It’s certainly been a tough few months for Nintendo and unfortunate Wii U owners. With sprinklings of negativity rearing their ugly heads every once in a while, the latest of which coming from publishing legends Bethesda, it really doesn’t look like a good time to buy in to Nintendo’s latest offering in the console market.
At times it seems as though I am ploughing through gaming updates just to find the latest – and almost daily – bit of bad news that has gone Nintendo’s way. Today proved to be no different. Earlier, I encountered the aforementioned news and articles that revealed an insight into Bethesda’s ethos for future game development and publishing, a future which the Wii U doesn’t seem to be a part of. Pete Hines, Bethesda’s Vice President of PR, put the Wii U snub down to hardware issues and also went on to guarantee that Elder Scrolls Online, Wolfenstein: The New Order and The Evil Within will not be coming to Wii U. In all fairness to Bethesda, the Elder Scrolls Online will also be passing up invitations to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 because of their hardware, but they are both last generation consoles whilst the Wii U is supposed to be next-gen?
Yet another well placed kick to the Wii U came in the form of the Batman: Arkham Origins publisher Warner Bros’ announcement that, although the game is being released on the platform, the recently announced online multiplayer modes will not be supported on the Wii U. The logic behind their decision is that they want to target the content at platforms with a sizeable multiplayer audience – such as Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC – rather than create an online ghost town on the Wii U.
It’s logical yet again from the publishers, but why does it seem like Nintendo have put them in this awkward situation in the first place? We’ve seen the pantomime between EA and the Wii U play out over the past few months and you’ve got to realise why these rational, profit seeking companies are reaching such conclusions. Sales figures reported on The Verge last month showed an underwhelming performance by the Wii U in the two quarters following the launch period and this does not reflect well on a console that is sadly being outsold by its predecessor. Nintendo had predicted that the Wii U would sell 5.5 million systems by the end of March, yet the figure has only reached 3.61 million units despite it being 4 months beyond the initial target.
The games industry will soon reach a point where we all reflect on the year that has passed and assess whether certain games, consoles and more have been a success or a failure during 2013. The looming arrival – and current media domination – of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 makes the Wii U seem like little more than an afterthought at the moment, but what will happen when we reach the stage where we actually consider the year as a whole? Once the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have reached the living rooms and bedrooms of millions of gamers worldwide, will people be able to find the time and space to consider the Wii U in the midst of this next-gen console battle?
I honestly didn’t fancy typing up an obituary when I sat down to write this article, but if Nintendo doesn’t do something drastic or wise to change this situation then I may as well be proactive and create one, just in case. Eagerness has so far been Nintendo’s biggest downfall and the Wii U has been the result of bad timing and quite a substantial example of misreading the market. If Nintendo had maybe waited an extra year or two – increasing the power of their console, assessing the competition and supporting a great selection of launch titles in the process – wouldn’t they be in a better position than they are now? Obviously, it’s largely a case of ‘what if?’, but with the knowledge and viewpoint that we all have now, I think it is fair to say that the Wii U should have either been cheaper, more powerful or delayed, maybe for an amount of time that would allow it to be on a par with the upcoming truly next-gen consoles, rather than the uncomfortable mid-gen void that they’ve created? I just hope that Nintendo can innovate their way out of this situation.