With the recent release of ‘Super Smash bros for Wii U’ there has been a question doing the rounds on the internet. A question that is worthy of some analysis. A question that needs answered!
That question is very simply – ‘have Nintendo won 2014’?
It’s a curious question when we consider that the Wii U is Nintendo’s slowest selling home console ever! To equal the GameCube (a massive 20,000,000 sales) it would be impressive considering how its first year was. However when we consider how they turned the 3DS around – perhaps this question has legs.
Let’s explore how Nintendo have pulled off this, greatest of all, great escapes.
Rewind the clock 12 months the gaming landscape looked incredibly different. Sony and Microsoft had just launched their ‘next gen’ consoles and many gamers had sounded the death knell on Nintendo’s Wii U. To be honest it wasn’t a shock for us gamers, the console had been floundering for a year, with seemingly no market and nothing to offer.
Gamers’ were not the only ones to sound it either. Third party developers had started abandoning Nintendo’s platform using the consoles power and user-base as sticks to beat Nintendo with; games developers left in their droves; none was more public than that of the “Great Ubisoft betrayal”.
Ubisoft was famously an avid supporter of the Wii U in the beginning; they launched a new I.P alongside the console ‘ZombiU’ – unfortunately for Ubisoft the console sold poorly and their game, even worse. This created a bit of a bad taste in Ubisoft’s mouth and they delayed their “Wii U exclusive” title ‘Rayman Legends’ – they then announced an Xbox 360 and PS3 version of the game and they all launched simultaneously; six months late for Wii U owners.
It was all very grim for the Wii U in September 2013. ‘Pikmin 3’ had not sold anywhere near what was predicted and despite price cuts and excellent incentives to buy and register games online – no-one did.
Nintendo was out of cards to play – the tunnel was a long and dark one.
There was light at the end of the tunnel however – Christmas season – ‘Super Mario 3D World’, ‘Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker’ and ‘Wii Fit U’ being the big hitters. Although these games reviewed well, it wasn’t the type of success Nintendo had in mind.
The console shifted 500,000 in December.
A massive improvement on the months before but not enough to pull them out of trouble. In January 2014 Nintendo announced their annual accounts. They lost $750,000,000 over the year and Satoru Iwata announced that Wii U sales forecasts for fiscal year 2014 had been cut from 9 million units to 2.8 million. Nintendo declared that the Wii U will never succeed in its current guise, the news caused its share price to plummet in January – undoubtedly a new low point for Nintendo, they had to do something or else they’d be another SEGA.
Do something they did!
Nintendo regrouped and shifted focus.
They did things they have never really done before – allowed developers access to their I.P’s (‘Hyrule Warriors’), they created portable editions of high-profile titles that wouldn’t be ready for months (‘Super Smash Bros’) and they financed a game without mass market appeal but with a vociferous support and guaranteed sales (‘Bayonetta 2’). Above all else, they did something they have always done; create high quality, first party exclusives!
Without a shadow of a doubt the game that kick started Nintendo’s 2014 was ‘Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze’ – a huge hitter of a franchise that had seemingly been forgotten since the N64 (yes it was revisited on 3DS), but boy did it review well, it is currently sitting at 83% on metacritic. Good games are bread and butter for Nintendo, they needed sales and it certainly delivered those too! It sold 130,000 copies that month and sowed the seeds of recovery.
Nintendo had something bigger to cook up for hungry fans.
Mario Kart 8 launched in on May 22, 2014, again it reviewed incredibly well and thanks to some good marketing it sold like crazy! All over the world Nintendo announced that they had shattered records in France announced that sales were 50% higher compared to the previous year, and that lifetime sales stood at 340,000 units.
With Mario Kart 8 being Nintendo’s biggest game launch in Wii U history console sales reportedly increased by 666% in the United Kingdom, with the Mario Kart 8 console bundle representing 82% of the console sales for the week. In the United States, when comparing the month of June 2013 to the same month in 2014, Wii U software sales were up 373% and console sales were up 233% (140,000 units).
This is what Nintendo needed!
Hell this is what gaming needed!
And it wasn’t over yet…
In September they released Bayonetta 2 (and a special edition with the first game) on the Wii U – it sold poorly – incredibly poorly. 28,000 copies in Japan-poorly. More importantly though is the fact that it reviewed well – it’s currently sitting at 91% on metacritic – PS3 & 360 owners look on green with envy, many have bought a Wii U just to play this game! That is what Nintendo need another console selling game!
Their biggest ‘killer app’ is undoubtedly Smash Bros – at the time of writing it has sold an estimated – 490,000 copies in three days, in the US alone! This has absolutely smashed the previous record held by Mario Kart 8!
It is madness, it is crazy, it is glorious! The reason this has occurred is two-fold, it reviewed ridiculously well and it was marketed equally well.
Nintendo have also begun to roll out DLC; and it is not cynical DLC either, rather it genuinely adds something to Mario Kart 8 (reviewed incredibly well – Metacritic score of 94%) and it’s quite cheap – opening it up to the majority of fans of the game. The release of the ‘amiibo’ figurines finally gives Nintendo fans high quality tat to collect and use with their games. It’s all coming up Nintendo.
On metacritic the Wii U top ten has six games only available on the console! That surely makes it the console of choice this Christmas.
They have blown away Sony and Microsoft with their first-party output and delighted fans old and new. They have taken Sony’s marketing speak of “for the players” and followed through with that promise. They have let their games do their talking – my God what an orchestra it is!
Nintendo have come out and held no punches this year. They have released quality title after quality title. They have adapted to the ever-changing marketplace and found their niche within it. They have the history and they are using every ounce of experience that comes with it. The Wii U may not ever be a major commercial success but those who own one are certainly very happy with their purchase.
The Wii U is surely the next-gen home console of choice and Nintendo say the best is yet to come after seeing their Zelda teaser at e3 – this may just be true. Onwards and upwards to an even more successful 2015.
For the quality titles on Wii U I think Nintendo have won 2014…and that’s before I mention the 3DS…
What do you think?
Have Nintendo won 2014?
Is the Wii U the console of choice for this holiday season?
Have any of the exclusives made you buy/want to buy a Wii U?
Tell us in the comments below!