With only 3.1 million units sold since its release for the 2012 holiday shopping season, the Wii U has been unable to capture much interest from either consumers or developers. Last month’s announcement by gaming software giant Electronic Arts, stating that they had no titles in development for the Wii U, was a major blow to the console’s staying power.
EA has since backpedaled on the statement (as well as distancing itself from even more scathing remarks on Twitter by an EA Sports developer who called the Wii U “crap”), but was still frank in stating that the majority of its creative focus was on Sony and Microsoft.
Wii U may have been doomed from the beginning. While the original Wii had been both an innovator and a commercial success, it seems that Wii U was simply playing catch-up with the now end-of-cycle PlayStation 3 and Xbox. It was the first Nintendo console to offer high definition playback – in a world that has been dominated by HDTVs since 2006 (the same year that the PS3 launched, just behind the Xbox 360 launch in November 2005). While the Wii U offers double the amount of RAM that the PS3 and Xbox 360 have, the CPU is clocked slower than either of those aging consoles.
The biggest nail in the Wii U’s coffin can be found in its game library – or rather, its lack of strong third-party titles. Nintendo fans will always support the Mario and Zelda mainstays, but many developers were turned off by the Wii U’s specs and awkward tablet-cum-controller.
It seems that Nintendo was hoping to strike a balance between the simple touch-interface of iOS blockbuster Angry Birds and the more “high-end” feel of a bona fide console experience. But the controller is too big to be portable, and the competition remains looking more polished.
Some gaming analysts have predicted that Nintendo’s console days are coming to an end, perhaps within five years. There is speculation that Nintendo will go the way of Sega, equating the Wii U to the doomed Sega Dreamcast, and shift its focus to software only. With so many famous characters in the Nintendo universe, coupled with competition bearing down on all gaming consoles since the rise of Apple and Android gaming, this could be a strong possibility.
Nintendo is not without supporters, however, who are quick to point out the strengths of the DS and 3DS handheld consoles. Currently, the Nintendo DS is the best-selling handheld console of all time (and the second best console overall), with more than 157 million units sold. As of May 25, the Nintendo 3DS title Shin Megami Tensei IV was the global best-seller.
The next generation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are set for a holiday 2013 release. Unless Nintendo garners more third-party support and releases a flood of intriguing new titles for the Wii U, it may fade into the shadows cast by its more impressive competitors.