It’s deja vu for Nintendo… A year and a half ago, their newest handheld portable device, the 3DS, was experiencing terrible sales, and Nintendo cut the price by 40% in less than six months after release. It was unheard of to slash prices so early in a release cycle. Now, it looks like they may have to go through it again, this time for the Wii U, even though in a recent investors meeting Nintendo president Satoru Iwata reassured them that they would not reduce the price as the newest system is already being sold at a loss.
There was a lot of hype for Nintendo’s new console, as it has a very versatile and responsive tablet controller (a first for consoles) and for the first time in Nintendo’s history 1080p HD quality graphics. So why are Nintendo sales now being associated with words like “abysmal”, “catastrophic lows”, “disaster” and even some are starting to call the system a “flop”? In only its second full month of availability, the Wii U sold a paltry 57,000 units in the U.S. (while the Xbox 360 sold 280,000).
Well, critics like Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter are saying various factors: “First, we think that the console was misunderstood by many as a peripheral for the Wii; second, the price point for the Wii U is relatively high, and the launch was into a weak economy; and third, first party software support was thin, and third-party software was not sufficiently differentiated to convince many that they needed a Wii U as a replacement for their Xbox 360 or PS3.”
Others are saying various reasons: Nintendo’s shoddy marketing of the system pre-launch (basically none); the rise of mobile gaming in Asia; the fact that it doesn’t really outshine existing competitors in any way; as with the company’s previous two consoles, the GameCube and Wii, the waning 3rd party support for the console.
IS THERE ANY HOPE?
Nintendo acknowledged last month that the launch of the Wii U were disappointing and confessed that it had failed to communicate its value to the end-users worldwide. They claim that they will ensure that there are more games for the platform on the market soon.
This is a critical stage. In order for the system to succeed, the only choices for Nintendo is 1. rush more games out from their 1st/2nd party development studios as there’s definitely no help from 3rd party developers on the horizon, or 2. the eventual price cut (I’m gonna say September 2013).
As a video games fan, I feel sorry for Nintendo, a company that stands for innovation and creativity. Competition is healthy for the industry, and gamers like us will benefit if Nintendo does succeed. I really hope that they turn things around.