Has Nintendo lost its way, or is there logic to their decisions?
Let’s just cut to the chase. Up until now, the Wii U hasn’t done so hot. Nintendo has tried their best to fix the problems they had during their fledgling console’s “launch window” by announcing a bunch of games at E3 2013 in hopes of igniting interesting for the Wii U once again. This post is about analyzing Nintendo’s approaches to fixing the Wii U’s problem, and whether or not they are an effective means to help make Wii U a success.
One of the Wii U’s biggest problems thus far is its sparse library. The Wii U’s launch line-up was decent; it had a few great first and third party exclusives, several good ports of both old and new third-party multiplats, and a couple of cool little indie games on the eShop. But since then, things have dried out. Sure, we had the occasional Monster Hunter or Lego City, but those are not enough to revitalize the Wii U’s library.
At E3, Nintendo announced release dates and windows for several of their upcoming titles. This included at least one major first party release every month from June to the end of the year. For those not keeping track, it’s Game & Wario for June, New Super Luigi U for July, Pikmin 3 for August, The Wonderful 101 for September, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Wii Party U for October, Super Mario 3D World for November, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Wii Fit U in December. That’s just first party content.
Taking a look at these games, it seems that Nintendo is focusing heavily on nostalgia for a large majority of its titles. Wind Waker HD may look like a fine game, but all things considered, it’s just a remake. Other titles like Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario 3D World are clear throwbacks to the NES and SNES days of gaming. Game & Wario is itself a pun on Nintendo’s old Game & Watch line-up of electronic toys.
For the classic Nintendo fan, these games are more than enough to fill in the gaps of the Wii U’s library, but most of them have probably gotten a Wii U anyways. So what’s Nintendo’s plan to attract potential buyers? Well it turns out, the same exact thing.
Nintendo is hoping that the mere conglomerate of titles they are presenting will help spur sales. You might ask, “where’s the killer app?,” to which Nintendo will likely respond, “they’re all killer apps.” The point is, that there is no longer such thing as one game that will universally sell systems to everyone; as IGN’s own Rich George once said, such a time has long gone.
Basically, Nintendo hopes that of the large variety of titles they’re offering, you’ll find at least one that will appeal to you. Maybe Zelda is your killer app, or maybe it’s Donkey Kong, or maybe it’s Mario, or maybe it’s even Wii Fit. Then, you’ll look at the variety of other titles available to you, and possibly pick up one or two additional titles to begin filling up your personal Wii U library.
What other titles might I be talking about? Maybe Wii U launch titles, like New Super Mario Bros. U or ZombiU. Maybe third party games, exclusives like Sonic: Lost World or Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, or multiplats like Watch Dogs, Call of Duty, or Rayman. Maybe eShop games like VC classics as Earthbound or indie titles as Toki Tori 2.
But of course, maybe none of these games appeal to you, and you want something completely fresh, something completely new. Yes, the Wonderful 101 is a new I.P., but that’s just one game. Maybe you need more before you plop down cash for that fancy new Wii U.
When I originally drafted this blog, Nintendo had not yet announced a price drop for the Wii U. I thought (and many others did as well) Nintendo would ride it out through the holiday season for a few reasons: 1) The Wii U was still $100 cheaper than the competition, 2) 3DS sales didn’t initially pick up after it got its price cut, and 3) it seemed smarter and more cost-efficient to do bundles rather than permanently cut the price of the hardware.
Of course, those arguments are now somewhat irrelevant, as Nintendo has officially announced that they are dropping the price of the Wii U Deluxe Set by $50. Yes, that means you can get a Wii U plus either Nintendo Land or The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD for $299.99. Seems like a great value, right? That’s precisely the point.
Nintendo likes to focus on value a lot. If you look at the 3DS, Nintendo decided drop the price just a few months after its release. Then, rather than dropping the price again, they introduced a more premium model, the 3DS XL, and priced it $20 higher than the current 3DS. And now, just recently, instead of dropping the price of the 3DS yet again, they introduced a cheaper, more simpler model, the 2DS. It’s clear that Nintendo dislikes cutting prices, and rather tries to release different hardware options for different audiences.
But that’s for a portable platform, yes? Surely it cannot apply to such big home consoles as the Wii U. And you’d be right, but let’s not forget what else Nintendo is good at: bundles. A few months ago, Reggie said that they had great success with 3DS bundles in the West, as the Fire Emblem 3DS and Animal Crossing 3DS XL bundles, as well as the Mario Kart and Nintendogs bundles the year before, sold out rather quickly. Looking back at Wii, that console sold well almost solely because of bundles. No one would have bought Wii Sports separately, but by bundling it with the console, it made the overall package look like a positive value proposition. And if you weren’t interested in Wii Sports, how about that Mario Kart bundle? Or the Mii Party bundle? Or how about that New Super Mario Bros. bundle? There’s a bundle for everyone!
I find that this is how Nintendo usually does things, and that holds true even after the Wii U price cut. Notice that the price cut only applied to Wii U Deluxe Set bundles. They want people to look at the package not by just its price, but also by its value. At $300, a new console plus a game is already a good value. Combine that with possible Black Friday discounts (which Nintendo is always good at doing), and you might see it drop to even $250. Does that price sound familiar? It was the original price of the Wii.
Will this strategy work? It’s hard to say. Remember I mentioned that 3DS sales didn’t really pick up significantly after its price drop. That’s because the 3DS, at the time, had very few games. That’s probably why Nintendo chose to drop the price of the Wii U only after big releases like Pikmin 3 and Wonderful 101 came out. Looking back now, it’s actually hard to see whether or not price was a major factor in the 3DS’ later success, but that’s likely because we have no idea what would have happened if Nintendo decided otherwise. Maybe it would have been disastrous. Maybe it would have made Nintendo more money. Furthermore, $300 is still a high price to pay, though it definitely is a lot cheaper than what Sony and Microsoft are offering.
So that’s this holiday season, but what about in the future? When the PS4 and Xbox One arrive, Wii U will look and feel obsolete (at least a little bit). What’s Nintendo’s plan for the long-term future? I honestly don’t know. If you remember in my blog post about Iwata, I think Nintendo just kind of wings it as time progresses. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to show.
2014 is when Nintendo needs to give Wii U an identity. They need to stop leaning so hard on nostalgia and start making things fresh. From the looks of it, it seems that they are planning to go that route. Yes, we’ll have classics like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. U, but we’ll have other new and refreshing things to look forward to, like Monolith’s X, or Yarn Yoshi, or Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. It may have taken them a long time to get here, but as they say, it’s better late than never.
So while Nintendo may seem like they’ve lost their way, I actually have quite a bit of confidence that they’ll turn things around. Yeah, there’s no way the Wii U will surpass the Wii in sales, and it’ll likely end up being in last place this generation. But you know what other console found itself in a similar hole? The GameCube. And we have fond memories of that console, don’t we? Some fine games that little lunch box had.
Well is certainly a much longer post than I usually do, but I want to know your opinions. Do you think Nintendo’s doing the right thing this holiday season? What else does Nintendo need to push you over the edge? Leave your responses in the comments below.