The goose is cooked, my friends. Nothing short of a video game industry style Christmas Miracle will take the Wii U from the bottom of the new generation console pile to the top.
It's not going to happen.
Nintendo released its Fiscal Year 2013 results, and the Wii U underperformed. The system has a strong attachment rate, which is good news, but the sales of the actual hardware are downright abysmal. Even worse, Nintendo finally lowered their expectations for how the Wii U will perform in the future.
The flailing machine, according to the company that makes and sells it, will likely move only 3.6 million units over the course of FY 2014. That's low. That's anemic. That's a console on its last legs.
Before you go running to your nearest "This Guy Hates Nintendo, Grab The Torches" themed eatery and watering hole, I ask that you hold on. I like Nintendo quite a bit. I grew up with the company. I would love for them to stick around as long as I'm alive.
I think the Wii U is far from saving at this point. The turnaround in sales requires a turnaround in perception, and I don't think the consumer base will ever get over the bad naming, awkward pricing and horrific launch to actually enjoy the system.
I Love My Wii U
Let me make this clear: I enjoy my Wii U currently more than any other home console I own. Next to my PC, the machine has recently been the one I play most consistently alone, with friends and with family. I've only booted up the other consoles to review games, but I turn to my Wii U for nostalgia trips, forays into modern hits and party games.
It's been an awesome purchase for my household. I've dumped more time into the likes of Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Wii Party U, Wind Waker HD and even the upcoming Mario Kart 8 than I have really into anything else.
In fact, my Wii U collects less dust, as the adage goes, than my Wii did. I think Nintendo's core games on the Wii U are miles better than they were on the Wii. There was no Pikmin exclusively for the Wii, and Pikmin 3 is a blast on the Wii U. Mario Galaxy and its sequel were great, but I personally enjoyed Super Mario 3D World more. Then there's The Wonderful 101. Did the Wii have anything as challenging and original from Nintendo during its lifespan?
Mario Kart 8 feels like an apology for Mario Kart Wii. It's that much better.
So, we have a system that's actually producing fun games without any third party support at all. Aside from independent developers, most third party companies seem to have completely given up on the Wii U. That only fuels the issues at hand. Some gamers won't touch the Wii U without amazing third party content, and third party pubs won't put their games out on a machine without a massive customer base.
Chicken and egg sort of deal, right?
My Biggest Fear for the Wii U is Nintendo Giving Up
The Wii U is a great little system. I'd argue that, given its library against the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One's, the Wii U is currently the best new generation value in console gaming. It probably won't stay that way, but it's been the case since this past holiday, and I wrote about it back then.
Given Nintendo's recent forecast of only moving 3.6 million units this year, which is completely realistic, I'm genuinely afraid that the company is going to let the console slip away.
If the Wii U is on life support right now, the machine beating its heart and keeping its owners happy is solely Nintendo. No third party publishers are putting games of Nintendo's caliber out on the Wii U now or in the near future. It's Nintendo putting out Mario, Mario Kart, Pikmin and the future Zelda title. Those are the games that are keeping the Wii U alive.
My fear is that Nintendo sees the grim future of the console as a reason to stop supporting it and move on to the next thing. They'll finish developing all the stuff that's near completion, like Super Smash Bros., and then it'll put the Wii U in a small boat on a pile of sticks, kick it into a river and ask a nearby viking to fire a flaming arrow at it from the shore.
I'm afraid that Nintendo is ready to give up.
Nintendo pumped an additional $180 million into Research & Development in FY '13. Maybe that's the company's upcoming quality of life product, or maybe it's a brand new home console to replace the Wii U. Either way, they're shifting focus. I just hope that they continue to support the Wii U or that their new console has backwards compatibility.
Nintendo's current home offering has too many great games out or in the pipeline for the manufacturer to pack it in completely now.