This is not an article regarding what Nintendo should do. This is not an article of what 3rd party developers should do. This is not an article about the hate or love for either side of the situation.
Good, I’m glad to get that off my chest. Whew. Ok, now I can get down to what this article is. Nintendo is in need of some decent 3rd party support, especially with bigger (in terms of sales) franchises. Matt Ryan of Nintendo of Canada recently sat down in an interview with Nintendo Enthusiast and spoke about needing this 3rd party support. Now, exclusives are an enormous “must-have” when competing with other systems, but 3rd party games help to drive sales and create bigger install bases.
So, what does this mean for Nintendo’s latest console on the market, the Wii U? Will it fall into obscurity and be replaced within the next couple of years? Will it forever remain a niche gaming machine, both loved and hated? Perhaps it will make a comeback? Let’s take a look at a couple things to give us a better view of the situation, which might help to answer those questions.
Does Nintendo need 3rd party support?
This is a tricky question, as we cannot predict the future, but it is a vital question to ask, nonetheless. The system has sold 6.68 million units since November 2012, which is a little over a year and a half since launch. This isn’t necessarily a bad number, but compared to the PS4 and Xbox One, these numbers are right down the middle; below total sales of the PS4, and above total sales for the Xbox One. The difference? Those other two systems have been out for only half the time. It is easy to fall into a pessimistic state of mind when speaking of Nintendo when looking at those numbers, but there is something often overlooked with the gaming masses.
I stated in a previous article that the numbers are correct, but being taken out of context. Since November 2013 (side note: I believe Nintendo should’ve released the Wii U – with a different name – at this time, rather than 2012), Nintendo have been doing much better. The first 6 months the Wii U was released were abysmal, save for the first two months after launch. However, the latter 6 month showed that Nintendo moved 82.96% of their overall stock of Wii U consoles for the fiscal year. Why the sudden change in sales?
Before answering that, let’s fast forward to May 2014. Mariokart 8 was released towards the end of the month, and it was incredibly hyped up. Nintendo’s marketing division had reached high levels of saturation, of which I have never seen before with Nintendo since it’s early days, and it was no surprise that the software not only pushed hardware incredibly (510,000 unit sold within a few months), but Mariokart itself sold 2.82 million copies in a very short amount of time. Software does move hardware; that’s rule number one in the gaming industry. So, again, why the sudden change in sales? Because good 1st party exclusive software was released: Zelda Wind Waker HD, Wonderful 101 (though it sold poorly), Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, DKC: Tropical Freeze, and Mariokart 8, all of which came out within the last year. Exclusive titles push sales all around, and this is proof. So, does Nintendo need 3rd party support? Well, once again, we have to ask one more question…
Does Nintendo even want 3rd party support?
As long as Nintendo continues to win gamers over with software, their systems and software sell incredibly well. There are plenty of titles on the way, both in the coming months and in 2015: Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 1 & 2, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Smash Bros. 4, (possibly) Fatal Frame U, Sonic Boom, Zelda U, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Devil’s Third, Splatoon, Mario Maker, and Star Fox U, to name the ones we know of. This is a fantastic lineup, which covers both the gamers who want new IPs, and those that crave older IPs revisited.
Yet, where are all the 3rd party games? Ubisoft continues to completely pull away from Nintendo, despite constantly stating otherwise, and games that sell incredibly well, like the Call of Duty series, are not confirming Wii U launch releases, or being pushed back to make way for all other systems, including last-gen consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3. Nintendo has money, and can most likely remedy the situation (for more on that, just do a search with the phrase “What Nintendo needs to do with 3rd party developers” to see everyone’s opinions). So why do these developers keep backing out, while indie developers keep piling in? This is what we know: Nintendo wants indie developers on their systems, and have made that very clear. With that being said, perhaps we can fill in the blank for larger 3rd party developers? I’m not so sure Nintendo really wants to deal with 3rd party developers anymore, other than those who already want to bring their games to the Wii U or 3DS.
Also, after the next batch of games are released this year (Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2, Sonic Boom, and Smash Bros. 4), we will get a better idea if Nintendo even needs 3rd party support. I’m going to go out on a limb – I know I’ll be in the minority here – and say that I don’t think they truly need massive 3rd party support.
It’s tough to say whether the Wii U will make a comeback or be replaced by another console within the next couple of years. In my opinion – which, honestly, probably doesn’t add up to much – the Wii U is here to stay, and will begin thriving this Fall/Winter. Mariokart 8 was the beginning, and the next few games will push the console right back into the forefront of gamer’s minds (in a positive way). Regardless of opinions, I think that these two questions are the most important at the moment, for both Nintendo and gamers alike. The rest of 2014, and the beginning of 2015 will be incredibly interesting; I believe we will get the true answers to these questions during this time, and will leave speculation behind.