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I seem to be back in familiar territory as the owner of a Nintendo console. Having owned a Wii U for about three months, I’m now staring at a machine I really have no reason to turn on again for at least another month. Now, I learned long ago not to hang my hat solely on Nintendo to scratch the old gaming itch, but I think I spend as much time wiping dust away from the consoles with a damp paper towel as I do playing them.
I’m not sure how long the folks at Nintendo think people spend on a handful of games; I think I’m safe to say it isn’t four months. I’ve played through New Super Mario Bros. U, I’ve run my course with Zombi U, I’ve…well…those are the only two games I had an interest in playing when I bought the system, having played the ports on other consoles. I bought my son the Wii U version of Assassin’s Creed III for the benefit of the GamePad’s off-screen play, and I decided to go for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on the system because I was curious about how the console would run it. Done and done.
So here we are, night after night, the Wii U stays in standby mode, and the GamePad has been fully charged for days. It’s day was to come again later this month with Rayman Legends, but no, now we’ll wait longer while Ubisoft corrects a mistake in its business plan and takes the game multi-platform. And Nintendo said this wouldn’t happen.
In this time spent not playing games on the Wii U, I’ve come to realize the fatal flaw in Nintendo’s business model for the console. It is relying on third party developers and publishers to come through with innovative games that are only possible on the Wii U platform. In case you missed that, Nintendo wants companies who spend millions of dollars making games to create content that can only be played on one of the three available consoles. That’s asking publishers to leave a lot of money on the table. You can accuse developers of being lazy for not innovating with Wii U all you want; the fact is it’s simply not a prudent business practice for companies to spend resources on a product that won’t translate well across platforms.
Ubisoft, I think, learned this with the afore-mentioned Rayman Legends and made a huge PR gaffe in the process. For all the jabs people make about Nintendo being behind the curve on graphics and online connectivity, it seems the company’s biggest mistake was building a system that is inherently set up to take advantage of exclusivity, just when the practice is take a major step back in the industry. And even with all this innovation, Nintendo hasn’t proven capable of getting anyone excited about anything other than its first-party games.
If people are more excited about your software than your hardware, what’s the logical course of action here? As little as a year ago, I never would have suggested Nintendo abandon developing its own home consoles. Now? I think it would be beneficial from a business standpoint to study it after the Wii U runs its cycle.