The Wii U has , at this point, been a failure. Maybe not in terms of the system’s software lineup, but in terms of overall sales. It lags far behind either the Xbox One and the PS4 for this generation. The release list has been sparse for the last few months as well, with only a very small handful of first party games coming out and the rest of the lineup being made up of third-party software and independent releases through the eShop.
Nintendo is planning on releasing a new system next year, in March. At this point we still know absolutely zero about that system and no plans for when the consoles will be revealed have been announced. The prevailing rumor is sometime in September we can expect to hear something from the company, but even that is a rumor at this point. One thing that every console really needs to be successful is a good launch. It’s possible to come back from a slow start, but its not easy. Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime agrees.
In an interview with Alist that was conducted back at E3, but just recently published he was quoted as saying, “One of the things that we have to do better when we launch the NX—we have to do a better job communicating the positioning for the product. We have to do a better job helping people to understand its uniqueness and what that means for the game playing experience. And we have to do a better job from a software planning standpoint to have that continuous beat of great new games that are motivating more and more people to pick up the hardware and more and more people to pick up the software.”
The Wii U had 32 games that were available for purchase the day the system launched. Of those many were re-releases of previously released software, or slightly delayed. Games like Assassin’s Creed III, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Darksiders II and Mass Effect 3 had all been released in the months prior, up to a full year before the launch of the system. Epic Mickey 2 was considered a commercial flop and EA’s meager offering consisted mostly of watered down, feature stripped sports games, and no other titles from that company ever came to the system.
Add to the game lineup the fact that many people were confused about what the Wii U was and it was a recipe for trouble, if not disaster. Some anecdotal evidence pointed to many people thinking the Wii U was an add-on to the previous generation’s system, the Wii. Others weren’t exactly sure was the point of the Game Pad was. Developers also cited the difference in development hardware to its two main competitors as a reason for limited development on the system. It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing that led to the commercial downfall of the Wii U. It’s more a number of smaller things that just added up over the system’s life time that kept it from being as successful as it could have been.
Regardless Nintendo seems to have learned from the past, at least they’re saying they have. In addition to Reggie’s comments about the launch and the communication of just what NX is Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima reiterated that they have to have a strong lineup after the launch of the system as well. In speaking with the IB Times this past May he was quoted as saying, “When people finish the launch titles, they will want things to buy in spring, on summer break, at Christmas. As such, it’s not simply a question of when the hardware’s ready; rather, we need to ensure our software line-up is also in a good place.”
Games sell hardware. Great games sell more hardware. That’s not all that it takes, but that’s a really good place to start. There are other things that Nintendo needs to improve on for the NX to be a success. Their online infrastructure is one of them. Their partnership with DeNA has given fans hope that Nintendo will have a more seamless online presence. A unified account system, seamless transfer of game data between platforms and more will be key to Nintendo’s success with NX. They’ve already seen some benefit of the mobile market steering people towards their traditional platforms and games. Pokemon GO! led to a big boost in sales for the Pokemon franchise on 3DS. That’s a great start towards seeing gains in those areas. Other titles slated for this year on mobile like Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing will be strong indicators of whether Nintendo can continue this success moving forward and if their strategy will pay off in the long run.
2015 and 2016 were not good years for Nintendo and the Wii U. The 3DS did continue to see success, but even that system isn’t as strong as it once was. Rumors are strongly hinting at some sort of console/handheld hybrid system. One that players will be able to take with them during the day, but plug into their TV when they are at home. We’re seeing rumors of detachable controllers that potentially offer motion controls as well. We’ve heard dozens of different rumors of just how powerful the system is. Ultimately, at this point, we know absolutely nothing about the NX other than that Nintendo says the system is coming in March of 2017.
Consumers are beginning to worry that launch may not happen. They’re worried that by waiting so long to give concrete details about the system they won’t have time to properly communicate the strenghts of the system to players. Nintendo has a promising future ahead of them in 2017. They appear to be saying all the right things. Now we just need to know what NX is and whether or not it will be something that consumers latch onto.