Yahoo! News visited HMV in Oxford Street to see how many fans had assembled for the midnight launch. We saw tents and discovered that people had been queuing since last Saturday to be first in line.
A line of 182 hardcore gamers assembled inside the store once the doors opened at 11 to watch presentations of the new games and meet some of the zombies from Ubisoft’s ZombiU game, parading around the store alongside men in Mario and Luigi costumes.
Izzy Rahman, 25, from Luton was first in the queue. “Nintendo single handedly shaped the game industry. This is my childhood” he said, “Nintendo consoles kind of kept me off the streets. I grew up in Luton, its quite a rough area and staying at home playing games helped me. If it wasn't for Mario and Zelda, I'd probably be in a rough crowd by now. Who knows where I would be.”
Nintendo has sold 8 million Wii consoles since it launched in 2006. In April this year Nintendo posted its first ever drop in profits. Facing new completion from tablet and smartphone games, Nintendo is banking on Wii U being as successful as the original Wii.
On the night, fans were clearly in love with the new hardware - but reviews in the U.S. have sounded a cautious note, and Pong creator Nolan Bushnell, often described as the 'father' of gaming, has said that he fears the machine, which has an iPad-like controller, will not succeed.
Chandra Nair, Editor of the Official Nintendo Magazine disagrees. “I think in many ways the Wii U will be even more successful than the Wii. Sony and Microsoft may have embraced online gaming but you can't compete with decades of good feeling. The Nintendo spirit will never die.”
Nintendo UK boss David Yarnton worked for Nintendo for 20 years but quit his role in June. He hit the headlines in May following a charity cycling accident in Greece when he was helped by fellow rider Freddie Flintoff. Yarnton said: “Mario is an action hero like Superman, even though he’s a plumber - he shows the humorous side of gaming.”
Shelly Pearce, Marketing Director at Nintendo UK says, "We have a lot of pre orders but we have Wii U consoles available to buy today and we will have regular stock deliveries all through December and January.We’re just very lucky to have such avid fans that have grown up with our consoles and fallen in love with our characters.We’ve brought so many people into video games and we live in a very technical world now with people using lots of different devices but I do think there’s an expectation that Nintendo will innovate and come up with new concepts and ideas. When people get to grips with the Wii U and see all that it can do, I think they’re going to be very impressed."
Wii U - what's it about?
The Wii U is actually Nintendo's first high definition console so games instantly look better on your TV. The power and visual hardware under the hood isn't a great advance from current Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles but Nintendo and their fans argue that it's all about the games, the new control pad and the Disney style procession of family friendly and utterly brilliant characters like Mario, Zelda and the cast of Pokemon.
The £299 basic Wii U pack includes a controller that looks like a game pad fused with an iPad Mini. It houses a camera and touchscreen controls alongside the traditional gaming buttons. We played Nintendo Land - a kind of Nintendo megamix of all their biggest characters - which makes extensive use of the new pad.
Nintendo Land is quite simply one of the greatest multiplayer games we've ever played. From maze based chases to inventive games of hide and seek, ever ounce of Nintendo Land is designed to make you smile. Running around a maze with several players is fun, especially as there's a single player using the touchscreen pad to chase you. You can't see him but your pad will vibrate when he's near. It's simple and addictive fun. In another multiplayer chase based game, you can see the face of your mysterious stalker on the TV thanks to the camera in the touchscreen pad.
The familiar Wii controller still works with the Wii U as does a more traditional pad for more conventional games like Call of Duty, now making credible appearances on the Wii U. It's original games like ZombiU that really show what the WiiU can manage against rival consoles, both present and future.