Nintendos and Ninten-don'ts
Oh Nintendo, whatever are we going to do with you.
To say this has been an interesting year for the Big N would be an understatement. Everybody may be going on about "Playstation this" and "Xbox that," but other than maybe Microsoft's complete inability to generate press, Nintendo has had the most compelling story of the last year.
Consider, for instance, the fact that the best selling videogame console of 2013 was not the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One. It was the Nintendo 3DS.
Coming off of an underwhelming launch in 2012, it looked like Nintendo's longstanding dominance in the handheld market was coming to an end. The system sold so poorly that Nintendo had to impose a price cut. It looked like there was no room left for a dedicated handheld gaming device in a world of smart phones and tablet computers.
But then 2013 happened and Nintendo reminded the world how they became the king of gaming companies in the first place. "Super Mario 3D Land," "Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds," and, most importantly, "Pokemon X and Y."
With one smash hit after the other, the 3DS went from being an underdog to a powerhouse in the blink of an eye.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the Wii U. Which is a shame, since the Nintendo's latest home console system has finally started to come into its own as well.
I can't tell you how many times in the last six months I've been asked "Which next-gen system would you get?" Clearly, the implication is that I would have a preference between the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4, but I really don't. Gun-to-my-head, I'd probably go with the PlayStation 4, but if I had $500 of disposable income I wouldn't spend it on anything from Sony or Microsoft.
I'd get a Wii U.
Like the 3DS, the Wii U is slowly building up a library of fantastic games that you can't play anywhere else. For me, Nintendo is one new Zelda announcement away from sealing the deal.
The problem is that I'm apparently the rare exception. Wii U sales have been abysmal and there's no chance that the system will see the same resurgence that the 3DS had this year. I'm afraid the damage has been done.
You can largely blame it on Nintendo's astoundingly poor marketing. Many of those hundreds of thousands of people that bought the Nintendo Wii back in 2006 still don't realize that the Wii U is a new system. Say what you will about Microsoft and the Xbox One, at least the public knows what it is.
Launching a full year ahead of the competition did them no favors either. While I'm sure somebody at Nintendo thought it would be great to have a twelve month head start on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, all they really did was ensure that their already underpowered system would be seen as old and obsolete compared to their primary competition.
And that seems to be the center of Nintendo's problem. What Nintendo thinks is a good idea has little resemblance to reality. In a recent financial release, it was revealed that Nintendo has revised their 2013-14 sales estimate for the Wii U from 9 million units down to 2.8 million. That means somebody at Nintendo actually thought that the Wii U would sell more than three times the amount it actually did. And gave that prediction number to Nintendo's investors.
The disassociation with reality is staggering. Even the 3DS, which has been performing outstandingly, failed to hit Nintendo's predictions by nearly half a million units.
I really don't know what Nintendo can do to fix this. It's too late to introduce a new console to the market and while many, myself included, have called on Nintendo to get out of the hardware business all together, that's not a realistic option. At this point, Nintendo will simply have to ride out this generation and keep the damage to a minimum. They're not even fighting for third place anymore. They're fighting for survival.
There are a handful of things Nintendo could do to help get them through, but they all depend on the company treating the market the way it is and not the way they want it to be.
Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and will happily Street Pass with you 3DS owners out there.