Monday, June 29, 2015

What To Do With The Wii U.

By any decent measure, the Nintendo Wii U console has not been a success. As of this writing, the Wii U has moved 9.5 million units since being released in November of 2012. It holds the title of being Nintendo's slowest-selling console ever -- even worse than the now praised Gamecube. In the Wii U's short, less than three-year lifespan, it has failed to generate any major buzz with gamers outside of a few franchise titles -- Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. to be specific. There's Star Fox Zero on the horizon, along with the highly anticipated The Legend of Zelda... but the next adventure in Hyrule is a year away and may not even be a Wii U exclusive. Rumor has it that The Legend of Zelda will be released around the same time or after the next Nintendo console, tentatively called the 'NX' -- it may see a dual release, just as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess did for both the Wii and the Gamecube.

In short, the Wii U is about to reach the end of its short life.

Dedicated third party game support has long since abandoned the Wii U. Publishing giants like Electronic Arts, Bethesda Software and Ubisoft ceased software support in 2013. As the release schedule for new Wii U games has dwindled to a trickle, many Nintendo fans are questioning where the company is headed. Some suggest that Nintendo should become a software-only publisher and exit the console arena. Sega went this route in 2001 when they put their last console, the Dreamcast, to rest. Let me be clear -- I do NOT want this to happen.

The Nintendo NX console, or whatever it may actually be called upon release, is already in active development and will probably be available at retail in 2016. Word has it that third party publishers are much more positive about the upcoming console and what it has to offer. Many fans, myself included, are hoping that the NX will finally put Nintendo in the same league as the Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation -- more powerful, nimble and with an increased focus on third party development.

So where does that leave the now wilting on the vine Wii U?

Honestly, the current Nintendo console is in quite the predicament. Most video game players are aware of Nintendo's upcoming NX console, leaving them little incentive to purchase the Wii U if they haven't already done so. I fall into this category. For some time, I've been on the fence about purchasing the Wii U. There are some great games available for the system, but they are so few in number. Of those games, they're nearly all in-house Nintendo legacy franchise titles -- the only exception being the awesome LEGO series of licensed games published by Traveller's Tales. The biggest roadblock in my eyes is the price of the console. The Wii U typically costs in excess of $300 in the United States. For a console that's obviously nearing the end of its retail life, that's just too high. Consider the Sony Playstation 2, which cut its price to just $199 many months before the release of the Playstation 3.

The Sony Playstation 3 - nine years old and eight times more successful than the Nintendo Wii U.

Ironically, I've considered purchasing a Playstation 3 instead of the Wii U. The PS3 is cheaper, has a larger game library and is still receiving software support from publishers a whopping nine years after its initial release. That's shocking! At 77 million units sold, the PS3 is a certified success.

In my opinion, the only way Nintendo can save any face with the Wii U is to drastically lower the price and flood as many units as possible into the market. They need to move a high volume and extinguish their lingering Wii U console supply. Obviously, they won't make any money on the Wii U by doing so, but they'll reap the rewards on the back-end when new Wii U owners purchase Nintendo-published software titles. A fire sale is the only way Nintendo can recoup some of its losses on the Wii U. They need to put the Wii U to rest and double-down on the upcoming NX.

Otherwise, Nintendo may just go the Sega route.

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