Whenever an experience comes to an end, it is impossible not to look back on it and, while analyzing it, not coming up with a big list of missed opportunities that fill our minds with those frustrating thoughts of what could have been. The same applies for videogame systems that are bowing out of the stage to leave the spotlight open for a new-coming platform. When the Nintendo 64 opened up the way for the Nintendo Gamecube many wondered how stronger that platform's lineup would have been if Nintendo had bet on CDs rather than on cartridges, hence keeping all their loyal partners by their side instead of watching them flee to CD-based systems; and when the Gamecube handed over the baton to the Nintendo Wii, we mulled over the very same baffling decision and how it stopped the Gamecube from getting all third-party masterpieces that headed to the amazing Playstation 2. Due to how different it was from everything we had played before, the Wii ended up with far more missed opportunities than its predecessors: developers' apparent delay in grasping how motion controls could be properly used and how it heavily affected the number of truly great games that made use of the system's most iconic feature; fear to invest in such a unique platform, which produced a large number of games that were far less ambitious than they could have been, and how a system that could have been the perfect flourishing grounds got far less indie attention than its competitors.
Almost everything was there: the Wii had a ridiculous install base, developing for the platform was much less expensive than creating a title for the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 and the Wiimote played the dual part of being both ridiculously innovative and full of possibilities for those willing to explore it, and plain simple for games that required only a few buttons. However, while appropriate, the ground was not exactly fertilized, because Nintendo failed to properly integrate online functions with everyday usage of the system, which left their digital distribution system tucked away in a hidden corner of the hardware where only a few ever went to; and could not understand how having good storage is a vital part of any system that allows users to download anything that consumes considerable amount of space. The result was a service that occasionally showed its potential on great titles like World of Goo, LotsWinds, the Bit Trip series, but that did not succeed in picking up a constant pace of solid releases and interest, instead relying on eventual sparse peaks of quality and attention.
Thankfully, with every lost opportunity comes a chance to learn and improve, and Nintendo seems to have done just that in planning the Wii U, and it all begins with Miiverse. Nintendo's take on social networks looks to be heavily integrated into the system itself, becoming a very important part of the system's average gaming experience, and - given how inclined people are, in this day and age, to interact virtually - it could be a considerable hit if implemented right, without locking up players into the annoying restrictive short leashes that Nintendo loves to create when dealing with online content. On top of that, according to some developers, the company is making a heavy push to sell titles digitally, even going as far as offering financial incentives in the shape of revenues to those that release their retail games also in digital format. Five years ago, Nintendo was a company that stubbornly refused to give the proper importance to storage - and downloads as a direct consequence, and in this suddenly weird present time they are prepared to release their own huge retail titles as digital downloads.
The Wii U has many of the same indie-supporting qualities that the Wii had: Nintendo will most likely try to keep development costs down, the system has a control that allows for both simplicity and innovation whenever necessary, and - if the Wii brand does carry a certain weight to it - the system will most likely have a good commercial run. However, differently from its predecessor, it is a system that has the support of a much more mature company, one that is fully aware of the energy that the low-cost characteristics of digital games gives to unknown developers with bright ideas. Indie gaming has never been more prominent than it is right now, and with the internet's ability to dissipate the power of the creation of content among its users, the importance of those small titles will undoubtedly increase for years to come. Games like Braid, Bastion or Super Meat Boy, that went from humble software to mainstream pieces of gaming, currently are the exception to the rule, but in a few years they could turn out to be the norm, and the Wii U can be the place where they will fulfill that destiny.