Whenever a new console comes out, it is an exciting time. I like to follow the sales numbers and watch for unique games coming out. So naturally, I have been watching Wii U, but Nintendo is between a rock and a hard place. See, Nintendo has been making innovations with their hardware for almost a decade now. The Nintendo DS added a second screen with touch controls, the Wii added motion controls, the Nintendo 3DS added stereoscopic 3D to games, and finally, the Wii U adds a tablet controller.
The problem is those innovations directly push away the third party developers Nintendo tries so hard to get making games for their consoles. Publishers are out to make money. They make far more money if they can make one version of the game on the dominant console platform and then quickly port it to the other consoles. Profit margins are so low with most games these days, they just cannot afford to make a custom, unique port for the Nintendo systems.
The Wii U by being unique with the tablet controller forces publishers to either go all in or all out. While they could just port the games without supporting the tablet screen at all, I get the feeling Nintendo requires developers to make some use of it. The developers either have to make almost a new game from the ground up that works well with the Wii U tablet, or they just skip the Wii U. Guess which one is easier?
Now, the Nintendo DS and Wii did seem to get around this problem. The fact is they were extremely popular systems, so popular that developers could justify making a special port just for the DS or Wii. If you have 80 million systems sold, publishers can pretty much guarantee they will sell hundreds of thousands of units. There is still a risk they might just break even on the port, but with that many systems in people’s homes, there is a good chance they will make a profit.
The Wii U is starting out slow. It does not have the sales numbers to get publishers to port games for it. They feel like they have to make a unique game just for the Wii U. Otherwise, players will just buy the game for the other popular consoles, and the publisher’s money spent porting it was wasted. Remember that the 3DS had similar problems. It had a slow start, even slower than the Wii U, and did not really start selling until the price cut and the new Mario came out.
Until the Wii U’s sales go up, it is going to have trouble getting multiplatform games. While Wii U is doing better than the 3DS, it is still possible Nintendo may do an early price cut. Nintendo has stated they will not be doing this for the Wii U, but there is still a chance around E3 or the holidays depending on where the sales are at. It will largely depend on new iterations of Nintendo’s classics (Mario, Zelda, Metroid, etc.) to prop up Wii U sales. I am expecting one big Nintendo game for 2013’s Christmas season.