With the success of the Nintendo 3DS its a wonder why the Wii U has had pretty lackluster sales. It started out pretty strong but sales dropped of pretty quickly. I’m pretty sure most of the issues hearken back to the developer. Nintendo is the main reason the Wii U didn’t catch wind like its predecessor.
The first issue is software. I’ve broken this down into two categories: first party titles and third party titles. Nintendo’s best selling point is it’s first party titles. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Smash Bros., and Pokémon are all reasons to own Nintendo’s consoles. They are unique experiences that cannot be found anywhere else. There have been attempts to replicate them but most have failed to garner the same following as these games. But what happens if two consoles had Mario games? What would happen if you could choose what console to play a Mario game on? Nintendo has finally found out the answer. The Wii U’s real competition is the 3DS. I know this is strange but at least hear me out. The 3DS has two Mario games(one 2D and one 3D), arguably the best Zelda game, the quite favorable Luigi’s Mansion, and a ton of well received exclusives(Etrian Odyssey, Fire Emblem, etc). It also is getting the spiritual successor to A Link to the Past, which for those who don’t know is a pretty big deal. The Wii U has New Super Mario Bros. 2 and, well…not much else. The new Smash Bros. will be unveiled at E3 and Earthbound is coming to the Wii U Virtual Console but there isn’t much buzz about much else.
The hardware is the next failing of Nintendo. The Wii U doesn’t offer a new ways of interacting with games. The Wii brought motion controls to the table and introduced a simpler way to play games, a way that didn’t utilize 15+ button controllers. It was an ingenious philosophy from the old days of games and it really resonated with all types of people. The Wii U introduces a tablet with two joysticks. Its A nice mix between traditional and casual but not something new. Games can opt to use the Wii Remotes or the tablet controller for inputs. Using a Wii Remote is no different than what we have been doing since 2006 and the tablet controller is the same as a DS. Think about it, you have a traditional controller in your hands complete with dual joysticks. You have the main action happening on your TV but you have a touch screen with additional information if you look down. Sound familiar? Now that isn’t to say the Wii U is devoid of new experiences. New Super Mario Bros 2 and Rayman both offer interesting co-op platforming where the tablet user interacts with the environment to aid the player(s) who are playing the game. But with only 2 titles I can’t say this is a huge selling point until other devs really incorporate interesting ideas like this. Regardless, the primary control scheme mirrors the DS and we already acknowledged that currently the 3DS lineup is stronger than the Wii U so why buy a Wii U when you can get a comparable experience with better titles with the 3DS?
Finally, Nintendo has had the worst marketing for the Wii U. It seems that most owners of the Wii are unaware that the Wii U is the successor to the Wii. Some might not even know about its existence. Nintendo has gone so far as to make posters explaining what the Wii U does that the Wii does not and sending mail to Wiis telling the owner to upgrade.
While most traditional gamers might have kept up with news about the Wii U we have to remember that the Wii brought in a lot of new types of gamers. People who never owned a console before owned Wiis. Nintendo needs to learn how to advertise to people who don’t understand or know that consoles eventually get replaced and upgraded.
Between Nintendo’s poor marketing and favoritism towards the 3DS they are having a difficult time selling the Wii U. There is still hope for third party support but that is dwindling as well. Most titles are ports of old games(Batman: Arkham City and Mass Effect 3) and the exclusives didn’t fare so well(ZombieU). Rayman Legends could have been a killer app but that is now a multiplatform title and Call of Duty may have stopped support of the WiiU(Black Ops 2 launched but, at the moment, Ghosts has not been confirmed for any Nintendo system).