Is Nintendo Playing Possum Or Have They Run Out Of Steam?
The Wii U’s launch has been a strange one to say the least. After Nintendo announced their new console at E3, we assumed it would be the start of a media blitz to explain and hype the new machine. After E3, Nintendo went quiet, and we waited patiently for Nintendo to kick off the advertising campaign that would sell the public on their new machine. And then we waited patiently some more, and some more. Before we knew it, it was time for the Wii U to launch. The marketing campaign seemed to be limited to a few commercials, in store demos of Rayman Legends (a game not even available at launch), and an appearance on Jimmy Fallon.
Nintendo’s lack of a marketing push has continued even after the launch of the console. After the holiday, one might expect Nintendo to try to keep the Wii U’s momentum by showing off their Q1 and Q2 lineups. Instead… nothing. Games like Wii Fit U, Pikmin 3, and Lego City Undercover that may help the Wii U’s sales still have no solid release date. As far as we know, the next major Wii U title, Rayman Legends, won’t be available until late February. Beyond the Wii U launch window lineup, we know that Smash Bros. is on its way, but we haven’t seen any actual footage or pictures of the product. Nintendo has kept mum on any Mario Kart, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, or Donkey Kong games on the way, and they haven’t been forthcoming about new IPs either. Keep in mind that when the Wii came out, we already had our first glimpse of future games like Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3.
All this begs the question, what the hell is Nintendo doing? Why have they been so secretive, and why are they seemingly content to lie back. I have two competing theories on this matter.
Theory 1: Nintendo Is Playing Possum
Hype and buzz wear off quickly, especially in today’s rapid fire hardware market. It’s hard to bottle excitement, and even the most successful products, such as the Kinect, can lose their sheen quickly. Perhaps Nintendo is trying to save their big push for when they’ll need it most.
Michael Pachter once said that Nintendo fans will buy a box that says Nintendo on it. As much as I hate to admit it, he’s right about that one. If Nintendo makes a product that plays games, I’m going to buy it in almost any circumstance. I love Nintendo games, and the only way to play them is by buying Nintendo consoles. There are a decent amount of guys and gals like me, and they made up a good portion of the 2 million Wii Us that have been sold so far. The point is that it didn’t really matter whether the Wii U was launched with Nintendo Land and Sing Party, or it was released with Zelda, Mario Galaxy, Smash Bros, and Battlefield 4 as an exclusive title. Either way, I was going to buy it. People like me were bound to be the first to buy the Wii U, so why spend tons of money preaching to the choir?
Going all out on the Wii in its first holiday season might have been a poor choice. This is a tactic than Sega tried way back with the Dreamcast. The Dreamcast had the best launch lineup in gaming history which helped the console see great early success. However, soon after the Dreamcast’s launch, hype for the upcoming Playstation 2 swallowed the Dreamcast whole. By the time the PS2 actually came out, the Dreamcast’s initial popularity had worn off, and even Shenmue wasn’t enough to take the spotlight off of the PS2.
Perhaps, Nintendo was worried about peaking too soon, and having nothing to combat the hype that the Xbox 720 and PS4 will surely generate. Imagine for a moment what could happen this year’s E3. Microsoft and Sony will show off their launch lineup which will likely include ports and rushed titles as launches usually do. What if, at this time, Nintendo shows off a 3D Mario title or Zelda title, a true casual focused title from Miyamoto that makes good on the promise of the Wii U Gamepad, and a new IP from Retro? Nintendo could be in the position of having their more polished second wave titles going against Microsoft and Sony’s launch lineup which could minimize the perceived gap between the system’s respective power levels (a term I use intentionally), and could steal Microsoft and Sony’s thunder, especially in regards to the casual audience. In other words, why wear out all your best players before your opponent has taken the field?
The situation could mirror the situation that played out earlier this year with the Playstation Vita. The Vita’s launch lineup was leagues better than the 3DS’s in terms of both quality and quantity. If the devices launched at the same time, buying a Vita over a 3DS would have been a no brainer. However, when the Vita came out, the 3DS was nearing the end of its first year. It had Mario Kart, it had Super Mario 3D Land, and games like Resident Evil Revelations, Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, and Kid Icarus: Uprising were right around the corner. The Vita’s first year was no weaker than the 3DS’s, and perhaps a little bit better, but it was compared, fairly or unfairly, to a system that had a year head start. Similarly, if the Wii U brings its A game against its rivals launch lineup, Nintendo can make things hard for their competitors.
Nintendo might be holding back. They might have a killer app that shows why the Gamepad is essential, but they’re holding it back for fear of Sony and Microsoft making similar technology a focus of their next consoles. Nintendo may also be saving their best Wii U ideas to help them derail the PS720 hype train. That’s one theory. Of course, there is another possibility.
Theory 2: Nintendo Is Run By Chimps
My second and far more troubling theory is that the Wii U launch was actually Nintendo giving their 100% effort. Perhaps Nintendo truly believed that Nintendo Land would be the Wii U’s killer app, and that New Super Mario Bros. U alone would be enough to sell a console. Maybe Nintendo has been coy about their post launch window lineup because they don’t have much to look forward to beyond the launch period.
It’s possible that Nintendo simply miscalculated. When Nintendo launched the Wii, they hadn’t had anyone outside the company try the device. They were confident enough in the technology that they were willing to launch it with no consumer testing. What if Nintendo tried the same trick again, but this time the results were different?
What Do You Think?
So, what’s your take on the matter? Is Nintendo taking it slow with the Wii U in order to make a big move when they need it most? Or, is Nintendo simply not in touch with what the market is looking for? Let your opinion be known.