The WiiU and Nintendo; Past Present and Future
Nintendo have been around long enough that they have had more then their fair share of ups and downs. A few years ago there were at the top of their game with the Wii but it’s direct successor the WiiU isn’t nearly doing as well as they hoped.
Now you can come out with “the name sucks, there’s no games, there not listening all you want”, Nintendo isn’t a stupid company and they know what their doing. Nintendo will have put great thought and cost into every decision they make and that’s true for any company… So why has there not been a significant improvement with the WiiU since it’s release?
Well we might as well address the name first… a lot of people consider it stupid and I’m in with the crowd. I think Wii2 would have worked more then well as any games analyst will tell you numbered sequels sell and the Wii had a massive user base, even if it was just from being everyone’s second console. WiiU sounds phonetically similar and works along with their ‘we and you’ marketing. I’m sure the name probably focused tested well enough for them to do it and after the Wii’s success then another quirky name seemed like a great idea. However the marketing and unveiling on the screen only left a lot of people confused that it was just a screen and not a console.. which has followed it with many non gaming experts being left confused.
With that being the one big flaw everyone just can’t seem to let go, as well as being far to obvious to target… which everyone does. I’m going to just move into the other problems with the system.. and these all focus around the games.
Nintendo’s big issue since the Nintendo 64 has been getting enough third party software support, they never manage to hit the nail on the yet and yet it’s something that they take a new approach to every generation in order to try and fix.. so the argument they they simply don’t try is invalid. The Nintendo 64 was the only console of it’s generation to be cartridge based and because of that they didn’t get as much third party support. Cartridges were expensive and didn’t hold the storage capacity of a CD ROM, Nintendo expected everyone to prefer the console with the best hardware (Sony could have learnt a valuable lesson for the PS3 if they’d paid attention here.. we can call it lack of foresight when it comes to the generation winners)
The gamecube went disk based, but didn’t manage to keep third part interest because of poor sales and general adoption rate of the console, coming much later to the market compared to the PS2 and Xbox: The First. (no easy way to say original Xbox box now is there 🙂 ) The Wii was Nintendo’s game changer, they went after a new market and took the world by storm. While also keeping the tech and development costs low allowing third party’s to make much cheaper games that should have held less risk in making exclusives that couldn’t function on other consoles. Nintendo’s downfall here was being too good… the made the cost of entry so low that the shovel ware poured in and the Wii suffered from casual game over saturation and the big third party games never sold because Nintendo’s own first party games dominated above everything else.
Now it’s worth mentioning the 3DS in-between the Wii and WiiU if only for Nintendo adopting a different strategy to try and please other games publishers, releasing very few first party games in order to allow the third party’s to get the jump in with their own games.. unfortunately this didn’t work as the 3DS didn’t initially sell until the price drop 6 months later however the console did then gain strength and this is something I think will happen with the WiiU given time and a much bigger fight.
We should also probably talk about the launch line up, something the plagues all consoles and there’s a very bad trend the Nintendo themselves started which is bad for consumers; far too many games in the launch line up. With the gamecube Nintendo released 21 one games, and while its to have variety it leaves a dead zone of the first 6 months which needs to be filled still. Spacing those releases out does wonders for constant console adoption. You also need a strong launch game, The N64 had Mario, but the Gamecube didn’t have anything major, (While Luigi’s mansion has become a cult favourite). The Wii had both Wii Sports and Zelda; a great hardcore game and free extra experience to drive casual buyers. The launch line up must be strong and these problems apply for both the XboxOne and PS4 potentially as well.
So we are left at the WiiU.. which had strong third party support off the gate (while mostly updated ports) from the 3DSs good will, but the system itself just didn’t sell. Games weren’t perfect either, being hard to develop on the WiiU’s new tech but overall the very poor sales just didn’t go anywhere so Nintendo rightly stepped in. There was also very little in the launch line-up and screamed console seller, Nintendoland could have done wonders is bundled with the console and a proper Mario game, not another 2D game could have helped.. even announcing the true next gen Mario experience which is something everyone expects from Nintendo.
However with the high amount of cash Nintendo has they went to different developers and paid for exclusives, giving us a wide range of potential AAA titles to look forward to in the future. Along with the newly announced price drop to keep the WiiU competitive with the the other Next Gen consoles I think it’s far from an UN-winnable battle. They might not re capture the social market but they have the potential to win back the hard core.