Is The Wii Dead?
Wii U is big news. It’s such big news that Nintendo’s E3 Press Conference this year was set aside entirely to discuss Nintendo’s next step in the home console market; with even the resurgent 3DS cast aside to a smaller conference to make room for the new console juggernaut. Post-conference, the Wii U emphasis remained, and while everyone was getting excited about Nintendo’s new venture, one console went almost entirely unnoticed – the Wii.
While it was unsurprising Nintendo decided to focus fully on Wii U this year, what is more surprising is that literally nothing was on show at E3 for the current Nintendo platform, a platform that at the very least has another four months of life in it. So what has happened to Wii? Does this mean it now joins the list of dead home consoles?
Typically during E3 week, the big announcements are paraded out either at the conference or show floor, and then later in the week, Nintendo issue a press release stating what games are coming in the remainder of the year for all platforms. While that still happened this year, the Wii release schedule made for a disheartening read. The future of the Wii seems to lie in multiplatform ports rather than exclusive or unique software, ushering in the final throes of the console’s life, well before it realistically should be ending.
This isn’t anything new, as the GameCube underwent a similar slowing period towards the end of its life-cycle, with only third-party ports making up most of the final year’s release schedule. But what’s concerning is Nintendo’s complete abandonment of its current home console, something we have never seen before. If the consumer hasn’t given up on Wii by now, it appears that Nintendo has regardless of whether you want new software or not.
Let’s look back at the last two consoles to be surpassed, the DS and GameCube. Both suffered from tremendous slowdown in their final years as the new console hype began, much like what happened to Wii. The GameCube however had a handful of first-party titles close to the end, and then finally went out with a bang with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. At the time of writing, the final major Nintendo release for Wii was Mario Party 9 back at the start of 2012.
The DS is a good comparison point for Wii, as both introduced millions of new fans to the gaming world and supplied content for them throughout the system’s lifecycle. Towards the 3DS launch, the DS maintained a steady stream of software, ultimately culminating in Pokémon Black & White, a title that boosted DS sales at a time when it was about to crash. Nintendo’s acknowledgement of the strength of the DS brand even allowed it to survive well into 2012, with a sequel to Pokémon Black & White coming later in the year, giving DS owners a reason to keep going back.
With Wii, it’s an entirely different story. While Nintendo have been releasing very niche titles on the system, namely the Project Rainfall Trilogy, the final triple A title for the system was back at the end of 2011, in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Since then there has been very little that could be recommended to everyone and remarkably even less that is marketed towards that all-important casual gamer market. With exclusives gone, the remaining Wii games are simple third-party ports of titles that may or may not even fit well on Wii, consigning the system to a premature death.
Perhaps the most concerning thing of all is by the time Wii U comes around, the Wii will not have had a major title for almost a year; and that could drive the remaining audience away. Wii U aims to bring back not only the core gamer to Nintendo, but also maintain the casual fanbase that has recently begun to drift towards smart phones. It’s an ambitious aim but one that is made even more difficult when Nintendo’s current platform has absolutely no software available from its primary publisher. There’s also the issue of legacy owners who may not be able to afford a Wii U straight away – what’s to stop them seeing Nintendo abandoning Wii and moving on to something else?
It’s a difficult situation but one that Nintendo seem to have ignored entirely in their pursuit of launching Wii U. For single system Wii owners, the period of time between now and the Wii U launch is looking very barren; with the highlights being ported GameCube games (in America only), a handful of multiplatform ports and a compilation of pre-GC era Kirby games. It’s a poor line-up for any system, but to be the line-up that leads up to Wii U’s launch is very concerning for the sustainability of the Wii line. Perhaps there is one last hurrah for the white console that will surprise the world, but at the moment, the Wii really is as good as dead.