Leading up to this year’s Electronics and Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, gamer’s excitement and level of anticipation built up to incredible levels as Nintendo’s unveiling of the next great home console grew near. No one outside of the inner circle at the Big N could have imagined what was going to be shown. Many are still shocked at how Reggie Fils-Aime was able to sound so optimistic as he showed of a piece of hardware that is reportedly only 50% more powerful than the Sony Playstation 3, which released in 2006. Nintendo is once again banking on the possibility of manufacturing hardware that’s cheap to produce in order to be profitable right away. They did this, and very successfully I might add, with the Nintendo Wii. There’s one problem though. The Nintendo Wii’s audience isn’t the same one being targeted with the new Wii U.
A lot of people with argue that Nintendo is unstoppable thanks to having the most established library of first-party intellectual properties in the business. Sure there’s no denying that Super Mario and Zelda can move units along with a supporting cast of Donkey Kong, Kid Icarus, Kirby and others. However, if you look at the Nintendo Wii and its sales numbers, the traditionally strong titles were not the system movers. It was casual software that moved hardware. Wii Sports (76.76 million), Wii Sports Resort (27.68 million) and Wii Play (27.38 million) are the top 3 games sold on the console. Wii Sports is a pack-in title, but it can’t be ignored considering how often Nintendo used it in commercials to sell consoles.
Wii Fit (22.61 million) and Wii Fit Plus (18.49 million) are the fifth and seventh best selling games on the console respectively. Nintendo wants the Wii U to appeal to “core” gamers. This cuts out most of your established Wii audience right away. The Nintendo Wii was displayed and shown at medical conferences and retirement expos for hospitals and retirement homes to consider purchases thanks to its “casual” appeal. Retirees won’t find the new Wii U controller with a screen too appealing.
Besides Nintendo’s clear misunderstanding of what made the Wii successful, the timing is horrible. The plan to launch the system in 2012 and initially showing it at E3 2011 has provided both Microsoft and Sony a full year to counter attack Nintendo’s publicity and effectively kill the Wii U before it even launches. Sony has the new PS Vita handheld which pretty much turns the PS3 into a Wii U. The PS Move already created the Wii HD and began converting casual gamers last year. Microsoft is rumored to be working on the next Xbox console and history has proven that they’re willing to rush to market if they have to. So Nintendo faces E3 2012 with almost no hope of success. Sony has a full year to build and create an interface linking the PS3 and Vita in the same way Wii U does with its “controller”. Microsoft has the same amount of time to complete research and development on the “neXt Box” and have something to show at E3 2012.
When you’re launching a new piece of hardware in 2012, the last thing you want is for you direct competitors to have the upper hand. Nintendo has provided Sony and Microsoft with just that. E3 2011 might have been a letdown, but thanks to Nintendo’s inept business sense, E3 2012 will almost assuredly be spectacular thanks to Sony and Microsoft’s year long cushion to counter Nintendo’s Wii U announcement.