Is Nintendo’s Wii U Strategy Smarter than We Think?

There have been a few complaints over the last few months about the Wii U and its launch games. People are saying they’re not new or original enough, that Nintendo should have launched the system with a big new title like Zelda, Mario Kart or Smash Bros or that there’s very little current incentive to purchase the system.  But is it possible we’re on thinking about this the wrong way?

I think it most likely is.  Yes the games Nintendo released alongside the console in the launch period were fairly underwhelming at best.  Yes games like Pikmin 3 are being released piecemeal throughout the year, and yes no one knows anything about Super Smash Bros 4 despite it being in development for a few whole years.

But they’re all intentional choices by the company.  For starters, the mediocre launch game lineup.  Is it made of mostly enhanced ports and ‘casual’ titles?  Yes, but think of it like this.  Nintendo had zero competition in the launch window.  They didn’t need to come out with all the heavy hitters right off the bat since interest was dying in the older games to begin with and  neither Microsoft or Sony’s systems were anywhere to be seen.  So the games they put out were mostly meant to encourage the expanded audience to buy into the Wii U and give the early adopters something to play for a few months while they worked on ‘more important’ titles.

Of course, it’s very much debatable whether any of this worked; the Wii U was quite literally dead on arrival in the UK market and the likes of Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros U haven’t exactly kicked up a storm of hype on the level of Wii Sports, but you can see exactly why Nintendo didn’t invest a ridiculous amount in the launch period.

The next point to consider is the games coming out at a regular basis.  Ever seen the line up of new games being released for the 3Ds and Wii U this year?  It’s absolutely packed to the brim with new titles, all being released less than a month apart.  Rayman Legends, Pikmin 3, Game and Wario, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon, Fire Emblem Awakening… it’s practically a Nintendo’s fans dream for most of this year.

Game and Wario


Above: Just one of the awesome Wii U games coming early this year.

This is likely another deliberate decision, this time to stop another game ‘drought’ like the infamous 3DS one from early to mid 2011 and like what happened through most of the Wii’s lifespan.  So to stop this from happening and there being a giant empty gap of no new game releases for the six months prior to E3, Nintendo delayed many games and set their release dates a month or so apart.  It may have meant we missed out on some explosion of new games in late 2012, but it does mean we’ll actually get new titles throughout the ‘new’ year.

And not to mention that it gives different games an actual chance to build an audience and sell in significant quantities.  After all, you put all the Wii U and 3DS’s best games against each other at the exact same time of year, what you’ll get is the A list titles cutting straight into each other’s sales and the others just getting buried and ignored.  Game and Wario?  Popular idea, probably wouldn’t have done well against a triple A filled line up being released around the same time.  And Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon, Castlevania Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate, Paper Mario Sticker Star and Fire Emblem Awakening probably would have really hurt each other’s sales potential if they’d all been released within two months time.  So Nintendo’s staggered game releases plan is actually a pretty smart one.

Castlevania Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate Box artLuigi's Mansion 2 boxPaper Mario Sticker Star BoxFire Emblem Awakening Box Art


Above: Releasing all these games in a month or two would have hurt the sales of all of them.

Finally, you’ve got E3 2013 and the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft.  These new consoles will probably be shown at E3 and be released later in the year.  So what better time to show off and release Nintendo’s own blockbuster titles?  It might be disappointing for some not to have a new Zelda or 3D Mario game at the Wii U’s launch, but as I mentioned before, there was no real competition back then.  Why waste one of the biggest system sellers at a time where the competition had nothing to ‘run’ against it?

Which brings us to E3.  Isn’t it more than a bit coincidental that every major Wii U game lined up is being shown in some form at E3 this year? Super Smash Bros 4, a new 3D Mario game, Mario Kart U, The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker HD, maybe even the new Zelda game and Retro’s project.  Again, deliberate timing.  After all, if Sony and Microsoft are showing off a new system it seems logical to assume they’ll get a lot of attention for this and there’ll be a certain level of hype.  But if Nintendo come up with what could be quite literally their best E3 ever, then they can get rid of much of that hype before it even begins. Sure a new console will always get some level of excitement around it, but can that match the hype generated by a new Zelda or Smash Bros game being shown off for the first time ever?

Above: That was the reaction for just ONE game.  People jumped out their seats screaming in excitement.  Now imagine that times five

Above: And that nearly caused an internet meltdown.  No guesses what’ll happen when this E3 shows the sequel…

Those new consoles the competition are releasing won’t be entirely buried by the announcements, but I think Nintendo will certainly be able to claw back a lot of the Wii U hype despite them.  Hell, what exactly CAN either Microsoft or Sony announce to outdo Super Smash Bros 4  Or maybe Super Mario Galaxy 3?

And look at those game release dates.  At least two or three of the new games will be out at the end of the year, with Mario Kart and the new 3D Mario game being the most likely candidates.  That’s a direct response to Sony and Microsoft’s new systems there.

Not to mention Pokemon X and Y versions.  Again, isn’t all too coincidental that the one year where a new console or two is being released just happens to have a new generation of Pokemon games released in it?  And that these games are being released on the same day worldwide? I suspect that behind the scenes Nintendo were trying their damn hardest to get Game Freak to end generation 5 and get a new generation going to counter this and to keep the 3DS’s momentum going.

So Nintendo aren’t being as stupid as people might think, and their disappointing Wii U launch was most likely part of a greater gameplan to keep the console competitive even with the more powerful ‘competition’.

Does this make a lot of sense?  Is the whole ‘disappointing’ Wii U launch really part of  a decent strategy for them?

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