Sometimes I did some pretty crazy stuff as a kid… such as camping out for the Wii U. Yes, I was That Person who camped out for video game consoles—two of them, in fact. The Nintendo Wii in 2006, and the Nintendo Wii U in 2012. The latter one’s what we’ll be focusing on here; honestly, the experience was one of my main transitions into adulthood.
Way back in 2006, as a 6th grader, a Nintendo Power joke feature inspired me to camp out for the Nintendo Wii. My parents couldn’t manage a pre-order, so for some reason they actually agreed.
From about 1 PM the day before, I sat out in front of Best Buy and waited. People thought I was waiting for Black Friday (over a week early) and I got constant questions my way from confused customers. That just fed my ego even more. After literally sleeping in a tent in public overnight, I woke up at 6 PM on a Sunday morning and I got that frickin’ system. According to Club Nintendo when I registered it, I actually had system unit #100,000. No joke, exactly 100,000—though that site went down so I can’t PROVE it anymore, sadly.
Everyone at school was absolutely floored when they heard I got a Wii. The console was in massive shortage for a full year afterwards (as usual with Nintendo); I was the only person in my whole school who got one! What’s cooler than being the coolest person in an entire middle school? Nothing whatsoever.
Six years later, I had just turned 18 and I was ready to do it all over again with the Wii U.
But… things were kind of different this time.
Wii U Time
I was firmly, deeply in the Wii U “hype train” as they used to call it. You may recall I predicted the dang system before it was even leaked.
However, Nintendo did their darnedest to dissuade me from that hype. Like, every single possible thing.
First, they revealed the Wii U in 2011 with no games and an extremely awkward tech demo that showed off… Well, basically Xbox 360 graphics.
Then the following year they had an E3 press conference that flopped hard. It was so disastrous they wouldn’t return to the conference for literally years. It failed to showcase the system’s unique capabilities, and showed zero “killer app titles” whatsoever.
The main pull of the Wii U, its touchscreen controller, was much more underpowered than reports had believed. And its main focus, asymmetrical multiplayer, was hard to showcase well in demo form. Things were going really badly and it foreshadowed the huge problems to come for Nintendo.
And yet, I camped out anyway.
Part of it was major inspiration from the tales of Triforce Johnson. He was famous for camping out for WEEKS for every single Nintendo console. I even met him, camping out, when I went to New York City earlier that month. For some reason I got him to sign my copy of Super Mario Bros. 3. I can’t remember why I chose that game but who cares.
A lot of people had lined up in advance in the UK as well, so it was definitely a trend that a lot of people wanted to keep up with.
So the morning before the Wii U’s release, I went to Best Buy and sat out a chair in the exact same spot I did six years earlier.
And… I waited.
The Waiting Process
I played many hours of Paper Mario Sticker Star (an incredibly disappointing game I didn’t even finish). Then I read the entire Walking Dead first “compendium” omnibus, which was honestly pretty incredible. Then… Uh… I kept waiting…
When I waited for the Wii, many people got in line with me in the afternoon. One really cool couple in their twenties saw me in line and, on impulse, got in line. That sparked a chain and by supper time there were a few dozen people waiting. Many, many more by the time the store opened in the morning. I met a lot of really nice people that day and it made me believe in the power of Nerddom; if something like the Wii could unite everyone so well, then maybe the world was a good place after all.
The Wii U, though? Nobody showed up. It was me and my little brother (he held my spot whenever I went for food), and nobody else. The next person in line didn’t come until eight or nine! And they didn’t even talk to us! It was a solitary and boring experience.
Worst of all, Best Buy reopened at 11 PM and I got my system right at midnight. No waiting until morning; it was in my hands before I was even sleepy.
Was it Worth It?
First of all, the system didn’t have shortages. It was perfectly in stock for the holiday season, and I could have bought one a week later just walking into the store.
Second of all, there were no games!!!! It launched with three titles of note—Nintendoland, a party game that was fun with friends but not as much solo; New Super Mario Bros U., which failed miserably to differentiate itself from its prequel on the Wii; and Zombi U, a rogue-like zombie game too niche for my plebeian tastes. None of these games were BAD, but they just didn’t grab me, or anyone else really.
I barely played the Wii U after launch. Until Super Mario 3D World, another good multiplayer game, came out in late 2013, I hardly used it at all. The first game I actually truly played on there was Earthbound, which I already played on Super Nintendo ages ago!
If I had waited a year, I’d have had a better time. Late 2013 to Late 2014 was an amazing year for the Wii U, with at least one huge game nearly every single month. Besides browsing Miiverse, the Wii U had almost literally nothing to offer before then, but once 2014 came, it became a wonderful machine.
But I digress.
The Wii U Wait Legacy
With the Wii, it was a magical experience for a kid to do something that “big” and “important.” It’ll probably be one of my foundational experiences until the time I die. With the Wii U, it was a transaction I made with a large corporation to purchase video game hardware.
I think it’s more about growing up than anything. If I had been 12 when the Wii came out, and all else were equal, I’d have been utterly astounded by Nintendoland and played it for hundreds of hours. Hell, I’d probably even have used the Wii U TV feature.
Even so, the Wii U launch was botched in so many ways, and surprisingly none of them were my fault. I was just a kid too excited for a device that really wouldn’t deliver… Eh, it was still fun to sit out for the Wii U, I guess, especially since I can brag about it for the rest of time. Even if nobody cares.
I was in university in Nagoya when the Nintendo Switch came out. I just kinda pre-ordered the system at an EDION store across from my dorm, and then I picked it up a month later.
At least that one came with Breath of the Wild, so it was all worth it.