Now that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have touched down on store shelves, the latest chapter in the console war has begun. With all the hype surrounding both of these newly launched (and technologically superior) platforms, it’s not surprising that Nintendo’s Wii U isn’t being considered as a serious contender in the race. The Big N’s latest home console has been available for roughly 14 months as of this writing and (aside from its initial launch numbers) the platform’s sales have been abysmal thus far. That said, if Nintendo has a chance to market the Wii U successfully then it’ll happen this year, in 2014. And if that’s not the case then it likely won’t happen at all.

There are several contributing factors to the poor reception of the Wii U to date, but largely it can be attributed to a lack of software from both first and third-party developers. Publishers such as Electronic Arts have completely abandoned the platform after lackluster sales across several of its most prominent franchises, which has forced Nintendo to bank on its own library to keep the format afloat. In Ninty’s defense, there was quality content released in 2013, but the elongated gap between the Wii U’s launch and the arrival of Pikmin 3, the loss of Rayman Legends as an exclusive, and the delay of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze didn’t do the Wii U any favors.

Looking forward into 2014 however, there’s a very promising number of attention-grabbing software on the horizon that could very well make the Wii U a viable option for gamers. With Tropical Freeze releasing this February, Mario Kart 8 hitting this Spring, and Super Smash Bros. launching at some point this year, there’s a lot to look forward to from Nintendo. Filling in the gaps between releases will also be Bayonetta 2, Yarn Yoshi, Monolith Soft’s X, and the newly announced Zelda spin-off Hyrule Warriors, so there won’t be a shortage of software to enjoy.

Super Smash Bros Mario Kart 8 Wii U Spring Release

Wii U owners admittedly have quite a few games to look forward to in the following months — with more unannounced titles likely to fall within the 2014 window as well — but it may be too little, too late for the console. Competitors have heaps of triple-A exclusives to sway consumers into spending their money on the likes of the Xbox One or PS4 (Titanfall, Halo 5, inFAMOUS: Second Son, The Order: 1886, etc.) and third-parties are more or less turning their backs on Nintendo’s home console. Games like Destiny, Evolve, The Division, and more will not be arriving on the Wii U, which forces the platform to rely almost solely on first-party software to remain relevant.

Despite all of these blockbuster games hitting rival platforms, one could definitely make the argument that Nintendo and its respective hardware aren’t in direct competition with Microsoft or Sony given the company’s take on creating a unique gaming experience and library of legacy franchises. That point can be made, but the fact of the matter is that Nintendo’s home console has not been selling well on a worldwide scale, and the third-parties that very much view the platform as a legitimate gaming console have begun to officially and unofficially withdraw support.

Despite these issues, Nintendo carries some of the most powerful brands in the industry and its 2014 lineup (specifically Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U) will prove whether or not the fan base is strong enough for a Nintendo home console to make sense for gamers in 2014. There’s absolutely no chance that the Big N will be closing its doors anytime soon — especially since it has stockades of cash from the success of the Wii, DS, and 3DS — and China’s recent move to lift its ban on video game console sales brings massive sales potential to Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony alike.

Super Smash Bros Wii U 3DS Screenshots

Although the company has refused to release official numbers, Nintendo is reported to have sold over 4.3 million Wii Us as of November, which if true means the head start it received by releasing in 2012 won’t hold up for very long against the three million sold by Xbox One or 4.2 million PS4s sold in 2013 (in less than two months for each). Regardless, Nintendo will have to bank on the highly-anticipated software that’s arriving for the Wii U later this year to turn things around and continue to build up sales numbers for the struggling console. It needs games and it needs games fast.

The Wii U’s future as a profitable product is uncertain and it’ll remain that way until Nintendo gets around to revealing the sales of the console for the fiscal 2013 year (which ends in March). The lineup of games it has coming could be a huge difference maker going forward though, and major announcements at this E3 2014 could showcase a lineup that makes more than just the average Nintendo aficionado excited for the platform. If the Wii U is going to gain momentum then Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. will be the two games to give the console a much-needed push. On the other hand, if 2014 comes and goes with the same amount of dwindling interest for the console as 2013 then its sales slump is unlikely to ever change.

At this point the Japanese gaming giant needs to buckle down and focus on pushing first-party development on the Wii U in a similar fashion as it did with the 3DS. The handheld found itself in a similar sales slump shortly after its launch, which caused Nintendo to respond by dropping its price (something that’s already happened to the Wii U) and then proceed to unleash a barrage of great games upon the masses. Sales of the 3DS and its respective software are a glowing example of how the Big N can turn its fortunes around, and the company will need to apply the same philosophy to its struggling console in order to change its current path. Nintendo’s home console entirely relies on Nintendo’s ability to release Nintendo games in 2014. It’s that simple.

Do you think Nintendo will turn things around for the Wii U in 2014? Which software do you believe will sell best for Ninty this year? What games does Nintendo need to get out fast and/or make more of?


Follow Riley on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.

tags: Nintendo, Wii U