Will the Wii U survive?

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Despite having a 12 month head start on its rivals, the Nintendo’s latest home console is struggling to make an impact

It was a shaky start for the Nintendo Wii U when it launched in November last year. Despite its advantage of launching a year before Microsoft and Sony’s entries into the next generation of gaming, a combination of limited software choices and poor marketing saw Nintendo falling short of its targets.

Wii U sales were predicted at 5 million for March 2013, but this estimate was scratched down to 4 million after figures were released from the second quarter ending December 2012. Software sales were originally forecast at 24 million for the end of the last fiscal year, but this was also dropped to a new estimate of 16 million.

Nintendo are selling the Wii U at a loss, which is not uncommon in the gaming industry. The manufacturing costs of the Wii U are particularly high due the consoles touch screen controller. CNN estimated the cost of the parts of the Wii U GamePad at $79.25, whilst the console itself is estimated to cost $148.38. These figures do not take into account additional costs such as research and development, distribution and software installation, leaving an extremely small margin for Nintendo to make profit on.

Nintendo’s biggest problem so far has been its limited software range. Nintendo need to be shifting software to make profit, and ultimately have a range of titles enticing enough in order to shift the Wii U itself. Nintendo has dropped the price of the Wii U a number of times; Asda slashed £100 off their Wii U prices back in July, reducing the Premier set to £199 and the Basic Set to just £149.

Since Nintendo released figures for the second quarter of 2013, sales have doubled in comparison to the three months before. Whilst Nintendo’s original forecast of 9 million units to be sold by April next year seems unlikely (it currently stands at 3.9 million as of September 30th 2013), we can expect a strong increase in sales thanks to the rallying of some of Nintedo’s most stalwart games.

Although the launch line-up featured a new Mario title and the exclusive ZombiU, Nintendo have only recently began trickling out titles such as The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Pikmin 3 and Super Mario 3D World that sales for the Wii U are finally starting to pick up. Sales jumped 340% in November, and that’s largely due to the release of Super Mario 3D world.

Nintendo boasts an incredibly diverse fanbase thanks to its combination of hardcore fans from the NES era onwards and its casual audience from the success of the Nintendo Wii. However, with many Wii’s now lying dormant and dusty in living rooms throughout the United States and Europe, Nintendo would be foolish to keep holding back the majority of its IPs. Until we see more from the likes of Zelda, Starfox and Metroid, many of Nintendo’s fans will see no justification for the purchase of a Wii U console anytime soon. With the stagnancy in original content around the FPS market at the moment, it’s surprising that Nintendo have held back on a new Metroid title, especially as it would also help attract an older audience.

That said, a new Mario Kart and a Super Smash Bros is on the way. Mario Kart will help shift sales of the system as it always has done, and Super Smash Bros is a title that always fares well due to its family fun multiplayer. Whilst Nintendo have always had a strong focus on local multiplayer and “playing together”, as has been their marketing strategy with the original Wii, in this day and age it would be foolish to limit the online capabilities of a game such as Super Smash Bros. In an era that is now ruled with online connectivity, Nintendo should shift their focus to catering for an audience who wish to play online multiplayer.

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Nintendo are at their strongest when they have their broadest range of IP’s available. Whilst Microsoft and Sony seem to rely on slick marketing to sell their consoles, Nintendo’s emphasis has always been on creating original game content. The Wii U is relying more on games than anything else right now, and Nintendo need to keep releasing more quality first party titles.

Considering the popularity of online gaming stores such as Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network and Steam, it’s a shame to see the Nintendo e-store is currently lacking in content. Nintendo have acknowledged this as Satoru Iwata, president and CEO of the company, spoke to investors last month“While Wii U and Nintendo 3DS already offer Virtual Console software, I feel that we have not been able to take full advantage of our assets yet, so we would like to enrich our Virtual Console lineup.”

With an audience larger than ever before thanks to successful sales of the Wii, Nintendo now have the chance to branch out to their target audience with titles they may have missed on the Gamecube, N64 and older consoles. Remakes of games such as Ocarina Of Time and Starfox 64 have proved highly successful for the 3DS. Nintendo have a fantastic back catalogue at their disposal, and they would be foolish to not use it. As well as appealing to a new audience, older Nintendo fans will certainly jump for a chance to play some of their favourite games in HD – the success of Wind Waker HD proves this, as do the remakes of Starfox and Ocarina of Time.

Whilst Nintendo is lacking strong third party support at the moment, I don’t believe this is something that will jeopardise the success of the Wii U just yet. Nintendo’s heart has always been its original content and will continue to be so. However, Nintendo must work to build relationships with more developers in order to secure future releases. Whilst they have the support of developers such as Ubisoft and Activision, more third party releases would make the Wii U more appealing to a larger audience.

The Wii U has suffered as a result of poor marketing. The Wii was marketed brilliantly as a family friendly console that players of all ages and skill can get involved with, but the amount of consumers who believe the Wii U is merely an additional controller for the Wii is quite staggering. Nintendo have a system that boasts remarkable manoeuvrability, yet no one seems to know about it. The fact that the Wii U’s GamePad doubles up into what is effectively a tablet computer is a brilliant feature. The GamePad works up to a range of 26 feet from the Wii U. Couple that with an Internet connection and streaming platforms such as Netflix or Love Film and you can watch your favourite films in bed or play Super Mario on the toilet; isn’t that the ultimate gamer’s luxury? That’s an easy thing to sell, and Nintendo need to start pushing the benefits of this GamePad if they wish to shift more units.

Will the Wii U survive then? Yes, of course it will. The Wii U will flourish when more first party software becomes available; the 340% jump in sales for the month of November supports this claim. The GameCube started off slow, as did the 3DS, but both became strong platforms thanks to the release of exclusive titles. Nintendo has acknowledged the problems with the e-store, and is intent on rectifying them. The release of more exclusive titles for the Wii U in 2014 will prove to be a successful year for Nintendo, but they must also learn to acknowledge the previous successes of their other IP’s such as Earthbound, F-Zero and Metroid; all of which have been untouched for a number of years.

Competition isn’t something Nintendo has ever worried about, and I don’t believe the Xbox One or Playstation 4 pose any significant threat to the Wii U at the moment. If anything, the next generation is helping Nintendo achieve the one thing it has always strived for: originality amongst its peers.

Images via Nintendo

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