Last week Nintendo won 11 times at the DICE Awards. Four of the wins were for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, including Game of the Year. Prior to those awards, January marked 10 million Nintendo Switch units sold in just 10-months. 4 million short of surpassing the Wii U’s lifetime sales number of 13.56 million. Though it fell short in that aspect, it did beat the Wii U in Japanese sales at the same time.
Amassing 3,407,158 in units sold compared to the 3,301,155 Wii U’s sold in the country. It took the Switch 10-months to beat its predecessor in Japan. A predecessor that had a six-year headstart. While the Wii U was nowhere near perfect, and its name did cause a lot of confusion, it was the best thing to happen to the company.
But why? To put it in perspective, everyone needs to fail at some point in order to become better. Was the Wii U as bad as the Apple Pippin, Philips CD-i, or the Sega Saturn? Absolutely not. But everything from its average library to its confusing marketing strategy brought about a revelation for the company.
A company that realized it had two choices. Either learn from its mistakes or fail again and possibly leave the home console market and stick to handheld and mobile gaming. That was a possibility that became real to me. When was there ever a console maker that had multiple failures and stayed in the home console market?
Plus Nintendo has had a stranglehold on the handheld market since the Gameboy’s release in 1989. Tiger handhelds are no more (Tiger Electronics went defunct in 2012), and the PlayStation Vita’s selling of over 10 million in 2017, fails in comparison to the over 60 million 3DS’ that have been sold since 2011. 7.2 million of which were sold last year according to Statista. Super Mario Run alone was downloaded 200 million times by mobile users, 90% of which came from outside of Japan.
So the idea of Nintendo fully going away is something that will more than likely never happen. The Wii U’s failure came as a form of enlightenment for Nintendo. It caused them to look at what got them to where they are as a video game publisher and console maker. Starting with the controller.
When it comes to head-to-head gaming Nintendo has always been at the forefront. Whether it was via a link cable for Pokémon so friends could trade and battle each other or the groundbreaking four-controller ports placed at the front of the Nintendo 64. With the Joycon, there’s no need to buy another controller. Allowing gamers to save money while being able to game with other people.
Then there is the portability which the Wii U lacked. It’s great to be able to travel and not have to put my game of Skyrim or Super Mario Odyssey on hold while I’m away. While the battery life differs from what game I play, it’s not like the Game Gear days. Where it took six batteries to work and as soon as a few minutes went by the damn thing died.
But the biggest win and realization for Nintendo was it realized hardware doesn’t make a console, it’s the games that are made for it. When consoles cost as much as they do, companies need a library that justifies its price. Fans wanted a new Zelda title, they got one at launch. Many including myself wanted a new Metroid game.
Now we know Metroid Prime 4 is in development. An announcement which to me was the biggest highlight of E3 last year (Sorry Beyond Good and Evil 2). While Nintendo is also porting a lot of third-party games, the truth is its first-party content is what makes the Switch a win for me. I already own a PlayStation 4 so my third-party needs are met when it comes to those types of games.
Looking at the release dates of upcoming games, it seems as if Nintendo has a genius idea. An idea that results in bi-monthly releases of first-party titles. March contains the release of Kirby Star Alliances, while Mario Tennis Aces, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will be released in the Spring. Not to mention a new Yoshi title is in the works as well.
Also, they aren’t primarily kid-centric anymore and are bringing in games like Dark Souls for older gamers. Sure they’re releasing the Nintendo Labo, but as an earlier article of mine points out, it’s for both kids and adults. Talking to a friend of mine in his late 30’s over the weekend, he told me how the porting of more mature games makes him want to buy a Switch. Simply because it has good games for both he and his son.
If the disappointment of the Wii U caused a company like Nintendo to re-evaluate and focus on what works then that’s a win for gamers everywhere. Plus a strong Nintendo means better competition for Microsoft and Sony and provides a strong alternative to both. Which will lead to better ideas, better games, and shows those two companies they cannot just rest on their laurels. Nintendo has revolutionized gaming once again.
They didn’t do it through horrible gimmicks like motion controls (I know the Switch has them but they’re not primary like the Wii), or VR. They did it though giving people what they wanted. A portable home console with a strong library that utilizes colors well. Not to mention hitting a nerve of nostalgia by going from discs to cartridges.
So thank you Wii U. Thank you for causing Nintendo to look at themselves and re-evaluate how they should move forward. Now if we can just get a new F-Zero game that would be amazing. Reggie if you are reading this please make it happen!