Here's what Nintendo Switch means for Wii U owners

Wii U
Wii U

By any reasonable measurement, the Wii U was not a successful gaming platform. Nintendo has a long history of releasing things that seem like crazy ideas but turn out to be wild successes, and the Wii U simply isn't one of them. Among the many problems with the console, many Wii owners didn't even know the Wii U was a separate console until well after it had launched. It was a mess from the start, and when third-party publishers started canceling games, it was clear this console was never going to succeed.

Even though there are several amazing things the Wii U got right, Nintendo is moving on. In a couple of weeks there will be a new Nintendo console, and if you're still a fan of the Wii U, there's going to be a few things about this new experience you should know.

Switch probably won't replace your Wii U

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo's design for the Wii U was a grand one. This wasn't just a game system; it was your entire entertainment center. The gamepad was a universal remote for the TV, stereo, Netflix, YouTube, Internet, everything. If you wanted to put it on a TV, Nintendo wanted you to be able to do it through the Wii U gamepad. Some parts of this experience worked better than others, but the overall vision was impressive at the time.

It was also an entirely unique game system, designed basically to recreate the DS portable gaming experience for the living room. The smaller screen gave you access to things that would normally be hidden in menus, so you could glance down at it occasionally when playing on the larger screen. The design allowed for some unique gameplay that can't really be recreated anywhere else, and it challenged Nintendo to build experiences that are now incredibly popular new games.

The design for Switch does not make recreating either of these scenarios possible. Switch is a games-first console; Netflix and YouTube won't even be available at launch, and when they are available, you'll need a controller in hand to navigate everything. Switch also can't recreate dual-screen effects and doesn't use discs, so backwards compatibility with Wii U content is almost impossible and won't be happening any time soon if a digital option becomes available at all.

Read more: Everything we don't know about Nintendo Switch

For some Wii U owners, this means there will need to be room on the entertainment center for both consoles. While the new Legend of Zelda game is going to be available for both consoles, Splatoon 2 will be a Switch Only title and will push a lot of active Wii U owners to move if they don't already own both.

Switch is taking some Wii U ideas and improving them dramatically

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch

One of the coolest features of the Wii U as a parent is the ability to share the living room with my kids. If they are in the middle of a movie and I want to get in a few laps with Mario Kart, I can pick up the Wii U gamepad and play without interrupting them at all. If I'm in the middle of a big fight in Kingdom Hearts, they know they can grab the gamepad and start up Skylanders sitting right next to me. The ability to use the Wii U without the television has been one of its strongest features for a lot of families, and Nintendo clearly gets that with Switch.

Nintendo Switch allows the entire experience to travel, and that's going to be a powerful idea moving forward.

In fact, Nintendo has taken these ideas much further with the new design of this console. It means Switch can come with us in the car for long drives. It means siblings can play together without having to argue over who gets to use the gamepad and who has to use a regular controller. It means Switch owners can play with each other without needing to be connected to a separate Wi-Fi network. There's a ton of potential here.

Nintendo's original idea with the Wii U was exceptional, but limited to the living room. As soon as the gamepad lost the wireless connection with the console, everything stopped because the console was where all the power existed. Nintendo Switch allows the entire experience to travel, and that's going to be a powerful idea moving forward.

So what happens next?

Nintendo Switch Multiplayer

Nintendo Switch Multiplayer (Image credit: Nintendo)

The saddest part about being a Wii U owner is knowing there aren't a lot of us out there to begin with. Plain and simple, Nintendo is going to sell more Switch consoles, and they're going to do it quickly, assuming they can keep up with demand. Nintendo has already decided to stop making games for the Wii U, and there isn't a lot of third-party support left as it is.

If you own a Wii U and are still regularly using it, keep a hold of it for a while. Enjoy it while everything still works, and get ready for things like Miiverse to shut down and new Virtual Console games to only come to Switch. Nintendo is likely to maintain Wii U support until things like Super Mario Maker are moved to Switch.

Or, you could set it aside now and get ready to dive fully into Switch. There're a lot of great experiences coming to Switch, and if you've been a fan of the Wii U for a while, you can set it aside knowing you got some good use out of it.

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!