Nintendo’s Wii U is struggling. No-one can realistically argue that fact. Despite having such a promising start and a pretty decent launch library, the momentum for the system has just… stopped. There are a number of reasons for that, however, ranging from the poor advertising for the system to software delays and more.
But with the PS4 and the Xbox One on the horizon, have Nintendo missed their chance to truly utilise their headstart? Many would answer “yes”, but that poses a more interesting question when considering the long-term potential of the system. When you consider the newly-announced competition coming before the end of this year, is the Wii U already set to fail? As you might expect, that’s a very tricky question to answer, for there are far too many variables and possible outcomes to consider, let alone the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to say what exactly would constitute a “failure”. For the point of this article, let's say a "failure" would be coming last in this upcoming generation. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the upcoming games and other features to try and answer this question.
It’s fair to say that one of the major reasons the Wii U has lost momentum is because of a severe drought in any new games, let alone quality exclusives. Fortunately, the second half of 2013 and 2014 look far more promising.
In the next 6 months, we will see the likes of Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Super Mario 3D World, as well as Wii Fit U and Wii Party U, from Nintendo for Wii U. That’s a pretty impressive line-up, particularly when you consider the fact that the only games released for the Wii U by Nintendo in the last 6 months have been Game & Wario and New Super Luigi U. Factor in some 3rd party games, such as Sonic Lost World, Batman: Arkham Origins and Watch Dogs, and it would appear as though the lost momentum could be restored in the second half of the year.
However, whilst the line-up as a whole is strong and caters to many audiences, there is no real “killer app”, or “must-have” game in those lists. Normally, that would not be an issue, as the depth of releases is strong enough to warrant a purchase. The issue comes from competing with both the launches of the PS4 and Xbox One towards the end of the year, as well as other titles for the current generation of systems, such as Gran Turismo 6 and Grand Theft Auto V (which at the time of writing is not announced for the Wii U). For the Wii U to succeed, Nintendo need to show that the Wii U is something new, something different. And that’s where the advertising comes into its own.
Having a high-quality line up of games is perfectly fine, and essential for a system to succeed. But perhaps just as essential, especially when a system is in its infancy, is the advertising. You need the adverts to show the general public just why they should go out and get your new system. And, as of now, Nintendo has been nowhere near close to achieving this.
If you were to see one of the (incredibly rare) adverts for the console, you’ll see it makes no real mention of what the system can do, what games are on the system, or, perhaps most worryingly, even mention that the Wii U is not just a new controller for the Wii. That is terrible. Why should someone go out and purchase your shiny new console for several hundred dollars if you don’t give them a reason to? Nintendo need to up the quality of their advertising, and fast. The Wii U is already an afterthought for many (made evident by last month’s E3) and if nothing is done the situation will only get worse.
Fortunately, it would seem as though Nintendo feel the same. A recent advertising campaign in Japan appears to have been the major factor in increasing Wii U sales by over 50% in the past 2 weeks, according to Media Create. With Pikmin 3 out in Japan this week, perhaps this could be the beginning of a Wii U resurgence in Japan?
At the very least, Nintendo have admitted the mistakes that they made with the launch of their new system. Although they would like to think that all of their Wii U issues will “disappear” with the above games launching in the second half of the year, it would be naïve to think that will actually happen.
Why? Because at its core, the Wii U is suffering from an identity crisis right now. The likes of Wii Fit, Nintendo Land and Wii Party are catering towards the “casual” audience, but the advertising is not clear or persuasive enough to make people to pay so much for the console. Similarly, the likes of ZombiU, Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs are appealing to a more “hardcore” audience, but much of that demographic is simply waiting for the PS4 and/or the Xbox One to release.
The best way for Nintendo to reverse the fortunes of the Wii U would be to appeal to the Nintendo audience. Mario, Zelda, Pikmin and more are releasing this year, with Smash Bros and Mario Kart confirmed for next year. So why not promote that fact? These franchises are some of the best loved in gaming, and this strategy seems to be working for the 3DS, which was suffering similarly in its first year. The sooner the Wii U stops trying to emulate the success Nintendo had with the Wii, stops trying to be a “me too!” HD system and starts catering to those people who just love playing Nintendo games, the sooner the console will start seeing its fortunes reversed.
So to get back to the original point of this article, is the Wii U set to fail? In all honesty, it’s simply too early to tell right now. However, one thing is for certain. With the other next-gen systems launching later this year, this holiday season is crucial for the long-term success of the Wii U. But if Nintendo pushes the console hard, promoting their own exclusive games and their cheaper price tag, and if they can quite simply do their own thing, then that momentum could begin to build up going into next year. The Wii U has plenty of potential, but can Nintendo convince the public of this before it’s too late?