Will the Wii U doom Nintendo?
Do people still care about Nintendo? The company that once dominated the market in terms of console sales and exclusive franchises has hit a bit of a wall lately. Flummoxed by dismal sales numbers, Nintendo’s CEO, Satoru Itawa, told CNBC that it’s a direct result of Nintendo’s poor marketing campaign. “We are to blame,” he said.
“We relaxed our [marketing] efforts, so the consumers today still cannot understand what’s so good and unique about the Wii U. Because we’re always trying to be unique, it takes some energies on our side to [help] people understand the real attractions about whatever we are doing.”
Well, at least he had the common courtesy to admit the company’s faults. The Wii U’s starting price is currently $299, and Nintendo reportedly has no plans to lower it. Iwata then mentioned that “[w]e do not think [a price cut] is a very easy option to take.” Still, if Nintendo wants to stay afloat, money needs to be made somewhere ─ either sell more units or sell the same amount for a higher price. Meanwhile, the Xbox One and PS4 are launching at $399 and $499, respectively. Could this be when the two brands finally overshadow Nintendo’s sheepishness?
It’s long been Nintendo’s thing to ignore the outright competition between Microsoft and Sony. For years, they’ve ignored the third party market and built upon the same steady resources they’ve had for thirty or so years ─ Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Pokemon ─ and haven’t really made a significant move to alter that. They’ve dipped into Call of Duty territory and Arkham territory, but nothing significant.
But that may just be the market’s fault. It’s been blatantly obvious, especially at E3 this year, that the video game industry is flooded with exclusive titles pretty much everywhere, and third party titles pretty much nowhere. There are the staples, like Call of Duty and Arkham, but even those have their feet in specific camps. The point is, when consumers buy consoles, they buy titles, not hardware, and therefore someone is much more likely to base their next-gen purchase on whether they like Smash Bros. or Infamous.
But the sad truth of all of this is that Nintendo does not have the longevity to fight this next generation. Let’s be honest, the Wii U is not exactly a “next-gen” console, and though that’s the selling point of both the PS4 and the Xbox One, Nintendo doesn’t seem to care. Iwata and his team seem more invested in the exclusivity of their system, the kid-friendly, party-inducing atmosphere that once made the Wii blow its competitors out of the water, and they’ll push this into a time that is simply different than six years ago. The world’s been through a recession, an apocalypse, and a slew of incredible games, and those kids that once forced their parents to buy them a Wii are probably more into wedding slaughter than Mario by now.
Nintendo can rely on its aging franchises all it wants; people will still buy Smash Bros. and Mario Kart and Super Mario 3D World, Not Galaxy, and No One Really Knows Why. But it’s a well that’s drying up. The kids that once loved the Wii have grown past it, and the next generation is too busy with Angry Birds to even notice. Is Nintendo really going to put their future in the hands of the aging base they gained long ago? When it comes down to it, those people live-streaming E3, watching the Smash Bros. trailer and the Infamous: Second Son trailer ─ those are the people who will determine the fate of Nintendo. And odds are, they’re ready to embrace the next generation, instead of parlaying back into the world of dreamlike, ethereal nostalgia.