Dark clouds gathering over Nintendo - Macleans.ca

Dark clouds gathering over Nintendo

It’s looking more and more like the Wii U is a flop


It’s looking more and more like the Wii U is a flop, with at least one analyst describing it as such after Nintendo revealed disappointing sales numbers this week. The company was hoping to sell 5 million game consoles by March 31, but has now cut that projection to 4 million, with game expectations taking an even bigger downgrade – 16 million rather than 24 million.

The rising tide of mobile games in Asia is one factor for the slower sales. Anecdotally, the fact that it doesn’t really outshine existing competitors in any way is probably another.

Post Arcade had a telling story on Monday about another factor, the waning third-party support for the console. As with the company’s previous two consoles, the GameCube and Wii, support for the Wii U started out strong with its launch in November, but is now starting to lag.

While the lineup of third-party games for the initial launch was strong, the pickings are pretty slim over the next few months. As the Post story points out, many of the big upcoming titles – Grand Theft Auto V, BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider – are set for release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but not necessarily on Wii U.

The exception to this rule, as the article suggests, is France’s Ubisoft, which has so far released more games for the Wii U than any other third-party developer, and which seems to unwavering in its support.

“Our talented developers see new hardware as a chance to create a new game experiences, introduce new franchises and characters,” said Oliver Ernst, general manager of Ubisoft Canada. “This is really appealing to folks who buy the new systems, as proven by the fact that ZombiU is the number one third-party title worldwide on the Nintendo Wii U.”

That’s interesting because, in working on my Assassin’s Creed feature last year, a number of Ubisoft observers and ex-employees related the French company’s special relationship or “love affair” with Nintendo. Alain Tascan, former vice-president of production at Ubisoft Montreal, told me the two companies shared a philosophy of creativity over commerce. He also said that Ubisoft’s founders, the Guillemot brothers, have a sort of reverence for Super Mario and Donkey Kong creator Miyamoto, and that their first hit – Rayman – was indeed based on Super Mario.

A former Ubisoft creative director seconded that, saying the French company is “a bunch of artists trying to pretend that they’re businessmen, whereas a lot of other video game companies are a bunch of businessmen trying to pretend to care about art or entertainment for that matter, at least at the executive level.”

Ubisoft and Nintendo both have an “artiste mentality,” with the French company often asking itself, “What would Nintendo do?” he added.

Another former employee suggested the similarities between the two companies extend to the boardroom, with both companies being very closed to outsiders.

“The insularity [at Ubisoft] isn’t as strong as Nintendo, but you still feel it’s a European company with a headquarters in Paris.” This sometimes has adverse affects on the bottom line, he added, since outside viewpoints aren’t necessarily entertained at either company.

Despite all that, Ubisoft hasn’t said much in the way of Wii U for one of its next big games, Splinter Cell Blacklist, which was shown off to journalists at the Toronto studio this week. The game, which launches on Aug. 20, has been confirmed for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, but there’s been no talk of Nintendo’s console as of yet.

Ubisoft could still add a Wii U version of the game (which looks really impressive, by the way), but the fact that it’s not part of the plan from the outset must be disconcerting for Nintendo fans. If the console maker’s biggest supporter is wavering, it could be in for some real trouble.

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Dark clouds gathering over Nintendo

  1. They said the 3DS was going to be a flop. If it continues on selling at this rate it will become the best selling console ever.
    Every console scored a loss in its first few months only for that company to turn a profit through game sales.

  2. It sold over 3 million units in the first 45 days or so after it’s launch. (Nov 18 – Dec 31 2012) That’s only slightly less than the Wii did over a similar time frame and it did so at a price point almost 50% greater than the Wii.

    I’m thinking the so-called analyst might consider getting a clue.

    • all the analysts seem to just love to hate on Nintendo constantly,

  3. PS3 had a pretty slow start too when that came out, but now it’s doing pretty good…better late than never I guess…

  4. You are welcome to your opinion Peter but you are wrong….Nintendo wii u will be on top by the end of this year

  5. Considering the quality of Nintendo-produced games vs a majority of third party developers, I have no problem with them sticking with Ubisoft as a lead ‘outside’ developer. Some of the worst Nintendo-produced games were released during their Gamecube days when they were trying to find a new hook that wasn’t “platformer” (Mario and Luigi spraying/sucking up enemies?).

    90% of 3rd party console games that I wanted came out for PC, anyway. The ones that usually didn’t (Rock Star, Rock Band) had too much up-front gimmick costs. So I logically purchased the Wii (at the time). Grand Theft Auto/Bioshock I picked up on Steam for PC, or in-store (when it was still possible). So where did I drop my money? On the Wii; because I knew I wasn’t going to get Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros, Paper Mario, or just Mario on my PC (legally or illegally).

  6. There just aren’t any good games for it yet. I mean, there’s a single 2D Mario game but I’ve played 3 of those in the last few years, so it’s not worth a $400 (with tax and game) investment to me.

    When a selection of good first-party Nintendo titles arrive, I’ll probably buy one. Pikmin 3 and the Wind Waker refresh for starters. There are also an exclusive coming from the developer that made Xenoblade, and Bayonetta 2 might also be good.

  7. What the heck! How dare you saying Nintendo is evil because of Wii U and 3DS is a flop?!?! Stop insulting it!