Wii U’s Third Party Struggle: Ubisoft and EA Express (More) Concerns

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Since Nintendo’s lackluster presence at E3 2013, the Wii U has been fighting an uphill battle to gain third-party support from game developers. Following last month’s big video game expo, Ubisoft decided to reduce its plans for Wii U titles.

Yves Guillemot, chairman and CEO of Ubisoft, told GamesIndustry International that his company’s exclusive ZombiU launch title failed to turn a profit – and thus won’t be getting a sequel.

While the popular software publisher is still committed to porting upcoming titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Watch Dogs, Ubisoft also decided to make the previously Wii U-exclusive Rayman Legends available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

“It was, in fact, because of [ZombiU's] performance that Ubisoft decided to make Rayman Legends a multiplatform game,” stated GamesIndustry International. “Third party partners are, in a word, disappointed with Nintendo.”

Ahead of E3, game publishing powerhouse Electronic Arts (EA) blasted the Wii U, saying that it was “more an extension of [Nintendo’s] last console." EA’s CFO, Blake Jorgensen, said that his company would continue producing Wii U titles, “but not anywhere near as many as we are for PS or Xbox.”

Now EA’s chief operating officer, Peter Moore, is airing his own negative sentiment toward the shunned Wii U. “It's been a disappointment when you look at sell-through and, as a company, we have to be very judicious where we deploy our resources,” he said in the GamesIndustry International report.

While rival platforms increasingly utilize the Internet for multi-player and cooperative gaming, Wii U struggles to get players online in the first place. EA’s popular American Football franchise Madden won’t be coming to Wii U this year, partly due to Wii U’s “offline” nature.

“The lack of online engagement that we see on Wii U [is troubling],” Moore continued. “It's so integral to what we do. They're so small it's hardly worth running the servers. It seems like a box that's out of sync with the future of EA – which is one that gives a real social feel to our games. The Wii U feels like an offline experience right now.”

Nintendo must increasingly rely on first-party titles to keep the Wii U relevant. Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, answered questions at the company’s 73rd annual shareholder’s meeting on June 27 in Tokyo. When asked about Wii U losing its momentum with third-party publishers, Iwata replied:

“Naturally, it is desirable that many developers support Wii U and release a lot of games for the platform as soon as possible, and we think there are two things we must do right away. One is to seamlessly release our first-party titles starting from next month to improve the momentum of Wii U. As third-party software developers do business for their own profits, they tend to avoid investing in a platform with little presence. We would therefore like them to see Wii U as a platform with which they feel they can make profits from an economical perspective.”

Looking ahead to the 2013 holiday season, the gaming industry’s collective eyes will certainly be on Nintendo to see if Mario and company can keep the Wii U afloat.

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