According to every insider report and rumor, all indications are that tomorrow Sony will unveil the PlayStation 4 at their secretive New York event. We’ll be in attendance to see what’s arguably is the first true unveiling of a “next generation” console. For Nintendo, the industry focusing all eyes in the competitor’s direction couldn’t come at a worse time, especially after the weak sales the Wii U saw in January, coupled with the reality of most current multiplatform consoles skipping it entirely.
The NPD sales estimates don’t bode well for Nintendo, and while the Big N promises more unannounced games, their recent efforts at earning headlines have been rather underwhelming (see: “The Year of Luigi“). But there’s hope a little further into the future after they surpass the proverbial hump, so to speak.
Mainstream media sources including CNBC and Time are talking doom and gloom for investors, attempting to analyze why the system is failing to penetrate the market, highlighting sales estimates for Wii U sales in January being lower than any recorded month of sales for the PS3 or Xbox 360 and a quarter of what the Wii sold during the same period in its first January (2007). The stock price (NTDOY) has been on a downward trend for five years and today sits more than 30% lower than what it was the day Wii U launched in North America on November 18th.
According to MCV, UK retailers are speaking out in demand of a price cut, hoping that it’ll help get consumers interested, and major publishers like Activision going on record during their latest investors call, saying “we were somewhat disappointed with the launch of the Wii U” (read the transcript here) and EA not defining the Wii U as next-gen, are making it harder for savvy gamers to get interested in the console.
Add to that Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter saying the following in reference to Nintendo’s profitability and it’s a period of very bad PR for Nintendo:
“I think they misfired on the Wii U. It’s just not that different from the other two [existing] consoles, and the gameplay isn’t as unique as the Wii. They made a mistake, it’s something they probably can’t recover from.”
He clarified the statement via NeoGAF, claiming that hardware sales will be too low and from that, there will be less software sales, less royalities from third-party games, less games in general, etc., and all of this will result in a company that will not be profitable. However, if the install base can grow, there are major third-party games that can help Nintendo’s cause, one of which was just unveiled over the weekend: Destiny. That is, if Nintendo can convince players to play the multiplatform titles on the Wii U over the competition.
The following can be found in the source code on the official Destiny website pre-order page:
The code could very well be a simple placeholder for the new site, or, Destiny really is as comprehensive as some rumors suggest and not only will it involve Microsoft’s and Sony’s current home consoles as well as mobile apps, but it could include all of them, current and next-gen, along with app support on the Vita. Only time will tell.
As for Ubisoft’s most mysterious officially confirmed title, Watch Dogs, the info that it’s also releasing on next-gen consoles comes from the retail side. GameStop, Amazon and Best Buy have all added Wii U versions of Watch Dogs to their pre-order pages (see images below). For Amazon and GameStop, it’s business as usual, even if the info is entirely untrue – It’s a sketchy business practice they employ on the regular to get more namedrops, more free buzz and more backlinks to their online stores. That being said, Ubisoft is the publisher most open to developing for new consoles and being multiplatform, so it’s very plausible that they’ll have a Wii U port of Watch Dogs available for Nintendo gamers, with the tablet/app features coming to its GamePad touchscreen.
It’s as simple as this: Many of the games releasing right now that generate the most headlines, Crysis 3, Dead Space 3 and Aliens: Colonial Marines, etc. are all multiplatform titles. Even though the Wii U is out, with Nintendo positioning it as next-gen and it offering comparable power to the older PS3 and Xbox 360, none of these three games are currently available on Nintendo’s latest and greatest. Aliens: Colonial Marines is supposed to offer the best experience on the Wii U, but it’s still without a release date, and a game tester claiming it’s the worst version of something already receiving terrible reviews isn’t helping.
Throw in upcoming high profile titles including BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider that are also skipping the Wii U, and we can already see that horrifying trend for players and shareholders returning, of Nintendo’s home console not being friendly home to third-party development, at least not yet.
So if the big games coming further down the road that walk the fine line between current and next-gen (i.e. Destiny and Watch Dogs) also skip the Wii U and only play on PCs along with the competitor consoles, then Nintendo is in even bigger trouble long-term, and will have to rely almost entirely on their popular first-party franchises which they don’t develop fast enough and don’t currently have enough of. If they could pump out 3D Marios, new Zeldas, Smash Bros. games, etc. on an annual basis like Activision and Ubisoft can push out Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed installments, respectively, it wouldn’t matter, but they can’t, or at least don’t.
Do you expect to see Destiny and/or Watch Dogs make its way to the Nintendo Wii U? Why is it taking so long to develop a Mario Kart game when there’s new Need for Speed every year? Is it too late to make it “The Year of Star Fox”?
For more on this topic, read: No ‘Crysis 3′ on Wii U Highlights Bigger Long-Term Problems For Nintendo
Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for live coverage of the PS4 unveiling.