2016 is potentially the end of the road for the Wii U.
Nintendo is going to end production of its latest home console, according to a report from Japanese newspaper Nikkei — although the hardware manufacturer told Japanese site It Media this is not an official announcement. This will essentially put the struggling system out of its misery as the gaming company shifts from Wii U and the aging 3DS handheld to mobile games (like Miitomo) and its upcoming dedicated NX device. The report goes on to say (as translated by gaming analyst Serkan Toto of Kantan Games) that Nintendo has already stopped making certain Wii U accessories. This makes sense. The Wii U has fallen far behind its Microsoft and Sony competition despite having a one-year headstart. In a gaming industry worth $99.3 billion, Nintendo doesn’t want to give up any more ground while putting money into a sinking platform.
GamesBeat has reached out to Nintendo for comment. While the company’s American division has not yet responded, a spokesperson did tell IT Media that this is “not an announcement from the company” and Nintendo “plans to continue production through the next fiscal period and beyond.” We’ve also requested that Nintendo clarify that translation because “fiscal period” could refer to the next quarter from April through July or the entire 12-month period of April through March.
1) The Nikkei just reports Nintendo will stop producing Wii U within 2016. It doesn't say they will necessarily start selling NX in 2016.
— Dr. Serkan Toto (@serkantoto) March 22, 2016
The Nikkei report, however, claims that Nintendo will fully announce the NX this year, which is something the company has said in the past. But ending Wii U production suggests Nintendo could potentially launch the successor this year. We’ve seen lots of evidence pointing to a 2016 launch for the NX, and this is just the latest piece on that pile.
As for the Wii U, 2016 is only its fourth year on the market. Microsoft’s original Xbox and Sega’s Dreamcast are the only other major console release to have such stunted runs. Like with those systems, Nintendo never established the Wii U as a viable platform for the mass market. The company set it apart with its odd tablet-like controller, but that and everything else about it felt a step behind products from Apple, Microsoft, and Sony.
Quickly after the Wii U debuted, third-party publishers like Electronic Arts reportedly sent back their Wii U development kits. This led to a machine that primarily existed to play Nintendo first-party games.
The Wii U does have some standout hits. Super Mario 3D World is one of the best platforming games ever. Splatoon is an exciting, hip new shooter that shows Nintendo now understands online multiplayer. Mario Kart 8 is probably the best entry in that series. Bayonetta 2 is one of the finest action games ever made. And Super Mario Maker is an incredible experience that won GamesBeat’s Game of the Year awards in 2015.
Looking ahead, the Wii U still has a few noteworthy releases coming this year. Star Fox: Zero hits April 22. Paper Mario: Color Splash also has a 2016 release date. But, of course, the most anticipated game is The Legend of Zelda. Nintendo has delayed that action-adventure hit a few times, but it has most recently said that it will come out for Wii U in 2016. But it also seems more likely than ever that the game could also end up simultaneously coming out for the NX, which is something fans have speculated about for the last year.
Regardless of when production ends or what happens with Zelda, the Wii U will have a murky legacy. It is clearly one of Nintendo’s greatest failures, but it also has some truly wonderful games. And while it seems primed to have a quick exit, I don’t regret buying mine.
Updated on March 23 at 11 a.m. Pacific time with Nintendo statement to IT Media.