Recently, Nintendo took the liberty of basically admitting what many already felt, yet few would admit. The Wii U is a failure. Now keep in mind that when I say that, I am speaking from Nintendo’s perspective. Nintendo cut their sales forecast for the fiscal year by 70% a few days ago, all but admitting they made a huge mistake with the Wii’s successor. I’m not sure exactly what this means, but that won’t stop me from talking about it. No harm in speculating, you know?
Nintendo finds themselves in a precarious position. Their home console is floundering, and the handheld gaming space they once utterly dominated has been invaded by the tablet/smartphone tandem. They are trapped right in the middle of two very distinct ends of the gaming stratosphere. Common sense would have you believe that moving towards one end makes good business sense. But which end can Nintendo successfully move towards? The original Wii all but eschewed the hardcore gaming model, leaving Nintendo with a lack of options to compete in that space against the Xbox One and PS4. As for moving towards the mobile market, it seems to be the more viable option based on their continued handheld success. However, 3DS sales forecasts were recently cut as well, suggesting that gamers are opting to go elsewhere for gaming on the go. Nintendo and mobile gaming were once synonymous, but that is no longer the case. Most gamers can get their fix on the smartphone they most likely already have, or a tablet if they own one. A Nintendo device is no longer the standard for mobile gaming. It’s still a quality option indeed, but it used to be the ONLY one. That is no longer true.
There are a few reasons Nintendo is in this position, but I feel the most important is their over-reliance on their staple franchises. While games like Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and Metroid are all awesome, they simply aren’t that popular with a large majority of the demographic that purchases games now. I believe this is why Nintendo stopped trying to keep up with Sony and Microsoft in the first place. It’s easy to point to these franchises sales and make a case that I’m wrong about their popularity. But one could also make the case that these games are bought out of necessity, due to other equally viable options on a Nintendo console. Nintendo’s disruptive scheme worked like a charm last gen, mostly because a ton of people were interested in the Wii’s control scheme. In my opinion anyway. This time around, they didn’t have an equally interesting attention grabber. They thought the Gamepad would do the job, and it simply didn’t. So we were left with a console that was too underpowered to compete with Sony and MS, and was missing the original Wii’s secret weapon. Here we stand.
Many people openly wished for Nintendo to stop making hardware altogether and focus on software, similar to Sega years ago. I’m not ready to say that will happen anytime soon. After all, people wrote Nintendo off prior to the Wii. We all know what happened there. With that said, the company has definitely seen better days. Their current position is eerily similar to Sony’s at the start of last gen. However, Sony found a way to stick around and make the most of things. Nintendo can do the same hopefully, but they need to work fast and figure out how. Should they cut bait and make a brand new system? Re-brand the Wii U somehow and keep pushing? Should they enter the smartphone world as many have suggested on the heels of this announcement? I don’t have the answers. Just the questions. Word to the Mario coin boxes.