Wii U’s Commercial Success is Up in the Air

I’m reasonably sure that 99.9% of you know that Nintendo’s hotly anticipated new console, the Wii U, is coming out some time in Q4 this year, likely in time to meet the Christmas rush.

However, what’s not assured is that the console will live up to the business expectations Nintendo will be facing after the success of the Wii. Granted, all us hardcore Nintendo fans will love it, and we’ll be on board… but the previous console set expectations so high that it’s unlikely they can be met, let alone surpassed.

When the Wii was released, it literally revolutionized the video game console space; no one had ever released anything even close to the unique control interface, and that created a scenario where not only the traditional gamer market was picking up Wii consoles, but the unique interface and the fun it brought was accessible to just about anyone. This made it the must-have device that you couldn’t keep on retailers’ shelves for months.  The change and sales it drove were so dramatic that the competition was all but forced to release their own motion control interfaces as quickly as they could… and in some cases, blatantly ripping off the Wii’s design, only making token changes.

I remember back near release, friends and family members of mine who had never had or shown any interest in video games whatsoever were buying Wiis, or couldn’t wait to be able to get their hands on one.

That frenzied situation will almost be impossible to create again, for a number of reasons.

First of all, after all these non-gamers bought their Wii console, the vast majority of them used them for a while, and then it because something that sat and collected dust in their house.  The console just wasn’t able to galvanize the typical non-gamer and turn them into a gamer. It was a new toy that was played with and enjoyed for a while, but then was set aside when the next thing caught their interest.

Secondly, while the Wii U is exciting for gamers — having an interesting new control mechanic that we’re all hoping developers can put to good use, not to mention more third party support than the first console — it’s not terribly exciting for the non-gamer. Revolution, like the kind the Wii brought, does not happen often and we’re not likely to see that happen again anytime soon in the console gaming space.

That being said, the Wii U does have some things going in its favour.  Nintendo all but ignored hardware specs when developing the Wii, to the point where some critics, upon release of the system spec, referred to it as a “GameCube on steroids.”  The low hardware specs really hurt the Wii’s third party support, and this time around they are doing it right with an HD console that has already piqued developers’ interests.

Last cycle, the Wii was the last console to come out (other than in Europe), and this time around Nintendo will be the first next gen console to hit the market, something that has history has shown can made a big difference.  No official release time frame has been released from Microsoft or Sony for their new consoles, but it’s a safe bet that the earliest we could see a new Xbox or Playstation will be Christmas 2013. That would give the Wii U a year’s head start, and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact that has on sales.

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s feasible for the Wii U to hit the sales numbers that the Wii was able to attain, but it still has a number of advantages going into this next round of the console wars. It’s possible that this could help it become a commercial success… and perhaps even the winner of the 4th gen wars too!


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Author: Dave View all posts by
Dave will tell you that he likes to play video games, this is in fact a lie. What he really likes to do is buy games, and leaving them sitting unopened on his shelf. He is a monster.

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