Choosing a videogame console for a family is a big decision. Get it right and you'll bring a positive experience into the home that matches how you play games together. Get it wrong and you'll be constantly looking over your shoulder at the experience you could have had on another system.
There are of course many options now, and both PlayStation and Xbox court the family market in different ways. However there is still a lot that makes the Wii U stand out from the crowd when parents and children are looking for the right console.
Of course, a big factor in all this is what games you want to play. For me the Wii U has the biggest collection of games for a wide range of players. There are big titles like Mario Kart 8, Zelda: Wind Waker and Super Smash Bros., but also lesser-known games that pack unique experiences.
Being a launch game, Nintendo Land is easy to overlook. However, it is a perfect way to encounter the benefits of the console's GamePad controller. Whether that's the augmented reality challenge of Metroid Blast, the asynchronous multiplayer of Zelda's Battle Quest, the super-strategic Mario Chase or the surprisingly addictive Ghost Mansion, this is a package unlike any other.
It's this that I find parents and children most taken with; not another new game in a familiar franchise but a totally new experience they can't get elsewhere. More importantly, an experience they can't have without the dual-screen feature of the Wii U.
Add to this the robust support of the toys-to-life concept and you have a very strong mix of brands and originality. Also there are the exclusive Skylanders amiibo of Donkey Kong and Bowser that shouldn't be underestimated in their pull towards Nintendo's system.
As with any system, there are blind spots. In terms of games, the lack of EA titles on the Wii U means that Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 isn't heading to the console any time soon. This, alongside the continued lack of the original Minecraft, is a big negative. Countering this is the upcoming version of Terraria for the Wii U that looks like it will make excellent use of the GamePad and screen combination.
Beyond the games there are of course amiibo. These score points with parents as they work across multiple games. While the collecting bug is strong, there aren't the same in-game adverts that drive young players to purchase like there are for Skylanders, Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions. Also, not having to buy a separate NFC peripheral for the Wii U — it's built into the GamePad already — is another nice cost (and space) saving aspect of the hardware.
Another nice cost saver is the backwards compatibility of old Wii games and controllers. Whereas PlayStation 4 doesn't support PS3 games and Xbox One only offers a subset of 360 games, the Wii U will play every Wii game you own. Combine this with the ability to use the Wii Remote controllers for both new and old games and you have a recipe for a very cost effective upgrade to a new system for Wii owners. Looking at spending around £60 for each new controller on the other systems is a significant extra cost for families who want to enjoy four player games.
The icing on the cake is the free online multiplayer modes, rather than needing a subscription. This and the ability to purchase games in the eShop add up to a cost effective function that gets it right for its family audience. There are even a good clutch of games that parents can play once the kids have gone to bed, such as Bayonetta 2 and ZombiU.
On balance, although some will deride the lack of Minecraft on the Wii U or its more limited graphical powers compared to PlayStation and Xbox, for families it's actually very difficult to recommend another system once you look at what it has to offer. Which begs the question - why hasn't it sold more impressively? We could spend all day listing the reasons. Nintendo's marketing has been confusing and developers have underused the GamePad, all of which has led to a vicious circle where third-parties hold off supporting the console until sales pick up - which, of course, they struggle to do without wider software support. The Wii U certainly deserves to do better at retail thanks to its family-friendly focus, that's for sure.