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The Wii U Is Failing, Roll On The Gamecube II

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Nintendo, Wii U, Wii U games

The Wii U Is Failing, Roll On The Gamecube II

So Nintendo have slashed their sales projections for the Wii U in 2014 by over two-thirds. To be honest, that's not particularly surprising; I certainly didn't think the Wii U would sell terribly well, mainly because Nintendo's strategy towards actually selling the things that they're making has been dumber than a bag of ham.

Iwata has also been talking completely out of his arse, suggesting that Nintendo hadn't predicted that they'd perform so poorly in Western markets. Now that statement is surprising, because Nintendo execs highlighted the US and Europe as problematic markets back at the start of 2013. Please understand won't cut it here; the fact is that Nintendo knew exactly what the problems were, they just didn't do anything about them.

"In particular, sales in the US and European markets in which we entered the year-end sales season with a hardware markdown were significantly lower than our original forecasts, with both hardware and software sales experiencing a huge gap from their targets," said Iwata.

"In addition, we did not assume at the beginning of the fiscal year that we would perform a markdown for the Wii U hardware in the US and European markets. This was also one of the reasons for lower sales and profit estimates."

It's difficult to take that seriously when we consider Iwata's report from April last year. Back then, the 3DS was on the upswing, but Nintendo had already identified that it needed to do more work in Europe especially, and the US. The Wii U, of course, was in dire straits after a hideous launch and Iwata noted that slow first-party releases, a lack of advertising, and no Wii Sports-esque killer app was drastically hurting the console. Fast forward almost a year, and nothing has changed.

The Wii U Is Failing, Roll On The Gamecube II

Well, apart from Super Mario 3D World. Which Nintendo forgot to market properly, released on the same day as the goddamn PS4 and hid in an existing bundle instead of giving this magnificent game, this killer app that the Wii U had been waiting for, this wonderful family-oriented, multiplayer-friendly title, a headline bundle at a sensible price.

Thing is, it has always been this way. Nintendo aren't in any real danger of going under or suddenly imploding, certainly no more than Microsoft or Sony in any case. They're sitting on thrones made of cash overflowing from the ridiculous success of the Wii. After the delicious profitability of the NES and the SNES, it took them two console generations before they had another resounding win in terms of numbers in the Wii. It's not surprising that the Wii U is bombing hard.

What is worrying, though, is the fact that the Wii U is bombing harder than the Gamecube and the N64, and that its circumstances are significantly worse.

For starters, Nintendo isn't making first-party games like it used to. Where once was innovation, now we have rehashes. This was already evident on the Wii to a certain extent, but loads of people bought that console, so no-one really cared, and Nintendo executives were too busy swanning about in swimming pools filled with money to worry about cracks that were already starting to appear. It should be the easiest process for any of the big three console manufacturers if only because the legacy Nintendo have available to them to leverage is so much greater than those of their competitors. That Nintendo are struggling to capitalise upon several decades of backlog and beloved IPs is worrying. I bought an N64 and a Gamecube and a Wii because I absolutely couldn't be without them. They all had games I felt I had to own, plenty of them. I'm not sure I can say that about the Wii U yet.

The Wii U Is Failing, Roll On The Gamecube II

The third-party situation is a disaster, especially if even half of the things talked about in the Digital Foundry article about the difficulties of developing for the platform and the awful turnaround in feedback are true. If Nintendo take a week to respond to simple development questions, if the global infrastructure of the company is so broken that basic queries can't be answered by continental branches, something is badly wrong. Nintendo need to make their presence bigger and better in the US and in Europe for the sake of developers, publishers, consumers, and most of all themselves.

But Nintendo have always been fairly rubbish at dealing with third-parties. The difference now, though, is that they no longer have companies like Rare to back them up. The world has moved on too, and Nintendo haven't moved with it. The developer in the aforementioned DF article mentions that trying to use examples from XBL and PSN to comprehend Nintendo's approach to networking before the Wii U released was useless because Nintendo execs never used those services.

We probed a little deeper and asked how certain scenarios might work with the Mii friends and networking, all the time referencing how Xbox Live and PSN achieve the same thing. At some point in this conversation we were informed that it was no good referencing Live and PSN as nobody in their development teams used those systems (!) so could we provide more detailed explanations for them? My only thought after this call was that they were struggling - badly - with the networking side as it was far more complicated than they anticipated. They were trying to play catch-up with the rival systems, but without the years of experience to back it up.

And here lies the Wii U's biggest issue: perception. It's a last-gen console releasing in next-gen climes, with obsolete tech and a price point above its station. It can't compete with the PS4 and the Xbox One because it doesn't have the raw power to attract the attention of the crowd eager for new boundaries and new possibilities, and that lack of power also makes next-gen third-party ports infeasible. It can't compete with the Xbox 360 or the PS3 or its predecessor because those battles have already been won, those systems are cheaper and boast outstanding games catalogues. Finally, the Wii U doesn't have the price point, the USP, or the games (still!/yet) to warrant a purchase as a second console, as the Wii did.

The Wii U Is Failing, Roll On The Gamecube II

It is adrift in the No Man's Land between console generations, trapped in a hole Nintendo have been digging for some time. It can't be saved.

Roll on a new, ridiculously-specced, super-powerful Gamecube Mark II, I say!

Add a comment16 comments
davidpanik  Jan. 17 at 14:48

I can see Nintendo going the way Sega did - abandoning hardware (or non-handheld at any rate), and just focusing on software. Could we one day see a Mario game launching on Xbox and PS?

MattGardner  Jan. 17 at 15:16

I can see Nintendo going the way Sega did - abandoning hardware (or non-handheld at any rate), and just focusing on software. Could we one day see a Mario game launching on Xbox and PS?


I can't see Nintendo doing that. They certainly wouldn't need to do that if they play things a bit smarter and address some of their long-standing issues. So many of their problems come down to corporate stubbornness and a wilful disregard for the global market and competitive forces. Ignoring Sony and Microsoft and trying to forge something different is one thing, but you have to listen to the consumer base and understand what people want.

Late  Jan. 17 at 15:28

They believed they'd sell nine million consoles this year, so I'd imagine they've built at least six million of them (and planned to build more in q3 and q4 but have now dialled that right back). And they've sold about two million...
Incredible to think they've probably got about four million consoles sat in huge warehouses all around the world, gathering dust.
I've no basis for the build/stock figures - they're just estimates plucked from the top of my (exceedingly shiny) head.

However many there are, though - sell them cheap!
Take a loss on them.
You'll make that money back in software and peripheral sales.
Surely beats putting them in a landfill...

I have little interest in buying a Wii U at present. A few new first party titles isn't going to sway that opinion much.
But if the console were around £100-£120 it'd probably end up in my front room. I'd probably moan about it's lack of power, and buy a few games, then a few more, and end up with dozens of them. Well that's what happened with it's predecessor, at any rate.

You'll get your cashflow up and running again, while those consoles are (gathering dust) in peoples' houses instead of gathering dust in your warehouses. Hell, you'll save a fortune on warehouse rent and security, too!
And you never know. We might actually like the console... It's hard to judge at present since I never see them on display in shops, it's rarely advertised, and no-one I know IRL has one...

TungstenShark  Jan. 17 at 18:59

The fall of the Wii U has been a car crash in slow motion with Nintendo managing to make the wrong decision at almost every turn. My family is probably the target audience for one but each time I've looked at it I've not had the slightest inclination to buy one and that's really rather sad.

smashbrolink  Jan. 17 at 19:37

I can see Nintendo going the way Sega did - abandoning hardware (or non-handheld at any rate), and just focusing on software. Could we one day see a Mario game launching on Xbox and PS?
No, we won't. Not just because nintendo would take their franchises to their graves, but also because the gamer for nintendo games is not on ps4 or xbone. If none of then would get a console that's a hundred buckles cheaper for Mario, they wouldn't get Mario for a more expensive one, especially since they regularly make fun of nintendo franchises.

Zeipher  Jan. 17 at 21:31

I love my Wii U... but Nintendo are being idiots in regards to the prices and 1st party content as well as 3rd party.

It's a shame.

They're trying to branch out, and it's really giving people the chance to make truly innovative games.

kristianity77  Jan. 17 at 22:06

I can see Nintendo going the way Sega did - abandoning hardware (or non-handheld at any rate), and just focusing on software. Could we one day see a Mario game launching on Xbox and PS?
No, we won't. Not just because nintendo would take their franchises to their graves, but also because the gamer for nintendo games is not on ps4 or xbone. If none of then would get a console that's a hundred buckles cheaper for Mario, they wouldn't get Mario for a more expensive one, especially since they regularly make fun of nintendo franchises.


Thats not true at all. I for one would lap up anything Zelda, Mario, Metroid, FZero etc if it arrived on either the Xbox One or the PS4. The problem is that people dont want to buy a WiiU JUST for those games. Because everything else on it is woeful. People haven't and wont justify paying over £200 for a nintendo console that might spawn 3 or 4 half decent first party titles in a year and nothing else but out of date ports and shovelware.

Nintendo, when they can be bothered, without a doubt, make some of the best games. But at the moment they dont have an audience to cater for because no one is buying their horrendously out of date machine.

If nintendo aren't in a position to go alongside Sony and MS in terms of raw power, then dont! Let them duke it out between them and take all the risks and put all your efforts into making the best thing nintendo have done for 30 odd years, games. No matter what the system.

Late  Jan. 17 at 23:24


Thats not true at all. I for one would lap up anything Zelda, Mario, Metroid, FZero etc if it arrived on either the Xbox One or the PS4. The problem is that people dont want to buy a WiiU JUST for those games.

Agreed. I'd buy Nintendo's titles if they came out on the Xbox.
Of course, I can understand them keeping their games exclusive - nobody would buy a Wii U if you could get Nintendo's games elsewhere. But the policy backfires if the machine is an unattractive proposition even with those titles. Very few buy the console, so very few see the latest Nintendo game, and those franchises lose value. A generation of kids are growing up now/in the near future never playing any Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, or Metroid games, and that's a real shame - for those kids and for Nintendo.

googleberry  Jan. 18 at 18:41

Total speculation time...

Hypothesis 1: Nintento (Iwata) is not stupid

Hypothesis 2: Iwata is heading a very political and bureacratic organisation

Hypothesis 3: Iwata has been unable to execute his vision effectively because of his poor political skills and enemies in the workplace who have deflected his efforts to move the business forward in a single sensible direction. As a result things just aren't getting done they way they ought to.

Conclusion: Even though Iwata probably knows exactly the lie of the land and the steps needed to fix the problems, the organisation is to out of sorts and he doesn't have the authority or savvy to bring the place to order. Similar to Barack Obama, who springs to mind immediately.

End of total speculation.

smashbrolink  Jan. 19 at 11:28

I can see Nintendo going the way Sega did - abandoning hardware (or non-handheld at any rate), and just focusing on software. Could we one day see a Mario game launching on Xbox and PS?
No, we won't. Not just because nintendo would take their franchises to their graves, but also because the gamer for nintendo games is not on ps4 or xbone. If none of then would get a console that's a hundred buckles cheaper for Mario, they wouldn't get Mario for a more expensive one, especially since they regularly make fun of nintendo franchises.


Thats not true at all. I for one would lap up anything Zelda, Mario, Metroid, FZero etc if it arrived on either the Xbox One or the PS4. The problem is that people dont want to buy a WiiU JUST for those games. Because everything else on it is woeful. People haven't and wont justify paying over £200 for a nintendo console that might spawn 3 or 4 half decent first party titles in a year and nothing else but out of date ports and shovelware.

Nintendo, when they can be bothered, without a doubt, make some of the best games. But at the moment they dont have an audience to cater for because no one is buying their horrendously out of date machine.

If nintendo aren't in a position to go alongside Sony and MS in terms of raw power, then dont! Let them duke it out between them and take all the risks and put all your efforts into making the best thing nintendo have done for 30 odd years, games. No matter what the system.


That wouldn't work.
You see, while you might be a rare exception, most of the people over on those machines regularly take time out of their days to frequently bash Nintendo franchises.
They call them kiddy, colorful piles of trash that are guilty of being too rehashed to be worth buying.
And since game development mechanics and ideals are not linked to the power of the system the games are coming on, no amount of extra sparkles would make Mario play any differently than they do today.
You'd still save the princess, you'd still get the same plotlines and powerups, and you'd still see people with the same old one-sided complaint of the series being too similar to ones before it, and the majority would NOT buy that.

The fan base for Mario and Zelda and all the others?
They are not on Sony or Microsoft consoles.

You can be an exception and good on you, but it doesn't change the fact that Nintendo's bright, colorful games would only sell worse on the PS4 and XBone, no matter how much you'd wish otherwise.
Going third party is tantamount to suicide, and I believe you're underestimating the line-up that is coming out in 2014.
Not just Mario, but also two new Zelda titles[one a spin-off], new Metroid, new Smash Bros, new Mario Kart, Bayonetta 2, X from Monolith Soft, a slew of indie games, etc etc etc.
The system is getting enough games to be worth the purchase price.
Heck, it's already worth it, there's just too much stigma against the poor machine due to negative press.
It's powerful enough to create games like The Wonderful 101 and handle experiences like CoD: Ghosts, Deus Ex, and Rayman Legends.

The Wii U is a good system.
It's advertisement efforts suck and Iwata was incompetent with reading the market in the states, but the system itself is not a bad system by any stretch of a non-elitist gamers imagination.

For Nintendo to survive, it MUST keep its games on its own system. Half of their profitability comes from having ALL of the profits of their games belong entirely to them, from having them on their own brand-name systems.
Without that, Nintendo would truly be doomed.

Third party is not Nintendo's best bet, and it's frankly getting tiresome to see people still thinking otherwise when there's no logical basis for it.

It's like saying Halo would sell better on the Wii because it kicked the crap out of the others in sales.
It's just not true.
That's not Halo's home.
Halo's home is on Microsoft consoles.

And Mario's is on Nintendo consoles.

People need to stop wishing it were otherwise and just save up the money for the system.
It's the cheapest of the lot, the Off-TV play is on a far better controller with a much larger and more-comfortable-to-look-at screen, and anyone who actually and truly values these franchises, wouldn't wish death on Nintendo just to have to avoid owning another console.

Please, guys; leave Nintendo alone.
They're not coming to Sony or Microsoft, because it's the worst move they could possibly make.
If you love Mario and Zelda and Metroid as much as you claim, then do for them what you did for third parties on the PS4 and XBone.[which, ironically, costs WAY more if you go for off-TV play on either one]
Save up the cash for the console and support the home that these franchises belong to.
It certainly wouldn't take as long as it did to save up for a PS4/XBone, all things considered, especially if you look online for good deals.

This "I wish they were third party" nonsense needs to go away.

Nintendo's best alternative, if they can't make the Wii U sell well, is to ride out the console's cycle as best they can, and do better next time.

There will be no third party conversion.

Last edited by smashbrolink, Jan. 19 at 11:42
davidpanik  Jan. 19 at 16:29

Woh - strong opinions on either side!

So I admit, Nintendo ditching hardware completely is a fairllly unlikely scenario. But if they did, I still don't think seeing Mario turn up on other platforms would be inconceivable. I for one, would definitely buy Mario on the Xbox and I think a lot of other people would as well (remember, you'd be getting all the Nintendo refugees moving onto Xbox/Playstation as well).

Maybe a more reasonable prediction would be Mario appearing on smartphones?

davidpanik  Jan. 19 at 16:31

Here's a point of interest!

I was just telling my wife how I'd kicked off this heated debate on Dealspwn about the future of Mario and mentioned the Wii U. Her honest-to-God response "What's a Wii U?".

Late  Jan. 19 at 19:38

Similar at work about six months ago. Only one person out of six i asked had heard of the console, and he only knew about it because I'd mentioned it to him some months earlier.

Quietus  Jan. 20 at 14:44

It should be clarified here that nobody ever actually said they wanted to see Nintendo go third party, only that they felt it could soon become a reality.

Also, I'd add my name to the list of people who would play games (not just Mario, but any) regardless of format. I have no loyalty to any system - only to the games. If a game is good, I'll play it. This is what bugs me about the 'exclusives' game. Release the game, and let ME choose the format to play it on.

Realhoneyman  Jan. 22 at 03:49

A very interesting piece you've written here Matt, one full of passion and desire to see the Wii U do well but like myself feeling that supporting attitude change to one of 'can't continue to be bothered enough anymore'.

I'm repeating myself but I really hope 2014 is an uplifting year for the Wii U. Akin to the great time the 3DS has experienced in the last year and a half, it needs boosts from solid games like Mario Kart, Bayonetta 2, X, Super Smash Brothers U and other must-have titles to stir the desire within gaming fans again to pick Nintendo's current console up presto.

I'll finish by stating that although suggesting a Gamecube Mk. II is perhaps desireable, the way Nintendo are progressing (or not) with the Wii U's growth atm, having that option on the horizon would not be so unwelcome after all. More so if after Nintendo fires off their biggest guns this year they remain in a similar or the same position as they are now with the Wii U.

Here's hoping for a great 2014 for the Wii U, albeit with a dose of hesitation regarding its prospects and hoping that I'll be proved entirely wrong.

parabolica  Jan. 23 at 15:06


Thats not true at all. I for one would lap up anything Zelda, Mario, Metroid, FZero etc if it arrived on either the Xbox One or the PS4. The problem is that people dont want to buy a WiiU JUST for those games.

Agreed. I'd buy Nintendo's titles if they came out on the Xbox.
Of course, I can understand them keeping their games exclusive - nobody would buy a Wii U if you could get Nintendo's games elsewhere. But the policy backfires if the machine is an unattractive proposition even with those titles. Very few buy the console, so very few see the latest Nintendo game, and those franchises lose value. A generation of kids are growing up now/in the near future never playing any Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, or Metroid games, and that's a real shame - for those kids and for Nintendo.


Yeah sure, if you discount the good old US of A and Nintendo's 3DS being the biggest selling console of 2013.

I imagine kids and familys with 3DS will be less drawn to a Wii U when there is so much more to spend their cash on once they've had their Nintendo buzz.

Last edited by parabolica, Jan. 23 at 15:07

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