The Nintendo Delusion – Good Games Don’t Sell Good Consoles


No matter how good the games, the Wii U is a console no one wants.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the 2DS cannot play DS games when in fact it can.

Nintendo is not going anywhere.

And yet, the company’s home console, the Wii U, may not last another year. Nintendo has vast cash reserves built up by the resounding successes of the 100 million selling predecessor to the Wii U, the Wii, and the DS. The 3DS, and 2DS, for its part continues to perform well in an era dominated by non-gaming centric mobile platforms.

iwata

That is not unimpressive and there’s a litany of formidably good franchises under Nintendo’s belt – games the firm’s fans have long attested would be sufficient to see strong sales of the company’s systems. In the case of the Wii U, this simply hasn’t held true and Nintendo will fall short of CEO Satoru Iwata’s prediction of nine million for the fiscal year ending March, 31st.

In late October Nintendo revealed life-time sales of the console stood at 3.91 million units at that time which suggests sales of less than 4.5 million by mid-December leaving the Wii U in the precipitous position of requiring sales of two million per month to achieve the targeted nine million on time. That simply won’t happen.

This isn’t some idle malevolent hope by me, it’s a simple reflection of the fact that Nintendo – which was widely said to have the strongest games line-up of any of the platform holders in the latter half of 2013 –  found itself all but ignored by the rush of gamers to buy the PS4 and Xbox One with their admittedly largely mediocre launch titles.

super_mario_3d_world

The Year of Luigi, which is bizarrely set to continue into 2014, did not bring about the vital 1-Up Nintendo needed to revive the Wii U. Games like New Super Mario Bros. U, New Super Luigi U, Super Mario 3D World, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD failed to ignite a surge in sales of the console.

When Nintendo revealed its sales figures in October it was noted that “The Wii U hardware still has a negative impact on Nintendo’s profits.” While there may well have been a small surge of interest at Christmas (if only because the PS4 and Xbox One were sold out) there’s practically no reason to believe Nintendo will match its targets let alone beat them.

The great games upon which the House of Mario built its foundations are simply not enough. As to what might prove sufficient to turn round the console, there’s little reason to suspect anything can.

WiiU-Bayonetta-2

Classic franchises have failed to perform the trick and while there are games from much newer series on the way, Bayonetta 2 among them, they simply can’t spark interest in the Wii U. Third party support, with which Nintendo has struggled, is non-existent and any new IP the company creates will need to be astonishingly alluring to make gamers flock to the console.

There’s little cause to suspect that will happen. Nintendo has always crafted solid, fun, and often truly great games with their commitment to quality sometimes leading to empty release schedules – another problem for the ‘no-game’ Wii U – but to suggest that these titles are sufficient to sell Nintendo’s systems in large numbers is patently untrue.

In November, DFC Intelligence analyst David Cole predicted GameCube like sales of 25 million at most for the Wii U; there’s now a very good chance he was being unrealistically optimistic.

Nintendo GameCube

Nintendo is safe and has the resources to survive a console which fails but its future, and the company’s commitment to hardware, are less certain and it would be surprising if Wii U survives another year.

The success of the Wii was predicated on its accessible motion controls and the absence of a similarly compelling unique selling point for the Wii U, the GamePad is thus far an underused novelty, suggests Nintendo desperately needs a revolutionary concept to ensure the success of any successor. Games are not enough.

Most pressingly, Nintendo’s marketing is desperate need of an overhaul. A great many casual consumers are simply unaware that the Wii U exists and many of those who do are under the belief it simply a new controller for the Wii.

Recently the company has attempted to rectify this by expressly stating in its advertising that the Wii U is a whole new console but such steps are far too little, too late. Using the same style logo and font for both of the Wii and Wii U is indicative of the same kind of confusion which reigned in the early days of the 3DS when Nintendo trotted out the same celebrities to promote both systems.

Nintendo-2DS

The 2DS is perhaps the best reflection of Nintendo as a whole amongst its product line-up. Released after the 3DS without that device’s signature feature, a glassless 3D display, and numbered lower but able to play both 3DS games and DS titles. Despite the removal of 3D the DS cannot play 2DS which of course the same as 3DS as the system is the first in history to have no games of its own.

To casual consumers, the potential for confusion is paramount.  A €130 Pokémon X/Y playing device makes a lot of sense, especially for families, but it’s Nintendo’s positioning and marketing of the 2DS which is problematic.

All of this makes Nintendo appear to be a company living on an island of its own creation, unaware and uncaring of the trends happening elsewhere in gaming.

The company is secure but should it continue to operate as it does, it may well be sleepwalking into a future where no one will care how good the games it makes are. As it stands, non-Wii U owners no doubt know exactly how good Nintendo’s productions are and still see no valid reason to buy the console and that may be the same thing.

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About Stephen Daly

Co-editor of game culture and lifestyle site gamemoir.com and a news editor for Gameranx. You can follow me on Twitter at @StephenDaly_ or email sdaly@gamemoir.com.

There are 20 comments

  1. phoenolf

    I am seriously starting to worry for nintendo’s future, sony and microsoft are pretty much ahead in the game, like you said before. nintendo has to come up with an idea that’ll catapult itself into the league O_O

    1. Col

      Actually Nintendo is in the safest position. XBOX is at potential threat of sale from multi-billion dollar losses. Sony Global has shriveled to very little, profitable in almost no division. PS4 being one of Sony’s only hopes. Analysts predicting potential bankruptcy within the next few years.
      Nintendo has recorded one minor annual loss in its 3 decades of public trading, WiiU having a lack of success will not threat Nintendo. And considering Nintendo has 2014 packed out with loads of exclusives, higher profile titles than seen in 2013, WiiU will accelarate faster. Nintendo wouldn’t drop all that software by discontinuing WiiU like that. Would cost Nintendo more money to cut it than keep supporting it.
      WiiU will likely be here for at least the next 3 years. XB1 and to a lesser extent, PS4 might not have that much time left

      1. phoenolf

        I honestly didn’t know that, its just that, from the surface, nintendo is having more trouble than the other two companies but the fact that sony and microsoft are the ones on thin ice is more surprising to me
        (but I guess being the first video gaming company has its benefits, it is the first video gaming company, right?)

  2. j

    sry what make you sure that the Xbox One won’t flop and the Wii U wont pick up? Everywhere there are stack of Xbox Ones in stock.Seems like no one wants them at the same time in Japan over 100k Wii Us being sold per week in Europe nearly as many as Xbox Ones and the Wii U is gaining traction. Third parties have done some good ports. 2 BATMAN 2 A games Splinter Cell, Deux Ex and Watch Dogs is on the way. It could be better but as the Wii U sells more more 3rd parties will come back and the Ninty line up is already pretty good..

    1. Stephen Daly

      Because the Xbox One has performed well to date with over two million sold according to the latest and it’s far too early to predict how sales will continue to unfold. Japan is hardly reflective of trends in the global industry and third party support on Wii U is minimal and will continue to be so baring a remarkable turnaround. Finally, the whole point of the article is that the strength of Nintendo’s games isn’t enough. I own a Wii U, it has some great games and I’m not disputing that but I am saying the majority of people aren’t interested.

  3. j

    yes it has sold 2 million but noone outside the usa wants an xbox one after 6 weeks funny similar to how the wii u launch went.. I was in my local Saturn there were no ps4s and 50 xbox 1 on sale!. I will only think if till the end of 2014 the wii u hasnt picked up then it is failing… but wernt some of the best games on the n64 and gamecube anyway…… I have a wii u and love it best console since my n64

    1. Stephen Daly

      What facts are you looking for? Sales figures speak for themselves and I said multiple times that Nintendo is fine, it’s the Wii U that’s in trouble.

  4. Goan

    Kids these days play GTA5 and CoD , only virgins over 30 yo still play Mario and everything related to Nintendo only because it reminds them about the good old times of their lost childhood when life was good and soon they will get older and die along with Nintendo.

  5. RealGamer

    This is a definitive fan boy article. The Wii U has officially outsold the XBox One and i see this trend continuing.. The system is a $500.00 dollar box with higher specs more issues and no great games. Lets assume it cost 1 mill to make a Mario game which i’m not sure it does. They have hit 1 million retail games sold and that isn’t taking into account there could be 500,000 digital sales. at 59.99 that’s a lot of cabbage.

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