There’s little to no secret that Nintendo’s latest console isn’t performing so hot. Just looking at the sales numbers for April (a pitiful 36,000 units) is enough to cause extreme concern considering no modern home console has hit monthly numbers that low in at least a decade. I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what Nintendo is doing with the Wii U to rope in new consumers, as well as taking a look at what they’re doing to keep them away.
The name of the Wii U has always been a sore spot in my view. The Wii name is associated with a cheap console of yesteryear, and sold more than the Xbox 360 and PS3 in its prime. I assume Nintendo thought that having a successor to the Wii would be a guaranteed hit given the brand recognition. What has resulted is not what Nintendo had planned, with consumer confusion about what the Wii U is. Is it a controller for the Wii? A new console? Nintendo has poorly communicated that this is a newer, better system that people need to have.
Despite the consumer confusion over the name, the Wii U is also lacking a significant hook that the masses can latch onto. The Wii had the motion controller and Wii Sports. The Wii U has a controller with a touch screen on it. In a post-iPad world, people expect more out of their tablets and the Wii U’s Gamepad doesn’t deliver the functionality the iPad or any other tablet currently offers. The Wii’s motion controller was something the masses had never been introduced to before. Touch controls and smaller screen games is something everyone’s seen before by this point.
The iPad also has another hook the Wii U doesn’t: it’s portable. I’m not ignoring the Wii U’s price in comparison to an iPad (where the Wii U does have the advantage) but once again, the iPad offers a lot more than the Wii U in terms of functionality and is portable. Even then, this is ignoring the 3DS which has been doing decently after its rocky launch in 2011. Why would someone purchase the Wii U when the 3DS is much cheaper and has a wider selection of games? I find it difficult to answer, especially if I’m a parent looking to purchase a console for my child.
Can Nintendo just throw a price cut at the problem? No, they can’t. It’s the “tree falls in the forest with no one around” problem. They can price cut the system to $200 and it wouldn’t help much because, again, the masses don’t know why they want a Wii U when they already have a Wii.
Can Nintendo throw games at the problem? Maybe. I think with the right game or collection of games that the Wii U can be turned around quite a bit. The problem is convincing people that the games are worth purchasing the system for. This is going to be increasingly difficult this year as all eyes will be on Microsoft and Sony. Things don’t look good for the Wii U moving forward unless they can grab some of the attention back they had a few years ago.
Is the Wii U dead? That’s Nintendo’s decision, not mine. I certainly hope it isn’t, but it all depends on whether or not can Nintendo make the right moves in the coming months.