The Wii U isn’t having a great first year. Nintendo’s latest home console is struggling to find an audience, and its battles will only get tougher as Sony and Microsoft unleash their next-gen systems this fall.
Nintendo chief executive officer Satoru Iwata claims that the problem is all with him and his company, according to an interview with CNBC.
“We are to blame,” said Iwata. “We relaxed our [marketing] efforts, so the consumers today still cannot understand what’s so good and unique about the Wii U.”
That’s probably true, but it also might understate the problem. In June 2012, CNN reported that the Wii U is an add-on accessory for the original Wii console. It’s likely that perception is still widely held by more casual customers.
“Because we’re always trying to be unique, it takes some energies on our side to [make] people understand the real attractions about whatever we are doing,” said Iwata “We have [also] been unsuccessful in coming up with one single [game] with which people can understand [why Wii U is different].”
On the Wii, that game was Wii Sports. The minigame collection helped teach players the different control styles using universally familiar sports like tennis and golf. Iwata recognizes that Nintendo Land doesn’t do the same thing for Wii U’s tablet controller.
“As long as people have hands-on [experience], they can appreciate the value of the Wii U,” said Iwata. “But because there’s not software that’s simple and obvious for people as Wii Sports for the Wii, potential consumers do not feel like trying the Wii U. Our challenge today is with the software lineup we are introducing now, we have to encourage [people] to experience the Wii U in the first place.”
In the six months following Wii U’s November release, the publisher didn’t just fail to release a game comparable to Wii Sports — it had nearly no support for the device at all. Nintendo and its publishing partners pushed games like Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, and Rayman Legends out of the “launch window,” which extend until March.
Over the last three months, Wii U’s best-reviewed game, according to Metacritic, is Mutant Mudds Deluxe on its eShop download store. The only other notable releases for the system were multiplatform titles like DC fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us, HD remake Resident Evil: Revelations, and first-person shooter Sniper Elite V2.
Tomorrow, Nintendo will release New Super Luigi U, which is downloadable content for New Super Mario Bros. U. Beginning with that, Nintendo claims it will release at least one major game a month for the rest of the year. That includes Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Super Mario 3D World.
It’s a decent lineup, but it’s unlikely that any of those games will end up the Wii U’s Wii Sports — and that game almost certainly won’t come from Wii U’s waning third-party support.
Still, Iwata isn’t going to give up.
“I do not think we should become too pessimistic about the current situation with the Wii U,” said the executive. “I think we should pour that time and energy into our [development] efforts, so eventually we can encourage third-party [publishers] to want to support Nintendo.”