August 16th, 2012, 00:22 Posted By: wraggster
Our staff weighs in on the fate of Nintendo's upcoming Wii U launch
Nintendo's launch of the Wii U this holiday season will be one of the most interesting hardware launches to watch in the venerable company's long history. Both the economy and the games industry landscape have changed tremendously since the Wii was launched back in 2006. Consumers have less money to spend (or just don't want to spend as much) and there are now more options than ever, with the rise of smartphones, tablets, social and free-to-play. On top of that, price cuts and/or bundles are almost certainly on the way for Xbox 360 and PS3.
Nintendo in some ways caught lightning in a bottle with the Wii, and as the saying goes, lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Even the top brass at the company would fully admit that repeating the success of the Wii is a daunting task, to say the least.
One of the keys for the Wii U will be to engender strong third-party support - a feat that has always been difficult for Nintendo platforms, where first-party dominates sales and consumers' interest. While there are plenty of Wii U announcements to come still, the third-party software shown thus far has mostly failed to impress. With Batman: Arkham City as the third-party highlight for Nintendo at E3, and more recently, EA Sports confirming that the Wii U version of Madden 13 will be missing key features that 360/PS3 versions have (including physics), it's hard to be encouraged.
Moreover, just last week, Warner Bros. announced Game Party Champions for Wii U, an assortment of sports or arcade-style games. Is this actually the Wii U's destiny... either 360/ PS3 ports or casual fare of the sort the Wii was flooded with? Is this how third parties truly see the Wii U? And if so, how can this be anything but terrible news for the Wii U's prospects in a challenging market?
GamesIndustry International's writers share their thoughts in the roundtable below.
I think it's probably far too early to make a judgement call on this. If there's one thing Nintendo does consistently, it's to surprise those who've spelled out its doom. Having said that, software is obviously key to success, but I'm not sure that third-party is going to be what attracts buyers.
"What matters now is whether all of those millions of households with a Wii festering in a cupboard under the stairs will fall for it again"
Until Nintendo started hitting the 3DS with its incredibly valuable first-party IP, it was going nowhere. Labelled as overpriced and based on a gimmick, the handheld was underselling enormously. One Zelda, a couple of Marios and the odd Yoshi later and it's hit its stride magnificently, powering ahead of competition across the globe.
So yes, we'll see more of the same from Nintendo - they'll likely never stop iterating their solid-gold franchises - but they will sell, and they will sell systems. Games like Assassin's Creed III and Madden might sell a few, but I doubt anyone who really wants to get them early will wait for the Wii U version. Even more so for Call of Duty or Battlefield.
Third-party minigame collections and dance or exercise titles may review poorly and be labelled as shovelware, but they populate the system with titles you can't get elsewhere, playable in ways they wouldn't be on other systems. What matters now is whether all of those millions of households with a Wii festering in a cupboard under the stairs will fall for it again.
Yes, it certainly looks like the third-party support for the Wii U is weak, consisting so far mostly of ports and casual/party games (the interesting ZombiU and gorgeous Pikmin 3 notwithstanding). We shouldn't really be surprised; Nintendo has traditionally not worked very hard at lining up third-party support for their consoles because publishers were eager to put titles out for Nintendo's industry-leading hardware. By the time the Wii launched, Nintendo was no longer the console leader, and publishers mostly gave it perfunctory support.
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