July 09, 2013, 6:00 AM —
Gamers have been pretty focused on the Xbox One and the PS4 ever since E3, but what about the Wii U? We all know it stumbled out of the gate, but are things starting to turn around?
The big picture is this: third party publishers are distancing themselves from the Wii U and it doesn't appear the situation will improve anytime soon. Ubisoft's Chairman and CEO Yves Guillemot told GamesIndustry that its Wii U launch title, ZombiU was not even close to profitable. Dismal sales of ZombiU are why Ubisoft delayed Rayman Legends, originally a Wii U exclusive. The company decided to hold back the game and release it across several platforms: they want to be sure they can recoup development costs and generate some profit from the game. Guillemot says "We hope it [the Wii U] will take off. At the moment, we've said 'let's do through Christmas and see where we are from there.'" (Ubisoft has two highly anticipated titles, Rayman Legends and Watch Dogs, coming to the Wii U between now and Christmas, though both are multiplatform titles.)
EA has been very vocal about the Wii U, but yesterday a new aspect of their doubt came to light. EA feels like multiplayer is a major part of their DNA and they didn't see a lot of online activity in the Wii U games they launched, says EA COO Peter Moore:
"The lack of online engagement that we see on Wii U [is troubling]," says Moore. "It's so integral to what we do. They're so small it's hardly worth running the servers. It seems like a box that's out of sync with the future of EA - which is one that gives a real social feel to our games. The Wii U feels like an offline experience right now."
In order for third party developers to come around, Nintendo just has to sell more Wii U systems, but so far they've struggled to do this. Ars uncovered leaked NPD numbers suggesting that for April and May of this year, Nintendo sold about 40,000 Wii U systems/month. That's about the same as the number of Wii systems they're selling and it's much lower than the Xbox 360 or PS3 numbers (assuming the leaks are accurate).
So, a price cut? Not anytime soon according to Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. The company feels that given how much it costs to make, the current price is very competitive.
So what's the answer? Nintendo believes it can solves its problems by producing high quality first party games for the system. The problem is that these games are taking longer than anticipated to arrive because, as Forbes reports, the company underestimated how much additional time the switch to HD graphics would take. Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto says the company is almost out of this transitional phase so perhaps titles will start coming a bit more quickly (we're still waiting for 'launch window' title Pikmin 3 for instance).
But will this be enough? Are there enough diehard Nintendo fans to turn the Wii U around? I must admit I'm not a diehard Nintendo fan and I'm frankly puzzled at the excitement I hear about titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker Wii U version. I find it hard to believe gamers will spend $300 to play games they've already played, only in HD. Perhaps it takes a True Believer to appreciate titles like these.
Starting this fall the Wii U will be competing against the PS4 and Xbox One. The PS4, in particular, is just $50 more than the Wii U Deluxe Version and is far more powerful. That won't matter to diehard Nintendo fans but I think it will matter to most gamers. Gratned the Wii U has that tablet controller but so far I think Nintendo has struggled to convey to gamers why they should want it.
Additionally there's the growing perception that the Wii U is a failure, which is going to scare away a certain percentage of the audience. Few people want to invest in a platform that may never have a large library of titles (though again, the Nintendo faithful will be happy with a regular schedule of Nintendo IPs).
They say to never count Nintendo out, and all it'll probably take is one killer, exclusive title to get things to start to turn around. I just don't know what that title is. I think the Wii U is going to continue to struggle, at least until it finally gets a price cut and starts to be seen as a bargain system.
Sorry Nintendo fans. Don't hate! I bought a Wii U Deluxe at launch and I'd like nothing more to be wrong. If you think I'm way off-base, leave a comment and share. How and when do you think the Wii U will turn around? Who knows? Maybe The Wonderful 101 will wind up being a smash hit and a system seller!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.