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Nintendo Puts The Final Nail In The Wii U’s Coffin.

After twelve years, Nintendo has finally accepted the inevitable and put their wounded horse out of its misery. Earlier this week, the Big N announced that they have finally ran out of parts for their beleaguered Wii-U system. As a result, Nintendo has no choice but to discontinue the repair program for the little engine that couldn’t.

This ends an era of a rare and unexpected failure for Nintendo. There are many reasons for the system’s failure. You can’t point the finger at just one person. 

Without further ado, let’s navigate the long, sad road that led to the Wii U’s demise.

Nintendo Had A Disastrous Marketing Campaign

From the moment it was announced, nobody knew what to make of the Wii U and Nintendo never coherently articulated what it was to the general public. If you watch this advertisement, the focus seems to be on the Wii U GamePad. The system itself resembles a Wii. Putting those two visuals together and with how the announcer describes it; the commercial comes off more as an accessory for the already existing Wii, than it does for a new system. 

The name was a poor choice. Nobody ever explained what “U” stood for. There was nothing in the product’s name that would indicate that this is a follow up to the Wii. They could have gone the Playstation route and called it the “Wii 2” or they could have simply just called it “Wii HD” and that would have made the function of the system much more clear.

The Gamepad Is The Primary Controller And Was Supposed To Be A Selling Point For The Wii U. Poor Marketing Had People Thinking It Was An Accessory For The System’s Predecessor.

Nintendo marketed the original Wii system masterfully. They showcased the function of the systems. The features of the system were made very clear and they broadened the appeal of their brand. They didn’t just market to the typical gamer. They made video games cool for everyone from a toddler to a grandparent.

It was a brilliant ad campaign and it worked. The original Wii system sold over 101 million units.

With that being said, one has to ask… Where was the team that put together that campaign during the Wii U debacle?

It Was A Failure To Launch For Nintendo

Initially, The Wii U had what appeared to be a great launch. It sold 890,000 units in just six weeks. That put it on pace to be a launch that would be just as successful as the XBox 360, which sold 1.5 million units in its first 90 days.

Unfortunately, that would be the only good news that Nintendo would receive as far as sales go. After that burst of possibility that had Nintendo brimming with optimism, sales deteriorated. The Wii U only sold 64,000 units in February of 2013. They never gained the momentum from what was at first a successful launch.

“Nintendoland” Is Listed As One Of The Launch Titles For The Wii U. In Reality, It Is Just A Series Of Demos.

The drop off in sales had a lot to do with the scarcity of games for the Wii U. That is a respectable number, but it is also misleading. In that collection of 32 games, one game is Nintendoland which is pretty much just a demo game that teaches you how to use the Wii U.

A lot of the other games were outdated ports that most people already owned on other systems including:

  • Assassin’s Creed 3
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Ninja Gaiden 3

Other Titles At Launch Were Simply Inferior.

The customary Super Mario game was just a shot for shot remake of New Super Mario Bros. Wii Games like Madden 13 and Fifa 13 were just inferior ports of the games from the previous year. The one standout game in the launch library was ZombiU. ZombiU is a first person survival horror game from Ubisoft. It was fun, genuinely scary and made great use of the Gamepad.

“ZombiU” Was One Of The Best Titles In The Wii U Library At Launch. It Was Also One Of The Few Third Party Exclusives For The System.

Nintendo also did not utilize their illustrious first party line-up the way they should have at launch. Fan Favorites such as Mario Kart, Star Fox, Kirby and Donkey Kong didn’t have games on the platform until well after the sales for the Wii U crashed. Super Smash Bros. also had a late entry into the system’s library. Metroid didn’t even have a game and the only exclusive Zelda game for the platform was a remastered version of Windwaker. Zelda: Breath of the Wild was supposed to be a Wii U exclusive, but Nintendo chose to release it simultaneously with the Switch.

Nintendo has a first party library with unlimited potential. When it came to the Wii U, they ignored it.

The Lack Of Third Party Support Was Nintendo’s Death Knell

Nintendo has always had a contentious relationship with third party developers. By the time that Wii U was ready to launch, things would come to a head.

First, there was the infamous fallout with EA Games. In 2011 at E3, all seemed to be well. The boss of EA at the time, John Riccitiello appeared on stage with the bosses at Nintendo. He praised the technology that Nintendo used for the Wii U and declared that this would be an unprecedented relationship between Nintendo and EA.

Former EA President John Riccitiello Promised an “Unprecedented Relationship” between EA and Nintendo. I Reality, It Wasn’t Meant To Be.

Unfortunately, that statement aged like a glass of milk left out in Texas.

EA grew impatient with the slow sales numbers generated from the Wii U. While that is a valid reason for concern, the rift was caused by the quality of online play.

Nintendo’s Inferior Online Play Ended The Relationship.

Compared to Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo was miles behind as far as the quality of online play goes. Entering into the newly announced alliance with Nintendo, EA saw Nintendo’s online play as a problem. A large percentage of games in the EA library rely on online play in order to thrive. This led EA to declare that the Wii U will use Origin to power its online game play.

EA Wanted To Use Origin For The Wii U’s Online Play. Nintendo Disagreed And The Relationship Ended.

Nintendo, who is notorious for being cagey, did not agree with EA on this issue. Shortly after Nintendo shut down the idea, EA would sever the budding relationship with Nintendo. The “Unprecedented Relationship” resulted in EA only releasing four games for the Wii U, all of which were ports of already existing games.

Nintendo’s Fallout With EA Caused A Domino Effect

EA falling out with Nintendo was the beginning of the collapse of third party support for the Wii U. Ubisoft started off as one of the system’s biggest supporters. They gave Nintendo Exclusivity with ZombiU. The system got Assassin’s Creed 4, Watch Dogs was a joy to play with the gamepad, Ubisoft supported the system well. Then, they slowly pulled back. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Phantoms was unceremoniously cancelled and Nintendo lost exclusivity rights to the wildly popular Rayman: Legends. 

It didn’t end there.

  • Sega cancelled Aliens: Colonial Marines
  • THQ chose not to release The Avengers
  • 4A Games ceased development for a port of Metro: Last Light
  • Bandai Namco decided that the Wii U was not worthy enough for Pac Man Museum
  • WB games cancelled the highly anticipated Young Justice: Legacy
  • 505 games did finally release Sniper Elite V2. However, it was a barebones version with no extras or DLC that was being charged at full price.

The Director’s Cut Of “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” Is One Of The Best Games In The Wii U Library.

The list goes on. It is worth noting that Nintendo did maintain an exclusivity deal with Sega that kept Sonic on the Wii U platform for three games. PlatinumGames a subsidiary of Sega also gave the Wii U an exclusive with Bayonetta 2. As far as ports of older games go, Square Enix ported Deus Ex: Human Revolution to the Wii U with the director’s cut version. In my opinion, it is the best version of the game to be published. I am also of the opinion that it is one of the best games in the Wii U library.

Final Thoughts

The Wii U is a better system than it is given credit for. It was ahead of its time with dual screen play, and the gameplay is still a lot of fun. It has been twelve years since its release and I still have it hooked up to my TV. Unfortunately, poor marketing, bad business decisions and a weak library of games led to its demise. 

While it failed in the present and has become a white elephant for Nintendo, I believe that history will treat the Wii U kindly. The legacy it leaves behind will be akin to that of the Sega Dreamcast. It was a great machine, and a great concept. The problem with it was that the execution was abysmal.

So as the last few Wii Us get repaired, and the sun finally sets on this misunderstood, underrated machine; please allow me to wish it a fond farewell. It deserved a better fate than what it got.

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Thank You for reading! When I am not writing I enjoy skiing, video games, spending time with my four year old daughter Frances, and my loyal hound Marbles.  For more hot takes, follow me here.  You can also check out more of my content on my author’s page.

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