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It’s time for Nintendo to admit defeat and make a true next-gen console

Wii U is in big trouble. According to CVG News, analysts are confidently predicting that Nintendo will fail to meet its projected sales target of 9 million consoles by the end of 2013. They’re also predicting profit projections will be missed, and that it will only ever sell a quarter of the number of units its predecessor, the Wii, did. Most startlingly, PS4 has already outsold Wii U’s lifetime sales to date in the UK. Bar an incredible turnaround, for Nintendo, the war is already lost. And I think it’s time to admit defeat and move on.

I’m not questioning the quality of Nintendo’s Wii U software or that of the console itself. Pikmin 3 kept me glued to my TV like little else while I reviewed it for GamesRadar, Lego City Undercover was so good I felt compelled to 100% it and, of course, Super Mario 3D World has received 9/10 or over from over 9/10 critics. Like Cooper said in his article earlier this week, Nintendo does need more great games, even though the current line-up is far from a disaster.

I am questioning the head-in-the-sand attitude Nintendo is publicly displaying. Part of me admires Iwata for declaring that Nintendo never follows trends because it prefers to set them instead. But by steadfastly refusing to make a console that caters to the needs and tastes of everyday gamers, surely that thinking is just plain stubborn?

The record-breaking uptake of next-gen machines is evidence--if evidence were needed--that the gaming public is tired of playing with console technology that dates back to 2005. If it hasn’t technically been the longest generation ever, it sure does feel like it. And I for one am tired of seeing PC games looking amazing while my console versions struggle to maintain 30fps. Now I own a PS4, I feel like I can breathe again, away from the suffocating exhaust from outdated hardware struggling to stay contemporary. Next-gen has cleared the air.

But Wii U is not next-gen. It’s still stuck in 2005. Sure, it’s a got a superb, high-res touchscreen, which is technically superior to Sony’s PS Vita Remote play (at least at present) and this comes in the box with the console, but essentially Wii U is technically on a par with last-gen machines, aping the Wii’s winning tactic from the previous era. But where Vita was never intended to be an intrinsic part of PS4 and has just turned out to work extremely well with it, the GamePad was meant to be a big part of the Wii U experience. And it hasn’t proved its worth in that respect.

Why not? Those games I mentioned before don’t really use it. Pikmin 3 can be completed without even using the GamePad. Lego City uses it for some radio messages, but it’s just a novelty. And Super Mario 3D World only utilises the GamePad fully for a few levels… and it certainly wouldn’t be poorer if it were left out.

You could argue that it has had some great uses, but you can’t argue about the impact--or lack of impact--it’s had on the mass market. Compared to the Wii’s phenomenal mass appeal, the GamePad isn’t even a shadow of its revolutionary predecessor. Having bought one at launch, the most notable thing I can say for the GamePad is how quickly it collects dust. And I’m not trying to put the boot in. It’s honestly the most notable thing in my mind, which is the polar opposite of the massive impact the Wii Remote had in 2006.

Let’s not forget that 3DS had an equally bad start and recovered to become a massive success. It’s not inconceivable that Wii U could do the same thing. However, 3DS’ direct competition, PS Vita, floundered spectacularly after its initially successful launch. Wii U does not have the same luxury of faltering competition. Indeed, PS4 has already overtaken its UK lifetime sales to date… and it did so in mere hours. Some sources say there's still a couple of million in it globally, but even that lead will likely be gone by summer 2014 when PS4 and Xbox One replenish stock.

So what’s the solution? Third party support isn’t going to be attracted to a platform with an exponentially-shrinking market share. Sure, some smaller companies will prefer to make the most of their existing technologies and create games for Xbox 360 and PS3 for a few more years, so Wii U might get some ports of those. And Nintendo itself will try to replicate 3DS’ success by making an expansive library of high-quality first-party games for Wii U.

But is it worth that struggle? Maybe it would be better for the company to cut its losses and start again with a new console. If developed now, a new Nintendo machine would likely be ready in time for Christmas 2015. By then, it would be too soon for Sony and Microsoft to counter it with another launch, giving Nintendo the chance to offer a more powerful console at around the price of PS4 and XO right now.

Wii U owners could be given a large discount at launch to say sorry (perhaps similar to 3DS’ Ambassador program), 3DS will keep the Nintendo brand at the forefront of people’s minds (and for the right reasons too), and development resources won’t have been split between bailing out the sinking Wii U ship and developing the inevitable next-generation machine. It just makes sense.

Everyone would be happy with that situation. Kids would be persuaded to buy Nintendo because it is the most powerful machine. Parents would trust the name. It would likely have the best first-party line-up as Nintendo’s Tokyo Team continues its peerless run of quality software. Third-party developers would be happy to port their games to a machine with the grunt to deliver the best version of their games this side of a PC.

But it would also allow Nintendo to find another Unique Selling Point to beat the competition. I’m not saying we need a new fad like motion control, though obviously that worked wonders for Nintendo throughout the latter half of the last decade from a financial perspective. But maybe the finest VR technology, or some other kind of immersive experience. Who knows? Nintendo is always full of surprises and I’ve long since given up trying to second-guess them.

Sony and Microsoft have all their cards on the table, knowing their hands have already trumped Wii U’s pitiful single pair. Of 7s. If the company acts now, ditches its existing hand and reshuffles its deck for another stab, it could well win back a load of customer-shaped chips. Because, to continue the poker analogy, right now the competition would be happy to call its bluff. The Mario-shaped ace up its sleeve has already been brandished and spent.

Even though I bought my personal Wii U at midnight on its launch day, if my Virtual Console catalogue wasn’t tied to the console, I probably would have sold it by now. And that’s not something I would have said about any other console in recent memory. Besides a few spikes of activity around a few great games, it’s already back to collecting dust. The strategy isn’t working. Wii U is over, but Nintendo is definitely not. So let’s move on and see what the company can do when it’s really pushed. If they don't move on, we're only going to see that anyway. I just don't see how that can end well. Not this time.

83 comments

  • lukascontreras - January 24, 2014 10:31 a.m.

    wii u is much better than xbox one or playstation 4
  • william-moss - January 21, 2014 11:58 a.m.

    Oh the 'graphics and raw power are what make a console' bullshit, the typical childish rhetoric from people who don't know a thing about consoles or video games. Specs do NOT make the console, and there's no reason to discontinue a console because a handful of spec-tards think that it's not powerful enough. The only reason those shit consoles from Sony and Microsoft are loved so much is because they're appealing in the worst possible way to the worst possible people (such as yourself). They propagate the rhetoric from the Bit Wars that Nintendo's been through before and long since learned that graphics and power aren't everything. Atari learned that lesson the hard way. And discontinue a console already? Once again you clearly have no knowledge of video game history, or of business for that matter. The story of Sega is testament to what happens if you listen to the spec-tards. This kind of 'graphics and raw power are all that matter' crap is just a sign of how utterly stupid and pathetic the audiences that Sony and Microsoft are appealing to. And sooner or later they're going to learn the lessons that Nintendo learned long ago.
  • genovezos - January 5, 2014 7:04 p.m.

    I have to disagree with the author. They allready tried your proposal. Remember GameCube? It failed. Nintendo never does the same mistake again
  • Ryu2388 - December 24, 2013 10:04 a.m.

    I really am not trying to attack or question anyone's intelligence here, but, how can some of you deny that the WiiU is in trouble? I get that they have been "trendsetters" rather than "followers," as do I get that no one buys a Nintendo console for anything but Nintendo exclusives, but, how can you guys ignore the obvious failure on the business end (home console side of the equation)? Sales numbers, analysis from reputable analysts, and developers dropping support are all clear indications. I do not believe that people, journalists, are saying that Nintendo is a failure and a joke, but that they are just pointing out the obvious and offering suggestions (even if they are not good ones, such as abandoning a console so soon); but a few of you really take to heart any negatives pointed towards Nintendo. Also, I would like to disagree with the other guys statement that if you take away story and pretty graphics from Last of Us that you would not have a fun game. The crafting, melee, and sneaking aspects make that game fun, thus, it would be fun if it was just that.
  • Rexamillion79 - December 21, 2013 6:41 p.m.

    This article totally contradicts itself. The writer suggests that the Wii U should be scrapped and Nintendo come out with a new, more powerful system (preferably more powerful than the PS4 & XBone) to gain a foot in the console wars. Ok...BUT...it also keeps refering to the original Wii's amazing success when it's hardware was inferior to the PS4 & 360..AND..it wasn't even HD!! Yet you couldn't even get your hands on one for almost a year after it's launch! It definitely held it's own against it's technology superior counterparts. I never owned a Wii because I didn't like the fact that it didn't support HD. That was just me. But I did pick up the Wii U at launch. I like my Wii U! Super Mario 3D World is absolutely amazing and yes it should have been its launch title. IMHO SM3DW is the only true "next-gen" title of this year. It might be current-gen for Nintendo, but not for a Mario title! PS4 & XBone's launch titles are so generic and cliche! War shooters and zombie games are so stale to me now. Another Battlefield & COD game..wow..how original. I will admit that I'm a graphics whore..BUT..I do realize that more powerful hardware & graphics don't make a system or game good. *coughing..original Wii..coughing*. Like I said..SM3DW is current gen graphics but looks amazing! Heck, even Mario Galaxy looked amazing and even more so in HD on Dolphin. Nintendo knows how to make the most out of their hardware with first party titles! 3rd party developers are just concerned about trying to put out the next generic shooter with better graphics to cash in on. Just watch how great the next Zelda game is on Wii U! It's gonna be a real conversation peice for gamers who appreciate real innovation and originality.
  • SkyDragonc5 - December 16, 2013 9:48 p.m.

    I think we just need more Game Cube HD remakes first like Fzero GX, maybe a Pikmin Collection, then after those Devs know the hardware make great new entries or even a new IP!
  • Aquasol - December 16, 2013 3:11 a.m.

    So basically, Justin, you want every console to be exactly the same, just so we can see the same tired gameplay ideas and the same bald space marines. Let's be honest, and straightforward here. It doesn't matter what Nintendo does. Not just because they're so different, but because they'll never be the western-gaming handjob you and many others want them to be. It's not Nintendo's fault, either-- it's the fault of devs and publishers who have a deep-seated measure of xenophobia, or that are otherwise ran by businessfolk who think in cliches and images. Bethesda openly refuses to work with Nintendo, Epic's Mark Rein has been more than a little vocal in his belief that everything Nintendo does is shit, Rockstar got a little burned by the sales of Chinatown Wars, EA can't figure out why its half-assed software won't sell, and pretty much any non-Ubisoft major western dev either refuse to learn or refuse to deal with anything perceived as Japanese.
  • Redzaku - December 11, 2013 9 p.m.

    I have to say these are the best comments I have seen on any gaming website.
  • talleyXIV - December 9, 2013 7:03 p.m.

    Yep definitely scrap it when the sales are picking up and their holiday season is looking promising. I guess that is why they are running a gigantic company and we are sitting here at computers.
  • LEGOMatrix - December 9, 2013 6:37 a.m.

    We should wait and see how these other consoles do first. If they see a lot of delayed games, or some of the big releases turn out to be duds, whilst in the meantime there were a steady stream of awesome 1st-party titles on Wii U, Wii U may see a bit more popularity.
  • jsty3105 - December 9, 2013 5:41 a.m.

    I think this article misses the high standards of writing I was used to seeing from GamesRadar for the following reasons: - Writer buys into the silly notion of defining gen by power rather than how it was defined before this generation rolled around, by time. - Writer presents a theoretical solution without a solid business foundation to it and without sufficient research into it's pros and cons. Therefore, the theoretical solution reads like a standard blog post rather than a well researched article from a gaming journalist - Others may have mentioned it earlier but the solution offering is one which SEGA used that contributed towards the company's own demise - clearly, that strategy is fraught with more risk and danger than one of maintaining the present course and riding it out. This does not mean that riding it out is the best strategy available to Nintendo, simply that the solution offered is possibly the worst option for Nintendo to take. - This article would have benefited from a more complete look at the finances of Sony and Microsoft's gaming divisions as compared to Nintendo as a whole. Prior to the publication of this article, it was already reported that there are rumours of job losses on the way. This also means that the sustainability of Sony and Microsoft's sales strategy of selling consoles at a loss may not be a sustainable business model. Yes, they are large companies but it does also mean the gaming division may be subject to termination and worth mentioning as a counter-point in the article (even if the angle remains that Nintendo needs to revise their hardware strategy or face elimination) I've always liked GamesRadar's editorial style as a nice blend of satire and wit but I was disappointed at the standards of this particular article.
  • mrclam - December 8, 2013 10:08 p.m.

    Oh, and, just for fun - for those proclaiming nintendos demise... The 3ds, sold 1.2million units worldwide last week.. Almost as many as the xbone and ps4 did combined...
  • NewYears1978 - December 9, 2013 5:57 a.m.

    Maybe you didn't read the whole article. He said the 3DS started slow but gained a lot of traction and was one of the things holding Nintendo together.. (not in those words)
  • mrclam - December 8, 2013 10:06 p.m.

    Last week, after the initial first week of sales died down, In North America... The PS4 sold 165,000 units. The wii-u sold 190,000 units... I expect the same next week from xbone sales.... Will you be running the same reporting for those 2?
  • ALXSGTI - December 8, 2013 8:19 a.m.

    The idiocy stemming from this post is astounding, I can't believe how much some of these nerds are detached from reality. The Wii U's struggle is indeed very real but it isn't costing Nintendo that much, nor it is impossible to switch it around. First off, you build a house of cards that will inevitably fall apart by the sole mention of consoles like Wii, PS2 and 3DS. All of these consoles are technically inferior to their generation's competition (PS3, 360, GameCube, XBOX, PSVITA), yet they all triumphed, unless you think the fluctuating 20,000 40,000 units PSVITA recently begun to sell in Japan some sort of trump over the weekly 100,000+ sales 3DS has been getting since late 2012, hell, VITA, a portable console and thus cheaper and with a wider market, often comes out under Wii U in the charts. My point is, that from NES, to SNES, to 64, to PS2, to Wii, to GBA, to DS, to 3DS, to Smartphones and Tablets (Which you people seem to regard as on the same level as consoles and for the same market) a console has never been sold on it's technical specs, or on what it can do the same as the rest (As in third parties), but on what it can do that no other console can (As in first parties and individual capabilities). Think about it for a second, 3DS is the weakest console, home or handheld, of the current generation, yet every time an exclusive game (Like Pokemon X and Y or Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate) releases, the console's numbers skyrocket, and that is not because it suddenly grows processing power equal or superior to VITA's, but because it proves itself worth through it's software; so we shouldn't really be judging Wii U in that same way. We also need to consider that we are way into the decay of economy, a person who could shed 700 bucks on a PS3 back in 2007 can now be torn between shedding 300 for a Wii U or buying something more practical like a phone (And no, this does not put the smartphone in the gaming category, a gamer is not going to be satisfied with Fruit Ninja or even FEZ, no matter how much you want to convince yourself of it). Which brings me to the next point, casuals. Wii enjoyed the first half of it's success through casuals (But don't delude yourself, in the end the machine held up it's 6 year streak not due to casuals but to proving itself a must have for gamers due to games like Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime Trilogy and Zelda Skyward Sword), which indeed gave it a push to become I think the third best selling console of history or something along those lines (Now has been bested by 3DS, the weaker console, mind you) so while casuals like middle aged ladies and whatnot did indeed boost the console's numbers on the couple of years following its launch, it isn't a blender or a toaster by any means, and any gamer with brains will admit that despite it's shortcomings like shovelware and low specs in comparison to PS3 and 360, the console is still a must have simply because of Nintendo's output. Wii U's problem is that it didn't prove itself a must have when it should (Like 3DS failed to do for around a year and weren't you publishing the same kind of articles about it? Go figure), Super Mario 3D World could have done the trick, but pitting it against the overhyped launches of PS4 and XBONE was a mistake, no matter how better the game is to any offering on the other two consoles, it was going to be trumped simply by the panic sales of the consoles that launched the same day. That's another point I'd like to address; PANIC SALES. XBONE almost reached Wii U's lifetime sales on it's first week (Missing them by 200,000 or something around that), but the sales didn't hold up well to those numbers in the following weeks, and though it will inevitably surpass the sales of the Wii U and probably maintain that distinction, it's sales aren't gonna be much bigger than Wii U's from now on, because of all the points I have already addressed, the economy is not suitable for one to buy such a costly system (That will keep on costing more and more due to their constant fees and overpriced games), the console is, along with PS4, continuing the tradition of Microsoft and Sony basically making the same console with a different shell, with not even a fifth of Nintendo's exclusives thus splitting their market (I can't even recall just how many times have my hardcore friends gone from PS3 to 360 seamlessly while I suffered horribly to go from Wii to PS3 and virtually nothing in the console's catalog appealed to me), with very little in the way of a game that will justify the console as a must have. In the end Wii U has indeed lost the casual appeal that held Wii up during it's first few years, and it hasn't proven itself like 3DS did once upon a time with Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 8, but if you focus less on the size of it's memory and processor, you will see that it actually has the buildings of a successful console, it just needs a constant stream of exclusive games like 3DS has.
  • Vonter - December 8, 2013 8:09 p.m.

    Keyword being content. The 3DS has it and in both quality and quantity in comparison to its competition. The Wii U wouldn't have the problem if Nintendo could state how it'll receive content: Stating moving the VC catalogue from Wii to U and putting a date to it. Stating when will hi quality indie games will arrive and promote it. Stating some blockbusters and not delaying them (DKC:TF) Giving apps that use the tech of the system in creative ways. Finally holding/buying/negotiating better with third parties to build a bigger install base, since most of them are waiting for Nintendo to build it. Power is a factor but historically isn't the main factor, Sony did build good relations during the PS1 and 2 eras and it established a huge install base because of it, despite not having the most powerful machine during that time. Inversely the 3DS has done everything the Wii U has not and that's why its doing better. (Also it seems its getting Miiverse this week).
  • Redzaku - December 11, 2013 8:53 p.m.

    Agreed.
  • OptimusMega - December 8, 2013 4:19 a.m.

    The Nintendoom articles are becoming less creative by the minute. Nintendo isn't a hardware company that worries about competing with other hardware, which is why they deliver the most unique experience across the board. If your plea that it's a failure because it did not meet sales targets then fair enough but the WiiU isn't a device focused on multimedia application like the PS4 and Xbone. It is not set to capture the living room but would like to be a part of it and I think eventually people will either see the WiiU as the second unit in their house or the only unit in their house simply because the PS4 and Xbone are almost identical pieces of technology in that they do the same things with relatively mediocre games. This generation and the last generation were encapsulated in a console war that I think ruined the beginning of this generation. People so deluded in their brand loyalty that they failed to see that they were being had. The PS3 and Xbox360 wasn't a console generation competed over with games but more so a generation of "My game is more visually impressive than yours", Wii games were left out in the cold only because people felt they were kiddy or lame for some arbitrary reason. Most of these people didn't even own the game let alone try them at a gamestop kiosk. We've had some real great games on all 3 consoles get passed up and forgotten simply because they were not visual spectacles. I see games like The last of us, Uncharted, Halo, Gears of War, Call of duty, Beyond 2 Souls, Heavy Rain, Skyrim, and Resident Evil 5&6 as roundabout the same thing. They focus too greatly on otherwise only conducive to the presentation quality of the game where it is often not complimentary to the gameplay. Strip any of those games of the story, graphics, characters and you're in for an incredibly un-enjoyable experience. When I suggest games to people I really try and guess what the person might like but honestly what enjoyment can be got out of these games that isn't somehow linked to an aesthetic feature ?... Hell Uncharted was marketed as a movie for everyone to watch and enjoy in that fashion. It isn't a bad thing but not exactly focusing on the game portion of the Video Game. To me the more aesthetic features are supposed to be bonuses to the game, they don't save a game from being not fun to play at all. This is what Nintendo has kept in mind with almost all of their games because you could argue Twilight Princess may have been a departure from a largely gameplay focused experience. Nintendo for me as well as Sega have always brought me the gameplay experience I've always enjoyed to play time and time again, timelessly. I don't look at any of their games and determine the budget or weather the graphics are better between them because they've mostly kept their games unique in some way. This is why I think the WiiU has not lost since Nintendo games wont appear on any other console out there. Mario Kart Wii, Super Mario Galaxies, and Super Smash Bros Brawl were the mega trio of best selling differentiated experiences last gen. Uncharted, The Last of Us, and Heavy Rain were ultimately 3 takes on the same premise as well as Halo, Fable2&3, and Gears of war. Looking at it now the PS4 starting out with Killzone was it's first mistake as well as leading with games tired out by last gen like Uncharted and Infamous. The Xbone Really has nothing to hope for when you look at how Forza 5 is just Forza$ and you'll get that Halo&Gears title with little difference between the earlier games. I know Nintendo reuses it's characters but be honest that they don't reuse the same gameplay and that's why I don't think they should give up on the WiiU
  • rebeca-tchembers - December 7, 2013 1:05 p.m.

    I'm laughing liters, with their dementia
  • RonnyLive19881 - December 7, 2013 10:47 a.m.

    Look, people pleaded for the same exact thing last generation. Every other month a site would post an article about the fabled Wii HD just as the Wii was set to market. I don't think there was a single E3 in the Wii's life span that didn't have a site "predicting" an announcement of a Wii HD. We never got one, Nintendo and a few brave 3rd party devs provided great software for the system and it won the last console generation in sales and quality games with a land slide. Sure the Wii U is having a rocky start but so did the PS3 (who can forget the" PS3 HAZ NO GAEMS" meme) last gen and look at the great library it has now. I don't think Nintendo and us fans have anything to worry about. Journalists just need to learn to be patient. .. Wii U have a fantastic year and with DKTF topping off 2014 I think things are only going to get better. I have no desire for the PS4 or XBone because they currently HAV NO GAEMS so hopefully after they launch hype more sales with fall into Nintendo's favor.

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