Nintendoomed? Why it's too early to write off Nintendo and the Wii U
Ever since the Wii U was originally announced analysts, commentators and "experts" seem to have been queuing up to predict failure for the machine, and by extension Nintendo itself. If anything such predictions have increased since release and there seems to have been a never ending stream of people willing to lay the boot in to the Japanese gaming firm's latest baby and claim that Nintendo is on borrowed time. Some say their only choice is to "do a Sega" and make games for other platforms. Nobody would claim that the last twelve months or so has been Nintendo's finest hour but is it really all that bad? Anyone who's been following the big N's fortunes for years may find this all strangely familiar- haven't we been here before?
I'm not here to argue that the Wii U has been a massive success- as it patently hasn't. Nintendo has struggled to market the new console and it has certainly had some teething problems. There are plenty of Nintendo fans (like me) who feel with the current price and sparse game line-up it's just not worth getting one yet. But for all those who are already writing off the console as a total failure and “the next Dreamcast” when it's been out not much over six months? That's a little bit premature to say the least.
It's also not really true to say it's been a total failure- launch sales were solid enough and the Wii U actually shifted more units in it's first four months on sale than either the PS3 or Xbox 360. People seem to conveniently forget the troubled launch of Microsoft and Sony's HD consoles- remember how the Playstation 3 was a laughing stock on release? For some reason, certain people don't seem to be willing to give Nintendo the same benefit of the doubt. Although third-party support has been patchy at best (with only really Sega and Ubisoft really showing any faith in the machine) it's really the first party games that matter on a Nintendo platform.
So far those elusive first party games are conspicuous by their absence. I'm sure New Super Mario Bros U and Nintendoland are fun, but they're hardly system sellers. And much as it pains me to say so, neither is Pikmin 3. By this Christmas however we should be looking at new 3D Mario, New Mario Kart and a new(ish) Zelda all in lovely shiny High Def. Not to mention Smash Bros and the proper Wii U Zelda in the future too. At which point it will be much harder for any Ninty fan to resist.
Of course the PS4 and Xbox One are just around the corner, so surely then the Wii U will no longer be able to compete? Considering the reaction the Xbox One got, I wouldn't be so sure. The Xbox confrence actually saw a sharp increase in Wii U sales, according to Amazon UK. Suddenly, post Xbox One, for many the pure gaming focus of Nintendo's machine suddenly seemed that much more appealing. The Wii U also features no always-on internet connection, pre-owned game charges or mandatory subscriptions. Plus it's backwards compatible too! In a time when others seem to be moving away from gaming, Nintendo's unique status as a gaming only company really makes them stand out.
Once again we will have Nintendo facing more powerful rivals with a technically underpowered but innovative machine. This happened with the DS versus PSP, the Wii versus 360 and PS3 and most recently 3DS versus the Vita, and it looks set to happen once again. Yes it's a gamble, but based on their recent history, haven't Nintendo earned the benefit of the doubt? In the past, the public have chosen Nintendo's innovation other the bells and whistles of their rivals- who's to say they won't again?
What I personally find baffling is the way that certain parts of the gaming community are eager to present Nintendo as a troubled company, on the brink of going under. Take a look at the list of best selling software ever, and see how many come from the big N. Other companies make losses all the time- but when Nintendo do it, obviously they're DOOMED. Even if the Wii U was a 'Virtual Boy' style disaster, (which looks unlikely) it's not going to sink the company. I think they're going to be just fine, thank-you. But when a company gets to the heights enjoyed by Nintendo, there will always be people rubbing their hands, waiting for you to fall.
The sales of the 3DS may have not been quite up their with it's predecessor (yet) but it has comfortably outperformed the Vita. The DS's successor also had a very troubled birth, and it's launch was labelled a disaster. A couple of years later and look at it now- it has a solid user base and an excellent library of games. Despite a steep drop in sales over the past couple of years, the Wii still managed sales figures of 90 million, considerably more than the 70+ million shifted by both Sony and Microsoft- and Nintendo made a profit on every unit sold. Without a shadow of a doubt the Wii U is a tougher sell than it's predecessors, and Nintendo face a real challenge. Realistically it is unlikely that the Wii U will be quite as successful as the original Wii, but an outright failure? It's far too early to say. If you've been a gamer long enough you should know by now- never count Nintendo out.