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Growing doubts over Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U console

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Can Nintendo wow consumers again, or will the Wii U lose before the race even starts?

By Mike Wehner, Tecca

No matter which way you slice it, the Wii was an absolute home run for Nintendo. The system brought a new section of the population into the gamer fold and its now familiar motion controls created quite a stir amongst the video game community. So with its successor poised for a release later this year, you'd think anticipation would be at a fever pitch — but it isn't.

In the weeks leading up to the 2011 E3 video game expo in Los Angeles, Nintendo hinted that their new console would finally satisfy those who identify as "core" gamers. Core gamers are the players who ensure each new iteration of Call of Duty and Madden continue to break records, and Nintendo completely lost touch with them after introducing the much more casual-focused Wii.

The reveal of the Wii U during the conference did little to excite that very vocal segment of the market. And while gameplay teasers of titles like BattlefieldDarksiders, and Ninja Gaiden seemed impressive, it was soon revealed that the games were not yet running on Nintendo's new hardware, so it's impossible to tell how the ported titles will look or control.

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Can old be new again...and again?
Nintendo's seemingly unshakable habit of rehashing games and characters from bygone eras doesn't appear to be slowing down with the Wii U. Both the Mario and the Pikmin franchise have already been confirmed for the system, and if we were betting on it, we'd put money on there being ZeldaSuper Smash Brothers, and Mario Party titles in the Wii U's future as well. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to get seasoned gamers to plop down another $250 or more on a console whose predecessor had little to no third-party support to speak of.

A recent trailer for the Wii U version of Ubisoft's Rayman Origins shows off some Wii U-exclusive features, including the ability to use the tablet controller to manipulate objects within the game world as other players make their way through. It looked like a neat feature, but the fact that the video showed just one player using the new tablet controller — while the rest of the players were left with what looks like standard Wii remotes — gave social network users plenty to groan about.

Nintendo appears to be banking on a boost in graphical power — seemingly on par with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 — and the abilities of the new tablet controller to wow consumers. Unfortunately, many seem decidedly un-wowed at this point, and it's unclear if the company has a plan to win back the core segment, or if they will simply rely on the Wii's popularity to make the Wii U a must-have product.

The company's newest earnings report showed its first annual loss in 30 years, which was fueled by dwindling Wii sales and rather grim launch figures of the new 3DS handheld. If Nintendo hopes to avoid a similar debut for its Wii U console, the company may need to make a drastic change, though it remains unclear if they are ready to do so.

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