What Nintendo's Wii U Needs to Survive
In spite of Nintendo's big push, the Wii U hasn't wowed gamers.
When Nintendo launched its new Wii U video game console last November, the company was looking to usher in the next generation of games in a big way, with the inclusion of a tablet-like GamePad controller and several highly anticipated titles like "Zombi U" and "New Super Mario Bros. U." Unfortunately, in the months that followed, the system hit some rather hard times.
The Wii U has suffered from a lack of major game releases (only "Lego City: Undercover" and "Injustice: Gods Among Us" are true standouts), publishers who withdrew several projects (Sega cancelled "Aliens: Colonial Marines," for example), and disappointing sales of just under 3.5 million units since its release. With the announcement of both Microsoft's Xbox One console and Sony's PlayStation 4, the Wii U system could be looking at a last-place finish.
But the problem goes much deeper than that, said Marcus Beer, host of the weekly "Annoyed Gamer" program over at GameTrailers.com. "The Wii U is suffering from a major perception problem right now," said Beer. "It's as if they are not sure themselves what type of console it is or how to explain it to the masses."
Third-party support has also wavered a bit, with Ubisoft making the once-exclusive Wii U game "Rayman Legends" into a multi-console release (due in August) and EA first stating that "no Wii U games were in production," only to insist otherwise weeks later.
Can the Wii U make a rebound? Yes, but Nintendo needs to do multiple things better, Beer said. The first, obviously, would be a price drop, as $300 may be too high a starting price for a system with barely any games out. "Price drop, rebooted marketing, delivery of at least a dozen quality games in the next seven months … the list of what Nintendo needs to do could stretch around L.A. three times," said Beer. "The problem is that Nintendo believes their own hype. No one else does … The addition of a limited-use tablet [controller] has done nothing but confuse gamers and alienate third-party publishers." [See also: Game Over: Why the Console Wars Have Ended]
Steady game delivery is another item that needs improvement. Nintendo did confirm release dates for two of the system's more anticipated games, "Pikmin 3" and "The Wonderful 101," but not until August and September, respectively. That leaves one sole add-on, "New Super Luigi Bros.," as the company's "major" release for the season.
Nintendo is working on a blockbuster reveal at E3 in just a couple of weeks' time, where it's expected to unveil a new 3D adventure featuring its iconic Mario character, from the creators of the "Super Mario Galaxy" series. Sequels to "Mario Kart" and "Super Smash Bros." are also expected to be unveiled, along with other previously announced games like "Bayonetta 2" and "The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD." But the actual releases will still take time. "Wind Waker HD" isn't expected until this fall, and " Bayonetta 2" not until early 2014.
Nintendo has its work cut out for it, especially when it comes to keeping up with the newly announced game systems that will arrive on the block this fall. But the basic formula it needs to follow is simple: Deliver a lot of good games, and maybe drop that console price.