It's been quite the year for Nintendo's latest Wii U home console. After an unspectacular launch, the successor to the insanely popular Wii has been hit with slow sales, lack luster consumer response and poor support from developers. One of the key points often brought up regarding the lack of popularity is due to a severe drought in software.
In a very un-Nintendo like move, acknowledgement of this was done several times during the 2013 E3 conference. Promising a strong line-up of software to promote hardware sales in the coming months, Nintendo saw a glimpse of validation upon the release of Pikmin 3. Leading the sales charts and providing a significant hardware sales increases across the board; Pikmin 3 was a hit.
Not surprising, the fire quickly burned out and failure to promote other key titles such as the incredibly awesome “The Wonderful 101” has led to yet another sales drought. Luckily, Nintendo has once again proven themselves correct, as the release of “The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD” has provided another massive bump in hardware sales.
How much of a bump? In the United Kingdom alone sales of Wii U consoles have increased 685% from last month. Now, all obvious jokes aside (“so they sold 685 Wii U’s?”), this is an incredible sales jump for a console that has done notoriously bad within the United Kingdom, so bad that major retailers have started to pull Nintendo products from their shelves.
This news could also be troublesome for a consumer looking for titles outside the Nintendo spectrum on the Wii U. Some third party developers have been very vocal, claiming that “only Nintendo games sell on Nintendo consoles;” consumer responses like this only validate them.
Worse so, it also promotes unoriginality from Nintendo. With new franchises like “The Wonderful 101” bombing in sales (even with Nintendo publishing it), it forces Nintendo to reuse tried and true IP’s. A catch 22 if you would – it’s great that Nintendo has found success in The Windwaker HD (and subsequent future Nintendo titles), it may honestly be one of the most beautiful titles ever created. However, with both Nintendo and third party publisher claims being validated, where does this leave Nintendo?
Do they continue down the path of guaranteed (diminishing) success and rehash the same franchises over and over again, or do they travel the road less taken and promote quality AAA titles like The Wonderful 101 in order to build their brand past Mario, Zelda and Pokemon?
Obviously, the best answer would be “both.” Sadly, with Nintendo refusing to expand their work force on top of their recent difficulty entering high-definition development, it seems all but guaranteed that old Nintendo will be the only Nintendo.
With third party developers pulling key features from upcoming titles such as "Batman: Arkham Origins" and "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag," it's a only matter of time before the titles are pulled all together (pending a change in sales this holiday season).
Hopefully Nintendo's recent surge in first party production and interest in indie-developed titles will provide the variety and growth the platform needs to be sustainable on both a development level and consumer value level given such a possibility.
A double edge sword; Nintendo needs to capitalize on their success while driving new franchises in the process. It's what built them in the past, it's what could save them in the future.