But it stands as the last remnant of the Nintendo that was, and now with the online services dying, there's even less reason to play it.

Why would you, when you can get your Splatoon fix in the second or third entries, and Super Mario Maker 2 has plenty more levels to smash your controller to? I doubt I myself would even go back to either initial titles in said respective series, but their death knell is a solemn one all the same.

Don't get me wrong, I know that Nintendo is just another corporation, and an occasional nasty one at that, but I'm still sad that gaming makes IP and nothing else the most important thing in the world. Forget about identity, just hop into the latest round of Fortnite as quickly as possible - all the while your Wii U gathers dust until the heat death of the universe.

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