Things are looking grim for Nintendo these days. We love to joke around about how the Wii U isn’t selling and how people are ignoring the console for the high-end PC like PS4 and Xbox One, but what does this mean for the big N? Nothing good, we can assure you. In a recent earnings release, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata explained that the company has severely cut its earnings estimates. They originally planned to sell over 9 million Wii U consoles by the end of March this year, but now they are forecasting only 2.8 million Wii U sales. Game sales forecasts have also been cut down to 13.5 million from 18 million; not quite as hefty of a loss as console sales, but a steep loss nonetheless.
Why have these sales numbers been adjusted? Sales of the Wii U have been up since November. In fact, if any console got a bump from the release of the next-gen systems, it was the Wii U which is now looking like an enticing budget friendly alternative, with hit Nintendo titles like Super Mario 3D World. Heck, according to Nintendo, the Wii U was the top telling platform in the last calendar year. Unfortunately, despite the recent release of killer apps and the upcoming release of games like Super Smash Bros., the Wii U just isn’t striking a chord with the gaming populace.
There are several reasons why this could be the case. For example, the Wii was known for being a casual platform filled with shareware games and licensed titles. The only real AAA games the platform had to offer were the Nintendo exclusives and a few gems like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Trauma Team.
So where are all the casual gamers now? Well they aren’t buying consoles, that’s for sure. Heck, they aren’t even buying handhelds. Instead, they are focusing their purchases on the mobile market. Smartphone and tablet games are currently some of the most lucrative ventures that the gaming industry has to offer. Many of the industries finest have “jumped ship”, so to speak, just to develop in the mobile market. Meanwhile, casual gamers already own these “platforms” so they can have a full casual gaming experience without dropping $300 on a console.
Nintendo tried very hard to keep up with current gaming trends, but they seem to be a step behind. Current generation consoles integrate TV watching capabilities, streaming, social media and more. The Wii U, on the other hand, mostly just plays games. In fact, it was only recently that Nintendo stopped fooling around with friend codes and their social media platform, Miiverse, is still incredibly barebones.
So what is Nintendo to do? Well Satoru Iwata has said that the company is examining new business models, though he hasn’t commented on what those might be. Rumors are flying around the internet saying that Nintendo might put an early stop to the Wii U and offer another console that is more in line with the PS4 and Xbox One. Other speculators say that Nintendo may step out of the console market all-together if they continue to post losses, instead focusing on software like Sega did before them. Neither of these options seem particularly inviting, considering how much the company invested in the Wii U. President Iwata also said that entering the mobile market wouldn’t be simple either, and that the company can’t simply offer Mario on a mobile platform and expect it to work.
One thing that is certain is that Nintendo cannot keep posting yearly losses like this. This is the third year in a row they have posted a loss, and it is doing quite a bit of damage to the legendary game company. Luckily they still have the 3DS, which is currently the best selling handheld on the market.
Senior Contributing Writer