Can Nintendo Save the Wii U?


Even after a year long head start, the Wii U has had its lifetime sales eclipsed by the PS4 in a matter of weeks, with the Xbox One appearing to be well on its way to outselling it within the next month.

It’s baffling to think that Nintendo expected to sell around 9 million units over the course of the past year, and are now projecting less than a third of that. Nintendo’s latest sales projection puts the Wii U at under 3 million units selling between April 2013 and March 2014.

After a launch of mostly ports from PS3 and 360 games was followed by a crippling drought in software, the Wii U has failed to really grab any definitive audience outside of the biggest Nintendo fans.

Even an excellent line-up of games in 2013 didn’t help the Wii U has regain any sort of momentum. The PS4 and Xbox One were the biggest stories of last year and Nintendo still had a stronger line-up than either system’s launch. Games like the excellent Super Mario 3D World, Wind Waker HD, and Pikmin 3 were stronger than almost anything you can find in the competition’s launches.

Looking forward this year, Nintendo has a strong line-up of already announced games. A new Smash Bros, Donkey Kong, and Mario Kart are already confirmed to be released at some point during the year and it has already been made known that the proper reveal of the next Legend of Zelda will happen at this year’s E3.

But still the Wii U isn’t making an impact.

There are a lot of reasons that people are going to throw out to explain why this is. No third party support and a sub par online experience when compared to their competition are most commonly brought up. But in all honesty is anyone who might by one looking for either of those things in a Nintendo console?

A legacy that spans decades doesn’t seem to be enough to help Nintendo get the Wii U off the ground.

There’s reason to fear that maybe people are outgrowing Nintendo.

People love Mario and Zelda, but after decades people are starting to feel fatigued on Nintendo’s franchises as we currently know them, and the company seems to not have any real desire to expand their catalog of IP.

Think back. What was the last new series to come from Nintendo outside of the Wii space?

Nintendo will and should continue its classic franchises, but people need something new. The company isn’t doing anything to gain new fans and iterating on its franchises doesn’t appear to be enough for their old ones.

While this fix is a long-term initiative, there is something that Nintendo should, and probably will do within the next year.

Something that could significantly help it from a business standpoint by cutting costs on the Wii U, allowing Nintendo to drop the price is to get rid of the Gamepad and use the system’s established Pro Controller.

The Gamepad may free up an HDMI port on your TV, but since the launch of the system has done little to nothing to justify its mandatory presence in the box the Wii U comes in. Games aren’t using it in any meaningful way, and that is probably because there’s no novelty to a second touch screen after the DS.

The Wii remote was an exciting and new initiative that interested people, which is why the system sold so monumentally well. The Wii U feels like an big screen DS and the well of ideas for a touch screen dried up with that system.

If the system isn’t selling and Nintendo is losing money on it, the company needs to look at what costs it can cut that won’t diminish the experience of playing the games on it. If no one is really taking advantage of it, the Gamepad is just a detriment, not an asset.

It might seem like a compromise in Nintendo’s vision, but using the Pro Controller as the Wii U’s standard controller would save them a pretty nice sum of cash per console manufactured.

The Wii U will likely never reach the sales level of even the GameCube, nor will it ever be able to catch up to the PS4 or Xbox One’s sales by the time this generation is over. If Nintendo can manage their expectations and re-evaluate what the system truly needs in terms of hardware and software, it can sit comfortably in third place.

However, if Nintendo doesn’t make a point to cut the costs and make the system appeal to consumers outside of Nintendo’s most fervent fans it will never be able to save this system. If that happens we may start to hear whispers of a new Nintendo console as early as the end of 2015.

No matter what Nintendo doomsday speak you hear, Nintendo is fine and is going nowhere. The Wii U on the other hand has quite a way to go before it can make the same claim, and if Nintendo doesn’t make changes soon it never will.