A Series of Ramblings

Blogging when I remember to

The Death of Nintendo?

(Formerly on another site)

ZombiU was a commercial failure. Even with some Wii U’s being bundled with the game, it just didn’t sell. And despite being one of the more popular launch titles, Ubisoft has pretty much come out and said there won’t be a sequel. There’s no desire to even think about making one. This isn’t the only story of a third party developer not being pleased with the Wii U. Remember EA’s promise of a new and exciting partnership with Nintendo? Yeah, that kinda fizzled out into oblivion. Very few third parties, even Japanese ones, are coming to the Wii U with ports, let alone exclusives. Sure, there are still plans to release titles like Watch Dogs, a specialized version of Batman: Arkham City, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and more. And yes, exclusives like Bayonetta 2 are coming. And of course, we can’t forget the first party powerhouse games the house of Nintendo will bring to us. But is it enough to keep the struggling Wii U afloat?

EA’s biggest concern was Nintendo’s lack of a solid online multiplayer experience. With many of their titles having huge online components, they just didn’t feel like Nintendo have enough online engagement to stick with them. The lack of a strong online presence, mixed with a console that just doesn’t come up to par for a AAA game engine, is causing EA to almost abandon the platform entirely. I wouldn’t doubt that big western publishers such as Activision and Ubisoft feel similarly, and without strong sales to try and give these companies hope that their future investments in the system will do well, they’re seeing less and less reasons to stick around. As EA’s Peter Moore stated, “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.”

Of course, Nintendo’s home consoles never seem to be big with third party developers, even those in Japan. The Gamecube was seen as a huge misstep for the company, even with some big titles announced for it. It almost looked like Nintendo was out for the count, if not for the rise of the DS, which allowed them to bring the world the Wii. And for all the success the Wii had commercially, much of that was due to the aiming at a non-traditional gaming audience, with a cheap price and some easy to play games. The studio that Mario and Zelda built churned out mad amounts of cash during that era without the ‘hardcore gamer’, without strong online connectivity, without stereotypical AAA games. But with the Wii U and a jump to HD, Nintendo is finding making the transition to a more modern console expectation difficult. I feel they messed up, not learning from Sony, MS, and other companies who had the same problems when the PS3 and Xbox 360 first came out. Not learning from their competitors’ mistakes has already cost them big time. Coupled with an upcoming holiday season with no major first party titles, Nintendo will have to make a stronger case for developers to work on Wii U games if sales slow even more so than they already have.

I won’t count Nintendo entirely out though. I know I personally will buy one for Bayonetta 2. The new Mario and Zelda games will move units, as will the new Super Smash Brothers. But I feel they may need to leave the home console race, and instead focus on where they’re still reign king: the handheld world. You can tell me all about phone/tablet gaming all you want, and I won’t deny there are some good app games out there. But you also have to acknowledge Nintendo’s utter dominance of the deeper, “more dedicated” in a sense, handheld market. I have a 3DS. I have several games for it I’ve bought brand new at retail. I know dozens of people with 3DSs. We can play online, we can play in the same room. Sure, I don’t care for the “3D” part, but there are a lot of good games on the 3DS. And there still remains third party support on that platform, even if just primarily from Japanese developers. With the upcoming Pokemon game, a new Zelda, a new Smash Brothers, and several high profile third party games coming, that system still prints money, even with strong competition from the phone/tablet space in western markets, and a decent fight from the Playstation Vita in the east. Whether it’s enough to keep Nintendo afloat through a possible failed home console is a different story.