Is the End Near for the Wii U?

BY AXEL BOADA

It is no secret that Nintendo is struggling to compete with Sony and Microsoft. While the Wii U has sold 6.68 million console units since its initial 2012 release, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One have moved 9 million and 5 million units, respectively, since their late 2013 launches.

Financially, Nintendo has been hit hard this past fiscal quarter, losing ¥9.92 billion ($97 million) between April and June. This is despite selling 2.82 million copies of Mario Kart 8.

So is it time for the company to accept the Wii U’s fate and pull the plug? Not just yet. Though it is unreasonable to expect the console to catch up with the Sony and Microsoft juggernauts, there is good reason to believe that the Wii U will make a competitive push this next year.

A big reason for that is Mario Kart 8, a game that has received universal critical acclaim. The game led to an increase in hardware sales, helping move 510,000 consoles between April and June. Additionally, the new Kart has accounted for 64 percent of software sales during that same time, despite being released toward the end of May. Obviously, the almost-three million copies sold did not turn a profit for Nintendo, but that is understandable considering how deep of a financial hole the company is in.

Mario Kart 8 succeeds at more than just moving Wii U consoles. It is also a prime example of Nintendo delivering a game that consumers actually want. While introducing new ideas that keep its gameplay fun and exciting, it does not stray too far from the tried-and-true formula that has allowed the series to sell over 100 million copies worldwide. In an oversaturated market of games promising innovation and falling well flat of expectations (think of Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs), the honesty behind Kart’s if-it-ain’t-broke philosophy is ironically refreshing.

Similarly, the eventual release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U in quarter 4 is expected to even further console sales. Few games are as hyped as Smash Bros. currently is, but unlike many of those games, there actually has been a lot of gameplay footage released. Simply, it looks like a lot of fun.

But none of this changes the fact that the console’s titles list is pretty slim. After all, the point of owning a console is to play a library games, and up to this point Nintendo has failed with the Wii U.

However, things may soon be changing dramatically. Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 1 and 2, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker are being released within the next couple months. Splatoon, Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Yoshi, and two more Mario titles are looking at 2015 releases. Mario Maker  is even trying to appeal to the young-adult demographic of gamers who spend hours playing and watching videos of Unfair Mario and other rage-inducing side-scrolling platformers on YouTube.

But the Wii U may never end up being the gaming system Nintendo had hoped it would be. The forward-thinking console made by a company historically resistant to change continues to struggle finding an audience. However, the next year of the Wii U’s life will prove crucial to, well, how long the console lives.

If the upcoming list of games succeed in delivering the types of qualities installments expected from Nintendo, the Wii U should keep moving more units, and more importantly, live to fight another day.

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