The fact that Nintendo has been seriously struggling with their current generation console is definitely not news to the gaming community. The Wii U has had underwhelming sales since launch and sadly, Nintendo has failed to make a meaningful impact this generation despite the release of some incredibly fun and outstanding titles. To put this into perspective, Nintendo has sold a little over 7.1 million Wii Us since its launch two years ago. In less than a year, the PlayStation 4 has sold over 10 million units. So why can’t Nintendo hold up? What is keeping this wonderful and dear company back from ultimate success and world domination with cute puppies and Italian plumbers?
What I find most puzzling about Nintendo’s lack of success is the consistent quality of their exclusive titles. Despite the initial “drought” during the launch window, almost all of the first-party titles for the Wii U have been widely accepted as truly wonderful and fun games within the gaming and critical community. I personally have had hours of enjoyment from many such games as Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Now I find myself to be a “hardcore” Nintendo fan. I bought the Wii U at launch not because Nintendo convinced me with their amazing launch lineup but because I love Nintendo and I believe that they can deliver amazing experiences on their consoles. This belief stems from years of enjoyment from my youth playing Nintendo games for hours on end. While people like me can definitely help support Nintendo to continue doing what they do, we are not enough. The fact of the matter is that the less Wii Us sold translate to less games available on the Wii U which again causes less Wii Us to be sold. This vicious cycle will continue until the Wii U is forgotten much like the Wii towards the end of its lifecycle.
So how can Nintendo improve their sales? How can they sell more consoles to make us all happy? Well the first step in solving any problem is admitting that you have one. Imagine yourself in the shoes of an average gamer trying to make a decision about purchasing a brand new current generation console. The prime options are the Microsoft Xbox One, the Sony PlayStation 4, the PC, and the Nintendo Wii U. Assuming that this gamer is not already a complete Nintendo fan (like yours truly), this can be quite a tough choice. The AAA gaming landscape on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are quite similar: a few exclusive titles per console with a large number of third-party options that are shared between the two platforms. On the Wii U, we have an entirely different story. There are currently a handful of excellent exclusive titles on the Wii U that are not available anywhere else while the third-party titles that are shared across the other platforms are largely absent. Now if this average gamer is lucky enough to have the cash for two consoles, they could benefit from the best of both worlds. However, it is very likely that they can only afford one console, so which one is it going to be? The cold and bitter truth is that as fun as those few exclusive titles are on the Wii U, an average gamer is more likely to pick the platform with the larger variety of options. After all, each game is a new opportunity for a player to have an amazing experience and there are simply more of those opportunities on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Another common deciding factor in console purchases is the community. Where are my friends? How best does the platform enable me to have fun with them during multiplayer gaming sessions on the virtual couch? It saddens me to say that so far, Nintendo is behind their competitors in almost every aspect. Take Mario Kart 8 for example. Here we have a game that seems to have the perfect formula for fun with multiplayer being its greatest asset. However, I can only chat with my friends online while waiting in the lobby. I sure would love to be able to brag and talk to them during a race but to my great disappointment, Nintendo seems to be almost a decade behind every other console manufacturer when it comes to creating a rich online multiplayer experience. Let us take a step back to when I am playing Super Mario 3D World on my Wii U. Why do I not receive a notification when my friends come online and are playing Mario Kart 8 and why can I not easily join their game without pulling out my phone to text them first? These are questions that have been answered on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 a long time ago. Gamers on those platforms have been taking these features for granted long before Nintendo began the initial design phase of the Wii U.
What would I do if I were in charge of Nintendo? Well, after a few hours of bouncing and giggling from excitement and taking awkward selfies with Reggie, I would try to fix some of these problems. The fact of the matter is that the decision which I described a few paragraphs ago is not a fair one for our hypothetical average gamer. They should not have to make a choice to abandon a collection of potentially amazing games. It is unfortunate that opting to buy the Wii U forces our average gamer to make that awful choice. Frankly, the Wii U landscape should have been very similar to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. All of the third-party titles should be available on the Wii U. It certainly started that way if you recall the messaging around the Wii U during its initial announcements. Unfortunately, the Wii U was not designed with the horsepower that is required to run all of these third-party games as well as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One without significant investment of development resources. It is natural for studios to want to avoid compromising on their games to achieve parity with the Wii U.
Sadly, Nintendo can only remedy this shortcoming by designing a brand new console. While releasing a new console so soon after the launch of the Wii U is not currently an option, there is no reason that lessons can not be learned and applied in the design phase of the next generation Nintendo console. I think that it is time for Nintendo to design a console with an x86 architecture and the horsepower that matches its competitors. I also think that it is time for Nintendo to seriously invest in building their online infrastructure. Certainly, Nintendo can learn a great deal from their competitors in this area. This way, gamers who choose the flagship Nintendo platform will no longer have to compromise. They can enjoy the wonderful games and worlds that only Nintendo can provide while still having the option to play all other major third-party titles. In my ideal world, we would only have one console with hardware that is designed by Sony running a Microsoft operating system and Nintendo games. Until then, I can only hope that Nintendo will shed some of their bad habits and get with the times so that they can continue to build truly awesome games.