To say that the Nintendo Wii U has been a disappointment to the company would be an understatement. The Wii U’s predecessor, the Wii, is one of the bestselling consoles of all time, shipping over 100 million units and outselling its major competitors the Sony PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
In contrast, the Wii U has to date sold only 10 million units and performed so poorly that third party developers such as EA and Ubisoft withdrew support from the console. Rumours abound that Nintendo are ready to cease production of the Wii U and focus attention on their next console, provisionally titled the Nintendo NX, but will the NX revive the company’s flagging fortunes?
Nintendo know how to make games consoles. They’ve been doing it for over 30 years and have done so more successfully than anyone else. Eight of the 15 highest selling consoles of all time belong to Nintendo and for every blip such as the Nintendo Gamecube, which shifted 22 million units, there have been 100 million plus triumphs such as the Wii, Gameboy and Nintendo DS.
Nintendo games and devices are part of the fabric of gaming. The Gameboy was first released in 1989 and Nintendo franchises such as Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Starfox and Metroid are all approaching their 30th birthday. Consumers have grown up with Nintendo games and have a cultural and emotional attachment to the titles that drive significant sales. The ten highest selling games of all time include multiple entries from the Super Mario Brothers and Wii Sports franchises, as well as an entry for Mario Kart and the Gameboy version of Tetris.
Nintendo also appear determined to learn from past mistakes. Commentators have identified several main issues which derailed the Wii U. A lack of sufficiently captivating launch titles is commonly cited as the major reason the console failed to take off.
Where Mario 64 drove the Nintendo 64 and Wii Sports helped market the Wii, the Wii U lacked a marquee title to demonstrate its potential and, as a result, also lost the support of third party developers whose games could have added to sales. Rumours of a Zelda title launching with the NX and of renewed ties with Ubisoft and EA indicates that Nintendo are determined to avoid making the same mistake.
The fact that the Wii U’s handheld controller possessed a second screen and functioned as a separate device also appears to have confused consumers – especially since it could only be played separately within a certain radius of the main consoles. The Nintendo NX seems set to have a gamepad that can be played in conjunction with the main console or used as an entirely separate device. According to a Wall Street Journal source the console will also have “industry-leading” technology.
If the technology is powerful and if the console is marketed in conjunction with valuable Nintendo franchises such as Zelda and Mario, expect the Nintendo NX to improve significantly on the showing of the Wii U.