On the eve of the Wii U release, Sean and Phil return to the Target where they waited overnight for the Wii in 2006, only to find it a deserted wasteland. Where are all the campers for the Wii U?

An explanation, unboxing, NintendoLand gameplay, and more after the jump!

The last time Nintendo released a console was in 2006. In fact, that’s the last time any company released a TV console. One would think it would have had more fanfare than this. Is Nintendo managing its expectations? Was there something else at work?

One of the new factors was a more prevalent system of pre-orders. Games have been moving toward an exclusive DLC model — get your copy at Best Buy, and get this feature for free. Get it at Game Stop, and get an entirely different one. Phil cracks wise that there were 12 pre-order versions of Assassin’s Creed II when it came out last month, but that was essentially on the mark.

Consoles can’t provide these retailer-based exclusives, but they’ve seen the power of pre-ordering. What orders there were sold out very quickly. What’s strange is that nearly every store getting a shipment of Wii Us for launch only got a handful of consoles beyond the number that was pre-ordered at their location.

We talked to employee at Best Buy, Toys ‘R’ Us, Walmart, and Target — they all told the same story. So what’s the deal?

As a result, there was little incentive to have midnight releases or even hand out tickets to customers waiting in line, such as we experienced with the Wii launch. There were a few stores that did that, but they were certainly in the minority.

Incendentally, we found those who were waiting in line considerably less chatty. We thought we’d find a tented campside, everyone playing their 3DS or other handheld, strumming to folk music and hanging out. (It certainly want’s any warmer than last time.) Instead, it was just a handful of people who were only standing outside for a couple of hours at most, and would likely go home.

It’s sure that the hype and the excitement just aren’t there, but this console does not disappoint, as the unboxing and subsequent game play should show. Nintendo has joined the 21st century with features on the Wii U that finally compare to its competition. At least… the current competition.

That could be another problem: everyone is waiting to see what Microsoft and Sony have up their sleeves. So far we’ve only heard rumors and meaningless benchmarks. Time will tell if the Wii U is going to be the next Xbox 360, or the next Dreamcast. But for right now, it’s just fun to play.