R.I.P., Nintendo Wii.
Nintendo Japan has confirmed via its website (in Japanese) that the Nintendo Wii will no longer be produced in Japan. This has led to a flurry of media outlets around the world calling their Nintendo reps to find out if this state of affairs applies to the rest of the world. We don’t know the answer to this question yet, but there is one thing that’s clear: the writing is on the wall for the Nintendo Wii.
In recent years Nintendo has appeared to lose ground to its console competition, Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s Xbox, but the Wii was still the system of choice for families, those of us who care about backwards-compatibility, and players awaiting more adventures with Mario (both Kart-based and otherwise). It was the first system to introduce motion control, which was hastily taken up by Sony and Microsoft, and the system that pretty much created casual gaming. Plus, who can forget that brief period of time when every mom was working out with the Wii Fit? What the Wii lacked in pure power and next-gen tech, it made up for in fun.
The move is a controversial one, because the Wii frankly still has life left in it and Nintendo is cutting off a revenue stream that’s still going strong. But given that the Wii U’s tenure so far has been less than spectacular, it does make sense. With the holiday season looming, making the Wii U the only choice available at regular retail ought to boost its sales and its visibility. A Nintendo press release from last week claims that September’s Wii U price drop (to $299.99) had already boosted sales by over 200 percent in 15 days, so perhaps this is a way of leveraging that momentum.
Naturally, there’s a bit of nostalgia attached to the Nintendo name, and that in itself has probably helped the company’s bottom line. However, the future of Nintendo is unclear – though the Wii U is pretty cool, it’s going to lose ground once the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 come onto the market later this fall (much as the Wii did when the Xbox 360 and PS3 were released). While the Wii introduced some innovative ideas, the leadership of Nintendo has also been slow to take advantage of certain profitable features now standard in the industry, such as online multiplayer and mobile gaming (Nintendo president Satoru Iwata is vocal about his opposition to turning the company’s tried-and-true brands into gaming apps). Third-party developers have had trouble creating successful games for the Wii, and Nintendo very consciously tried to draw new players in without catering to the hard-core gaming audience.
The fact is that in 2013, Nintendo posted a loss for the second straight year in a row. This move, benching the Wii, clearly hopes to turn things around. I hope it does. A world without Nintendo just doesn’t bear thinking about.