When the Wii launched the immediate sales were mostly from hardcore gamers. It was a low enough price to buy alongside an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and they were excited to see how motion controls would work. We all thought it would be the new way to play games. Well, like most innovations, it turned out motion controls were amazing for certain games but pretty weak for others, but Nintendo was very good with marketing the game to non-gamers. Just as the hardcore gamers were moving on from the Wii, the casual players started getting into it. Suddenly millions of people who did not consider themselves gamers were playing games.
Unfortunately, Facebook and iPhone came out. Facebook was an immediate hit for casual players. The games were easy to pick up and play, just like their Wii games. They focused on social connections with Facebook friends, just as their favorite Wii games focused on local multiplayer with their friends. But these Facebook games were free-to-play. You no longer needed to buy a Wii and the games to play with friends. You could do it for free within your web browser. The Farmville craze took over.
Gaming on iPhones had a slower start because of that initial cost of the phone. An iPhone cost more than a Wii. Most casual players would not even consider it. However, that barrier disappeared when phone carriers started offering older iPhones free with their phone contracts. Just like Facebook games, iPhone games were cheaper than Wii games. The smartphones also had the advantage of fitting in your pocket. Casual players with their busy social lives had all their games available wherever they went.
The casual players had left console gaming. It is no surprise that the Wii U is having trouble lately. The key demographic that made Nintendo the most money with the Wii is largely gone. Some of them will undoubtedly buy or have already bought a Wii U, but Nintendo cannot expect much from them.
So that leaves the hardcore gamers. The problem is they do not seem to be buying the Wii U either. Sure, it had fairly good launch sales, but they have dried up. One explanation is the games. Since launch there have been no major game releases for Wii U. The most popular games have been Nintendo’s own Nintendo Land and Super Mario Bros U. Both have received pretty good reviews and sold fairly well, but both were also released on launch day.
The big releases everyone was waiting for after launch were Rayman Legends and Pikmin 3. Both were delayed. Rayman Legends has been delayed until September, so Ubisoft can release it as a multiplatform game. Pikmin 3 was delayed until Spring. I think it will meet that deadline even though Nintendo has still not given a concrete release date. The only game not delayed is Lego City: Undercover, but sadly, its sales are going to suffer very badly. It is not a big enough game to be a system seller, and all the attention is on Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles right now.
That attention has all the hardcore gamers in “wait-and-see” mode. That is, ultimately, a bigger explanation why hardcore players not buying the Wii U. They will not buy any consoles until they have seen what all three are capable of. Nintendo absolutely must get a big game released on Wii U that takes good advantage of the touch screen to compete with the launches of these upcoming consoles. If they do not the Wii U will continue to suffer and could possibly be another Gamecube. The Gamecube was a great console, but it never took off like the original Xbox and PlayStation 2. It was a dark period in Nintendo’s history.
Right now, the Wii U really does not have an audience. A rosier way to say that is the Wii U has not found its audience yet. Nintendo succeeding in this is going to be one-hundred percent up to them. The casual players are no longer there buying up every Nintendo game they come out with. Hardcore gamers are much more picky especially when they have the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 to think about. Nintendo needs to create truly innovative games that utilize the touch screen. The Wii U cannot compete on graphics, only great games using the touch screen.