The Wii U has been a disaster for Nintendo. You may be a fan of the platform and disagree with me but the numbers do not lie. Nintendo has released their most recent numbers and as of December 31st, 2015, the Wii U has sold a mere 12.6 million units worldwide.
Allow me to elaborate on just how disappointing that is, the Playstation Vita has sold 13 million devices. The Wii U debuted in 2012 whereas the PS4 released a year later, however, the Playstation juggernaut has shipped over 36 million.
The previous Nintendo console, The Wii, sold over 100 million units. This statistic calculates that only 12% of Wii owners opted to purchase the new console. All of these numbers are seriously worrying and to make the threat realer, the last console that SEGA released before they bowed out of the console market sold just 8.2 million units. Is the Wii U’s 12.6 figure much more of an achievement?
This amount is very unlikely to increase as the only big titles due to hit store shelves in 2016 are Starfox Zero and Zelda Wii U. You can add fuel to the fire with the news that Nintendo is developing a new console with the code name ‘NX’. What incentive will consumers have to purchase a dying console?
There was a strange rumor that the Wii had amassed Nintendo so much money that they could make losses every year and still survive until 2052. As much credence there is to that statement, Nintendo is still a business with shareholders and stock value. Amiibos and the 3DS are still drawing in a good profit for the company but the question remains, if the NX is a failure will Nintendo drop out of the console war?
We need to review just why the Wii U has failed and how the NX can learn from these mistakes.
The Wii U started with a handicap as the name left many confused. You have to consider that a large number of Wii owners were new to the console market and as such, could not fully comprehend how the evolution of consoles work. With a number of peripherals making their way to the Wii (Wii MotionPlus, Wii Balance Board) many thought that the Wii U was simply another, nonessential, an add-on to their Wii.
Nintendo’s attempt of appealing to a wider audience actually hurt them as the hardcore gamers are a sensitive type. As we’ve seen with the Xbox One and PS4, the serious players want a console to play games! The Xbox One suffered massively due to its TV ambitions and Microsoft’s ‘all in one‘ ethos. The company has now been backpedaling ever since by changing their policies and ditching the Kinect. Their issues are slowly resolving but Nintendo never made any attempts to appease this demographic. The hardcore gamers saw the Wii U as a gimmick with its gamepad and, therefore, snubbed the console.
The ‘NX’ as it known needs a captivating name! Has Nintendo learned from their mistake? Possibly not as they recently crowned the new iteration of their handheld, ‘The New 3DS’ and confusion exists once more. The ‘NX’ is actually a catchy name and I would be happy with that. That being said, codenames are just that and I do not expect this one to stick. (Anyone remember Project Cafe or The Dolphin?).
What Is The NX?
Who is this console for? That is the question Nintendo needs to ask itself. We have never had a competitive three console market where each manufacture wins and as we have seen with PlayStation and Xbox sales, gamers do not want to buy both consoles. The Wii was substantially different to anything available at the time and it had a great price point at launch. $249.99 with Wii Sports was a sum which, for the technology at the time, seemed more than fair.
The NX is still shrouded in mystery but we have seen patents for a fully customizable touch screen controller and a recent customer survey hinted at a less than desirable specification with gaming graphics running at 900p.
Does Nintendo dominate the market with a machine that dwarfs the PS4 and Xbox One? 4K resolution is a possibility and would certainly pique the interest of many or do they simply innovate once more with a mysterious concept? A rumor buzzing around is that the device could be a home/portable hybrid device capable of delivering high fidelity quality games wherever you are?
What is clear is that Nintendo needs to have a clear concept for the NX and make sure it appeals the masses.
The Wii U debuted with a weak lineup of launch games such as ZombiU and Nintendo Land and the consequence of this was poor first-week sales. It sold just 5 million units in its first year (The Wii sold 20 million) and this asked third party developers the question, is it financially beneficial to create games for the Wii U?
The answer was resounding no.
EA was one of the first publishers to announce that they would not support the Wii U and then every other major published followed suit. This left Nintendo having to produce their own games and although they are more than competent at this task, being able to deliver new titles consistently throughout the calendar is not achievable.
2015 was the Wii U’s third year on the market, which in history is one of the most prolific years in the console life cycle, yet as of Jan 29th, 2016 there are a mere 679 games available to purchase on the Wii U. Compare this to the 948 PS4 games available with the console being a year younger than its Nintendo counterpart.
Third party support is essential to thrive in the market. In 2015 the top 10 selling games were multi-platform and unsurprisingly, none of them featured on the Wii U.
Where Nintendo do succeed is with their own IP’s. Their attach rate is quite remarkable. Did you know that Mario Kart Wii has sold 36 million copies? 36% of Wii owners purchased the competitive kart racer! New Super Mario Bros (A terrible name once again Nintendo) sold 29 million. These numbers are incredible and a testament to how popular Nintendo games are. Even on the Wii U, the attach rate is extraordinary. Super Smash Bros For Wii U has sold 4.6 million and Mario Kart 8 has sold 7.2 million. That is a 36% and 57% attach rate respectively. Sony and Microsoft could only dream of those numbers.
The NX needs to sell consoles to regain the trust of the big publishers such as Activision, EA, and Ubisoft. How do they do that? By continuing to make their trademark, high-quality games and have a great launch lineup.
Nintendo’s biggest properties are Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon. Let us see a game from each of these franchises available from day one. Zelda Wii U has no release date since it was delayed out of 2015 so could it resemble the launch of Zelda Twilight Princess and appear on both the Wii U and NX? Mario Galaxy 3, Mario Kart 9 or a rumored new Super Smash Bros would all be welcomed.
Lastly, we have Pokemon. Could this be the time to release the much-requested console version of the RPG? We have seen spin-offs from the franchise on home consoles such as Pokemon Snap and Pokken Tournament but a fully fledged RPG could define the NX. Imagine a Pokemon MMO exclusive to the Nintendo NX, the headline writes itself.
A stellar first party lineup which only Nintendo has the capabilities to deliver upon could drive the day one sales of the NX.
Nintendo has almost embodied the disappointment of the Wii U but shying away from the big gaming events of the year. Instead of taking the main stages at big press events, they have opted to focus their marketing and messaging through expertly crafted Nintendo Direct feeds.
The issue with these steams are that they are focused on preexisting customers and if the NX intends to be a success, Nintendo needs to think bigger.
E3 is the biggest event on the gaming calendar and millions of fans, journalists, and industry insiders flock to the conference to see the future of the gaming trade. Nintendo must have a presence there. They need to be seen as the juggernaut they once were and E3 is the perfect platform for that. A crowd-pleasing performance can gather an unimaginable amount of hype for your console as Sony learned with the PS4 pricing announcement.
If the marketing is in place and the games are ready to go, Nintendo could win E3 2016.
Can The NX Save Nintendo?
History has taught us that you can never write Nintendo off but they do need to surprise us once more. The company will always be safe and could probably survive as a game developer or just from producing more Amiibos!
I do not want that to be the case, though. Nintendo has been a pillar of the gaming world since I was a child. My first ever console was the Nintendo Entertainment System and I grew up alongside the company. Their properties are as recognizable as Mickey Mouse and the Nintendo name as identifiable as Disney.
I for one cannot wait to see what Nintendo has in store for the NX but I hope they learn from their mistakes and take the gaming world by storm.
An Englishman living in Australia. I edit and provide video/written reviews for all of the latest games.