Last night Nintendo announced that sales for the Wii U are going to be well below expectations for fiscal year 2013, and despite the one year head-start it appears that it will fall behind newcomers PS4 and Xbox One sometime in 2014 (in terms of units sold).
So why is the Wii U faltering? Is it the console’s price or lack of games? Is there brand confusion with the previous Wii console? Are the Wii U’s specs not powerful enough for the long haul? Depending on who you ask it could be one thing or all of the above. Regardless, the Wii U is selling about as well as the doomed Sega Dreamcast, which doesn’t bode well for its future.
Here are some suggestions to help Nintendo’s flagship console:
1. Installment Pricing. A price drop would help, and that’s usually the go-to solution for most consoles during their lifetime. Seeing as the Wii U just got a $50 price cut September (which did help), I feel a creative solution to console sales might be helpful: offer the Wii U at $99 down, with the remainder paid in small installments ($9.99 a month for 20 months). The $100 price point is attractive to gamers, as it leaves them with some cash for games. Plus everyone is conditioned to small monthly fees these days, so a Netflix-like hit for 20 months is manageable, even for the most frugal gamers. And if you can sweeten the deal with some free game downloads or 3 months of free Netflix (like the Chromecast device), it will be a bargain.
This approach was tried by Microsoft stores in the USA for the Xbox 360 a few years ago. It appears they no longer do this, which is a shame because I think it would benefit their new Xbox One (currently $500!) immensely.
2. Nintendo Game License Access. One of the more common complaints against Nintendo (dating all the way back to the Nintendo 64) is that only Nintendo games sell on Nintendo platforms. I believe one way to address this is to give large publishers FREE access to first-party licenses (StarFox, F-Zero, Metroid, Punch-Out!!) that would remain exclusive to the Wii U. For example, Nintendo lets Capcom make a Metroid game, Capcom shoulders the financial costs but gains all the profit. Nintendo gets another hit game that helps move Wii U units.
I believe publishers would love this because first-party Nintendo games sell very well. Also Nintendo has a huge stable of licenses, some of which are neglected (StarFox), so granting other developers access to these properties is a win-win. With this system Nintendo gains a large library of exclusives titles, which are released at a higher frequency. Nintendo would still make the majority of first-party titles of course, but can there ever be enough Nintendo games? NO.
3. Instant Library. One of Nintendo’s biggest arsenals is their huge backlog of games. Why they just don’t give out a bunch of 8-bit or 16-bit games with each console mystifies me. Their recent game, NES Remix, features snippets of classic games, but at $15 the full games should have been included too. If the Wii U included some free classic games, it would offer more value and entice folks to grab more games in the eShop.
4. More HD Re-Releases. I’m a little surprised Nintendo hasn’t taken a bunch of recent Wii games and re-released them in HD for the Wii U. The right approach is to not double-dip customers (e.g. offering Mario Galaxy HD for $59), but to offer 3 or 4 titles on a single disc at a value price ($29 – $39). Savvy gamers won’t ignore that kind of deal, and those who haven’t played the games previously will snatch up these bundle discs right away. Many Wii and GameCube games would get new life on the Wii U.
5. A Device That Would Enable DS/3DS Games. People want this! And who can blame them? Adding more functionality and additional game libraries are things gamers love. This idea is bit of a pie-in-the-sky right now, but completely do-able. I would also welcome peripherals that would enable other platforms too, like the GameCube or Game Boy Advance.
6. Maybe A Name Change. The Wii was very successful, but I feel the console ultimately left a bad impression on many people. The motion controls were reduced to “waggling” in most games, the majority of Wii games were half-baked mini game collections, and the good games were few and far between. In my opinion the Wii was a “fool me once” console for most gamers, causing the Wii U name to carry the “fool me twice” label. For whatever reason Nintendo decided to anoint the Wii name again, and I think it backfired here. While there might be some confusion of the name Wii U to the Wii for a very small number of people, there is no getting past the Wii legacy for many others.
Unfortunately a name change is almost impossible at this point. But I can guarantee you the next Nintendo console (which will probably arrive sooner than you think*), will not carry the Wii moniker.
7. Get Rid Of Region-Locking. This one baffles me, as it restricts gamers from buying Wii U games (and peripherals) from other countries. Ultimately it’s helping Nintendo’s bottom line, so denying gamers this flexibility is perplexing to say the least. I’m guessing retailers fought for this, because this wouldn’t harm publishers or Nintendo. A bad decision that should be reversed if you want to win over customers.
8. Controller And Game Bundles. One of the biggest successes the Wii had was selling a game called Wii Play, which came with a Wiimote. This was genius, as many people looking for a second Wiimote snatched up this value bundle, which was essentially a free game with a controller (or vice versa). I feel this approach is worth repeating for the Wii U, as many folks are seeking Wiimotes and Controller Pros for their Wii Us anyways, so offer them more value and throw in a game to boot. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but gamers love value. Value value value!
9. Announce A Pokémon MMO For The Wii U. The internet would break but this would be the system’s killer app. Actually, the Wii U could use any killer app, something that is not a retread (like Mario Kart or Smash Brothers). Playing it safe with Mario and Zelda games will keep the Wii U from completely tanking but Nintendo needs something new to captivate gamers.
Do you have any ideas to help the Wii U? Also what’s kept you from buying one?
*Just like the first Xbox, I feel the Wii U will only have a 4-year lifespan until it is replaced, especially if it continues to sell at a pace like this.