After the surprising mainstream success of the Wii, Nintendo has faltered a bit. Now that it’s been nearly six months since the Wii U launched, let’s take a moment to see how the console has been doing. Nintendo launched the 3DS at a high price (£230) in March 2011, and then slashed that price in the summer of 2011 – with the handheld eventually ending up £100 cheaper than its initial launch price at the close of the year. Will its new console suffer the same fate?
According to VGChartz, the Wii U has sold roughly 2.97 million units worldwide through to April. Compared to the amazing sales of the supply-constrained Wii launch, this is quite a disappointment. While the initial sales peaked higher than the Xbox 360 and PS3 did back in the mid-2000s, it has not kept up the pace. Nintendo is selling well under 100,000 units a week, and sales have now reached the point where we’re starting to wonder if Nintendo should exit the home console market.
So, what’s causing the poor sales? It’s the lack of games. The Wii U just doesn’t have a compelling catalogue, and that’s crippling the platform. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like third party developers are going to be picking up Nintendo’s slack. Johan Andersson, Dice’s Frostbite Engine Technical Director, took to Twitter this week to explain that attempts were made to port Frostbite 2 to the Wii U. The tests ended poorly, so the next-generation Frostbite 3 games like Battlefield 4 and Dragon Age III certainly won’t be coming to the Wii U.
Similarly, Unreal Engine 4 won’t be ported to the Wii U by Epic. It seems that the fate of the Wii U now comes down to whether or not Nintendo will ship important high-profile first-party games, and cut the hardware price quickly enough to save the platform.
Rumour has it that Nintendo is shirking traditional third-party console developers, and instead it’s focusing on courting mobile devs. By making it easy for smartphone and tablet developers to port their popular games to the Wii U, Nintendo could be creating a home for smaller casual games. That’s a perfectly acceptable tactic, but Angry Birds and Plants Vs. Zombies just won’t be enough to save the Wii U. Nintendo needs big Zelda and Mario games as soon as is humanly possible if there’s to be any hope of reviving its failing console.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is just a month away now, and while Nintendo isn’t participating directly, it will be making some big software announcements through its Nintendo Direct videos. If Nintendo doesn’t come out with something substantial, the Wii U is all but finished when the PS4 and Xbox 720 make their debut.