Gaming Editorial: Is the Wii U flopping?
For nearly four decades the Nintendo brand has grown to become the biggest video game entertainment powerhouse and a synonymous symbol of video game prestige and market dominance. Nintendo’s Wii U however has left a lot to be desired and the odds are beginning to stack against it. Is Nintendo’s grip on today’s console market slipping?
Earlier this month, news had dropped that a top video game retailer in Europe had cut Nintendo’s Wii U prices by £100, which roughly equated to $130 USD. Since then other European retailers have cut the price to help stimulate the Wii U’s lackluster overseas sales. Price drops are a common occurrence in a video game console’s lifespan, but four months after a console’s release? Not so much — especially when the price drop was initiated by the retailers … not the console manufacturers.
Before I go any further I will state that as a video game fan I don’t pledge any allegiance to a particular brand of video game console or company. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are all wonderful companies and I like what they have to offer. If I had it my way I’d own everything they put out that suited my tastes but today’s economy is telling me to keep pinching my pennies. So until I win the lottery I will continue to observe the gaming industry as it shifts into the next generation of home entertainment. I just worry that Nintendo doesn’t stand much of a chance.
If retailers cutting the Wii U’s price just to get the consoles off their shelves wasn’t enough, to add further insult to injury it was announced at last week’s Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) that the new Unreal Engine 4 and Frostbite 3 game engine technology will not be made available for Nintendo’s Wii U. The whole point of there being a new console release is to push the current standard of gaming to the next level. I hate to say it but this is definitive proof that the Wii U will not be able to deliver. Why should I buy a console that’s on par with the current standard of video game technology while the PS4 and the next Xbox will support future technology?
Part of Nintendo’s problem has been their Achilles heel — their lack of strong third party support. It doesn’t make sense to for a gamer in today’s economy to drop the cash on a console that doesn’t have a steady stream of games coming out for it. Nintendo’s famously cliché “quality over quantity” rhetoric just won’t work anymore to their defense because gamers will simply gravitate to what’s hot. Games sell consoles. And if a gamer has to wait six months to a year for a decent title to come out, you’re going to have some very unhappy and fed up gamers. And we can only be won over by a Mario or Zelda game so many times before it gets old.
I’ve been told by my Nintendo loyalist colleagues to wait for this summer’s Entertainment Electronics Expo (E3) to see what games Nintendo will announce that will “blow us all away.” But as much as I’d like to see Nintendo offer something new I fear it will only be overshadowed by the PlayStation 4 (we still have yet to see what it even looks like!) and the inevitable announcement of Microsoft’s next Xbox console. I hate to say it but I think the Wii U won’t fare well at this year’s E3. Or this next-generation console battle as well. All of the evidence points to a foreseeable flop.
I remember when Sega’s Dreamcast console flopped so badly they opted out of the console market altogether and instead turned to creating third party gaming content. Is this in Nintendo’s future? Probably not. I don’t see them giving up that easily. But I do see them being wise enough to know that video game consoles just aren’t their bag anymore; it’s handheld consoles.
I think it would be wiser for Nintendo to pull out of the console competition and put their resources into developing their handheld gaming market, where Nintendo’s biggest strength has always been. Imagine a series of gaming tablets designed by Nintendo. I’d get one! Where there is Pokémon, there is a way!
Yes, Nintendo is in trouble. But only in terms of where it stands in this next iteration of the console war. Nintendo has been around since the beginning and I don’t ever see them going away completely. But I do think they seriously need to rethink their strategy.
What are your thoughts?