Since the launch of the 3DS and Wii U, Nintendo has struggled to retain its hold on game market dominance, previously made possible by its massively popular Wii and DS systems. The last thing the company’s floundering sales needed was the recent $30.2 million patent infringement lawsuit on the glasses-free 3D technology used in the 3DS, which may or may not have hurt its pride as much as its bank account.
Don’t get me wrong–I am a Nintendo fan through and through if there ever was one. But I also grew up playing a Sega Genesis. And I probably don’t need to remind you of what happened there. But while Nintendo is by no means out of the competition and will not be for some time (if ever), less than ideal sales and a recent lack of original title releases have left the company facing an increasingly uncertain future.
Perhaps Nintendo was a bit too optimistic about the success of the DS when they launched their most recent handheld, as the company seemed to largely disregard the skepticism and to an extent a discomfort with its 3D technology. Even with the assistance of big-name titles like Zelda and cash cows like Nintendogs, the 3DS performed so poorly that Nintendo slashed prices by a whopping 80USD after only six months on the shelves. Even after price cuts, the PS Vita leads in handheld sales in Japan (although to be fair, Sony has not had a spectacular year by any means). But with promised titles of games like Phoenix Wright 5, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Pokémon X and Y, at least the 3DS has a more promising lineup than that of its console companion.
The Wii U, the first in the new generation of consoles which will include the PlayStation 4 and Xbox “Durango,” has experienced problems of its own. Regardless of promising sales at launch, recent numbers have fallen embarrassingly short of its projected sales. In line with corporate planning, Nintendo actually takes a loss every time it sells a Wii U system, but is boosted into the black again every time it makes a software sale.
It’s no secret that game sales are its money maker, and herein lies the problem.
Following the release of its newest generation of systems, Nintendo has heavily invested in third party publishers in order to diversify its offerings and cater to hardcore gamers. This was great news to all of those nostalgic Nintendo fans like myself who sit impatiently through tutorial after hand-holding tutorial in games that are top notch but are, admittedly, geared toward a younger audience. But as much fun as it is to play Assassin’s Creed III on Wii U, I honestly wouldn’t have bothered if I had owned a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.
The system was released with a weak lineup: several ports of good games, but nothing distinctly original. The Wii U is a fantastic system, and while it has its issues (see: system updates), its processing power is nothing to sneeze at, and it has potential in terms of online capabilities and innovative use of the game pad. Why Nintendo has yet to take advantage of this is another question entirely, and one that will hopefully be answered come June.
Only time can tell what will happen to the iconic video game corporation, but the key to bolstering sales lies in its software, not its gimmicks. Releases like Mass Effect 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 are wonderful, but many Nintendo fans are in it for the classics. We want Zelda (not just a Windwaker port), a Mario adventure game, or at least some indication that Super Smash Bros. is still in the works. Whatever Nintendo does, it needs to build some consumer confidence and do so quickly.
And with E3 only a few months away, Nintendo is going to have to step up its game if it doesn’t want to take a back seat to the rising presence of Microsoft and Sony.