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 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!

9 Comments
  • I'm confused every time I see a Nintendo console post on iMore. Is iMore really the best target for these posts? Does every Apple user love Nintendo or something? Why don't I see Xbox One news here also? I really don't get it.
  • My take is since Nintendo released an iOS game there is a connection. I like the news about Nintendo but yes I'm not sure if it fits here. I don't come here looking for Nintendo news ever I come looking for apple stuff. Wii U true won't be replaced by end users but Nintendo did stop production so what's in the wild is what's left. The switch if the next generation console and it will replace the Wii U. Seems people are holding on to their consoles more often.
  • Microsoft released an XBox Glass app, so bring on the XBox news!
  • Actually I primarily use a Mac Mini and Wii U, so these weird new posts are kind of neat. I think there's a deep correlation between Apple and Nintendo that's helped bring these posts around recently.
  • Really?! WHAT correlation? That would actually answer my question...
  • Apple and Nintendo are both the rare technology companies that manufacture their own hardware and software to achieve their visions. In this, they are both craftsman of their respective products. Aside from that, their hardware are oddly similar. They both see their machine's performance or "specs" as powerful enough for their own software goals and cut from the wood accordingly. Instead of some rambling exposition I've included a list of commonalities: - They both make home and mobile computers.
    - The Nintendo DS is a progenitor of the modern iOS computer. Which featured among the first consumer touch screens on a mobile device, a microphone, multiple "apps" or holding two cartridges, a Notes app, a mobile touch screen internet browser and music player and video cartridges, and Pictochat with obvious parallels to current iMessage.
    - Both have a visionary executive celebrity who essentially embodies each company in Steve Jobs and Shigeru Miyamoto. Around each executive is a suite of others like Aonuma or Johnny Ive.
    - They both also had an important CEO recently die which caused a slight restructuring.
    - Both are appearing to forsake their home computers which a heavier investment on mobile ones. With the Switch and Apple's stronger focus on iOS products compared to Macs.
    - Both are known for making extremely popular computers made from brightly coloured plastic.
    - And oh yeah, didn't that plastic iMac and Gamecube both have a handle?
    - Each company has made innovative breakthroughs in computer input. Apple is known for making the first consumer GUI with a mouse, scroll wheel, multi-touch, etc. Nintendo for the D-Pad, the analog stick, shoulder buttons, mobile touch screen, motion control, etc.
    - Both have their own legions of irregular consumers i.e. "fanboys" who will identify with the company on a personal level. This will cause them to camp out to buy their new products.
    - Both have been consistently criticized or discussed negatively to the ultimate conclusion of bankruptcy. Nintendo/Apple is doomed is a tale as old as time.
    - As such, both have been historically known as an underdog. That is until a recent product success catapulted them to top of their respective industries, with Apple's iMac then iPhone, and Nintendo's Wii. This success caused each company to settle into a product stagnation. However Apple has better managed their complacency as Nintendo rested on their laurels with Wii U. I could type on honestly and if I think of more maybe I'll add them but I feel this lays out.
  • I do not get the editorial direction of the Mobile Nations sites anymore. I can appreciate that there are slow news days in terms of Apple products and services, that's why you have articles about replacing the screen of your iPhone DIY or how to use Siri. I've said it before and I'll say it again - Mobile Nations should consolidate into one main site with sub-forums. The forums can be great at times, other times not so much. Instead of having "slow" news days, having one site report on everything iOS/Android/Blackberry/Windows related is better than all of these one-off sites that tend to get political when they shouldn't. Really, you shouldn't go full-on David Ruddock. Leave that on your personal Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Blog, etc...
  • I like the separation and enjoy the Switch articles. They do it for people like me. The offer a different perspective than Kotaku, which is nice.
  • If Wii U digital purchases don't work on the Switch, I won't buy them ever. Like you said, you don't need a TV, just like the Switch. Plus, most games never really used the extra screen; some not at all.