It’s a question that’s been asked many times before and, in truth, it’s a fair question. Sega struggled for years in the console market before finally dropping it and going software only. A move that many say was one of their smartest. Since then they have been able to focus on more important things in the gaming industry like…. well, games. (I, for one, still think they peaked with their very last console, The Dreamcast.) Recently, Nintendo reported losses of $92.7 million on their quarterly report and since then some gamers have again started to fit them with a toe tag. Google “What’s wrong with Nintendo?” and you’ll find many articles giving their reasons as to why their console will fail. You’ll also find a few who believe the best is yet to come for Wii U. I will mostly fall into the latter group but have some points that will support the former.
Let me get this out of the way, I truly love Nintendo. I have been playing video games since way back to the Atari 2600. Therefore, I have a good history with gaming. I still remember when I received my Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) for Christmas. The Action Set that included the Zapper and the Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt combo. That was the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship with them. Through the years I went on to get the Super Nintendo, then the Nintendo 64. The whole time never once questioning my decision to remain within their ecosystem. That is until recently. I made it as far as the Wii and haven’t been able to justify getting the Wii U. Still, when I write this, please understand that it comes from a place of affection and respect. I don’t want to see them fail and believe that with some time and a few adjustments in their mission they can come back really strong.
That being said, the Wii U was released during the 2012 holiday season and after a mediocre launch has struggled to gain momentum. It was said at that time that when the Nintendo’s “big dogs” were released, this would adjust the console’s course and help to increase sales of the Wii U to the company’s projected $9 million units. With the release of Mario Kart 8 they did see a small spike in sales but ultimately sold only 2.7 million units in the last financial year. Given all this, it is easy to see why many say the decline started with the Wii U. Still, there is evidence of this decline happening many years before this last generation. Going back as far as the NES, you can see it in just the lifetime units sold.
NES – 61.91 million units
SNES – 49.10 million units
Nintendo 64 – 32.93 million units
GameCube – 21.74 million units
The anomaly happens here with the Wii and its 101.15 million units. All the casual gamers that bought in on the Wii really helped to hide the road before it. Now, we come to the Wii U which as of July 30th this year is at 6.68 million units sold. Yeah, I agree it’s not looking good for them so far. However, as they say the night is always darkest right before the dawn and I believe the dawn is coming for Nintendo.
A fun first person shooter with a diving twist.
So what changes do they need to get that bright morning? First, their upcoming lineup is pretty solid. It is undeniable that Super Smash Bros is a major player in Nintendo’s camp and the excitement for it coming out of E3 was evident. Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker are all high on the buzz meter as well. YES! I said Captain Toad and I mean it. These are all slated for release throughout the remainder of 2014. For early 2015, there are games like Splatoon, Xenoblade Chronicles and, of course, Zelda. Lets not forget Mario Maker! This is my own bold prediction, but I believe that the sleeper hit that will move units will be Mario Maker. Oh, how that game gets me excited!
I can’t express how much I am ready to dive into this game.
Mixed within these major “tent pole” titles are several indie ports that can serve to fill in the gaps. While it’s probably a timed exclusive, Shovel Knight has already brought “old school” and “hardcore” back to the Wii U. This is a big step in the right direction for them. 1001 Spikes and Oddworld are also on their way. Having a steady stream of games is key to staying alive in the console market and indie gaming is a great place to invest in.
Next, Nintendo needs to secure some third party love again. Major third party developers have all but abandoned Nintendo after their console exclusives fail to sell. Even EA and its infamous “unprecedented partnership” speech only have FIFA 2015 scheduled for this year. Nintendo is going to have to swallow some pride and build back those bridges that were burnt. It is a well-known fact that they have some serious cash reserves after selling the Wii consoles like hotcakes. Open up that coin purse a bit and get someone to take the time to develop something original and exclusive for their console.
Finally, Nintendo has to avoid allowing so much shovelware to be released and bring back that Seal of Quality that made us believe tthat heir games were great. With all the substandard party games flooding their library and outselling better quality games, the Wii console’s lifecycle was almost a re-enactment of the video game crash back in 1983. Admittedly, Nintendo did make lots of money during that time, but loss the hardcore gamers in the process. Gamers who now own Sony’s PS4 which has sold more than 10 million units or the XBOX One which is not far behind Sony in sales.
Ultimately, these are just my little opinions and I know more about fixing my car’s engine than I know about running a major game company, which is to say I know nothing. Nintendo has been around for more than 100 years and will most likely be here for the next 100. Who knows, perhaps the upcoming lineup will be enough to resurrect it. Perhaps third party publishers were just holding them back. All I know for sure is that somewhere along the way, Nintendo and I grew apart and since then they haven’t been doing too well. After this years E3 Nintendo Direct, I felt that familiar excitement I’ve felt before and I’m cautiously looking forward to their next 18 months.