Lack of power under the hood, lack of third-party support, lack of online support for key first-party titles, confusing console branding, an odd controller design, you name it – there are plenty of reasons as to why the Wii U doesn’t sell well. Just yesterday we wrote an opinion piece on how important 2014 is for Nintendo’s latest home console. After the Wii broken records around the world, the oddly named Wii U did the opposite. With far superior consoles now out from the competition, and selling more units (and faster) than the Wii U, Nintendo’s console is in big trouble.
We said in our piece that not all is lost, that Nintendo could still turn things around with a price drop and more importantly, with games. The Nintendo Wii U launched in fall 2012 and in the 14 months since, it has released so few games that it’s shocking. There is still no new Zelda (HD remakes don’t count), no Star Fox, new Metroid, and not even Mario Kart or Smash Bros. are out yet. These are just some examples and taking all these factors into consideration, it’s no surprise that Wii U is a failure.
And we don’t use that word lightly, or for dramatic effect. Nintendo is in trouble and for the third year in a row they will be reporting net losses. No amount of cash on hand will help the Wii U either, at least not the way it’s being spent. After an embarrassingly low-scale showcase at E3 2013, a year dominated by next-gen technologies, the year-end sales forecast for the Wii U was just cut a whopping 69%. Wii U hardware sales were initially expected to be at 9 million and have been revised all the way down to 2.8 million. To put that in perspective, both the PS4 and Xbox One sold more than that in their first six weeks.
For Nintendo’s more popular platform, the handheld 3DS, even though its lifetime sales recently outsold the Nintendo 64, even it fell significantly short of expectations, selling only 13.5 million units on a forecast of 18 million. All of these disappointing results add up to a $336 million loss for Nintendo.
From a marketing standpoint, this means that the consoles are even less appealing, not only to gamers, but to developers. It doesn’t make financial sense for many developers to spend money building exclusive games on the Wii U, or even porting titles over, and the compound effect results in even less games and gamers for the system.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata – who apologized to shareholders and aims to keep his job until turning things around – admitted to reporters today that they “failed” and are currently restructuring management. He also touched on some of the ideas we’ve long talked about here on Game Rant:
“Given the expansion of smart devices, we are naturally studying how smart devices can be used to grow the game-player business. It’s not as simple as enabling Mario to move on a smartphone.”
“We failed to reach our target for hardware sales during the year-end, when revenues are the highest.”
It might be too late for the Wii U but the big question is where Nintendo goes from here? They’re too slow to develop the high quality titles that are exclusive to their platforms. Just look at how many Need for Speeds release in between Mario Kart installments or how many Assassin’s Creeds debut in between Metroids. These are Nintendo exclusives that fans love and are waiting to pay for but are unavailable.
Should Nintendo start releasing their previous GameBoy titles on smartphones as some analysts suggest? Should they stop blocking YouTube celebs from making money playing their games and therefore making them ‘cool’ in the eyes of other gamers? Should they focus strictly on software development for other platforms? Should they release a new console that can match the power and specs of the competition? There seems to be so many good suggestions out there from industry analysts and fans, to critics and other developers, but they’re not being taken advantage of. And it’s a shame because we’re still excited about Nintendo’s own games.
Tell us your thoughts on theories on how Nintendo should attempt to profit from their brands!
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.