I know what I’m about to say will annoy millions of Nintendo fans around the globe and maybe even make some of the executives at the company scoff, but the way I see it, there’s no other way out for Nintendo than to end its love affair with consoles and go multiplatform with its hit titles.
I understand that, for years, Nintendo has rebuffed all suggestions that it should bring its titles to other multiple platforms. The company believes that it’s still going to benefit most from offering hardware and software on a single product and can’t fathom the thought of putting Mario or Zelda on an Xbox or PlayStation. First-party titles are the secret to its success, after all.
But I think it’s time that we and Nintendo start acknowledging that all of that “success” has been fleeting over the last decade. I’ll freely admit that the Wii was, surprisingly, a hit. And chances are, neither the Xbox 360 nor the PlayStation 3 will match it in total sales when everything is said and done. But should we discount the fact that in its latter years, the Wii was losing steam? And perhaps most importantly, should we discount the fact that the Wii U has gotten off to an abysmal start?
Although Nintendo has not officially released console sales data for the U.S., each month when NPD releases its console sales figures, one thing becomes immediately apparent: things are not going well. In fact, it’s believed that Nintendo has sold less than 100,000 Wii U units nearly every month this year. For a console that’s not even a year old, that’s a huge problem.
So, what happened to the Wii U? Blame it on mobile games, blame it on its core customer base getting older, and perhaps blame it on Nintendo’s own inability to see the changing times. As EA COO Peter Moore said recently, the Wii U is a decidedly “offline” box despite claiming to feature online components that gamers would want. In reality, it’s a vestige of what gaming used to be like – and isn’t anymore.
Nintendo had every opportunity to do something special with the Wii U. The console could have picked up casual gamers and appeal to the hardcore segment by delivering better online features. Instead, Nintendo stuck to the same, tired strategy. And now it’s in deep trouble because of it.
In fact, EA and Activision have both said that they have no games – that’s right, no games – in the pipeline for the Wii U. Even Ubisoft said that it needs to see what happens before it continues to invest in the console.
The way I see it, unless something miraculous happens, the Wii U might soon die a slow and agonizing death. And at that point, if Nintendo wants to continue on, it’ll need to go multiplatform and bring its popular titles to other consoles. In fact, the smart move might be to do that now and generate boatloads of cash by bringing titles to other devices. If Rovio and countless other mobile game companies can succeed and generate all kinds of cash, why can’t Nintendo?
At some point, Iwata and Miyamoto need to put aside their pride and accept failure. More importantly, they need to acknowledge that the market is changing and there’s an opportunity for Nintendo to transition its business and stay alive to continue to make games.
It’ll be OK, guys. Really, it will.