Nintendo can’t sell the Wii U for the same reason that Microsoft hasn’t been able to sell Windows Phones or Windows 8 tablets: it hasn’t given consumers or developers a solid reason to get behind it.
While the Wii U, Surface, and many phones running Windows Phone 8 are fantastic devices, potential buyers of both have found that the software offerings on both platforms lacking.
When consumers don’t buy the devices, developers have even less of a reason to make software. It’s a vicious cycle.
While Microsoft’s main problem was that it came out too late (Windows Phone came out in late 2010 and Windows 8 tablets hit the market less than a year ago), Nintendo can’t get developers on board for a litany of reasons.
Its tablet controller, known as the GamePad, has kept some games from coming to the console because developers don’t know how to take advantage of it in a unique way.
It only sold 160,000 units of the Wii U last quarter, a 50% drop from the quarter before. Developers don’t want to make games that need to sell millions of copies for a system that doesn’t even have that big of a user base.
A senior software developer at EA Sports even called the Wii U “crap” and said that Nintendo is “walking dead at this point.” Perhaps it’s not a surprise that “FIFA 14” and “Madden NFL 25,” two of EA Sports’ biggest titles for the year, aren’t coming to the console.
Why was he so harsh towards the Wii U? One of the main complaints coming from developers is that it’s underpowered compared to the upcoming PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. While the Wii U’s hardware is about 1.5 times faster than the current PlayStation and Xbox, the next-generation systems coming this holiday season will blow it out of the water.
When a system has less power, it takes more work to scale down a game made for the more powerful competitors.
That’s the reason Bethesda and DICE, developers of the Elder Scrolls and Battlefield franchises, have given for not supporting the console. When asked about whether any of its big upcoming releases would make it to the system, Bethesda’s VP of PR went so far as to say, “it’s guaranteed that none of those games are coming to Wii U.” DICE executive producer Patrick Bach expressed similar sentiments in an interview with EuroGamer.
As for consumers, both Nintendo and Microsoft have completely failed on the marketing front.
When the Wii U was first announced, Nintendo did such a poor job at the unveiling that a CNN tech reporter actually thought it was just an add-on for the original Wii. If someone who lives and breathes the tech world couldn’t figure out the Wii U, how could a normal consumer?
As MarketingWatch’s Sebastian Joseph reported today, that’s why Nintendo is rolling out an ad campaign in the U.K. featuring English comedian Rufus Hound that shows off the actual benefits to using the Wii U’s tablet controller.
That’s similar to the approach that Microsoft has been taking with ads for Windows 8 tablets. The original ads for the Surface featured fun choreography and people dancing, but left potential customers with no idea of what the device could actually do. More recent ads have focused directly on what Windows 8 tablets can do in comparison to the iPad.
Nintendo and Microsoft are also both actively trying to fix the situations with developers on their platforms. Nintendo has been going after top-tier independent developers and convincing them to release on the Wii U. In some cases, it’s even been directly funding development of games in order for them to be exclusive to the Wii U.
That’s not unlike Microsoft’s strategy of giving developers up to $US100,000 to release versions of their apps for Window Phone 8.
Whether either company can revive their failing platforms is unclear. Just within the last few years, Nintendo has completely reversed the fortunes of its 3DS handheld by cutting its price and releasing a stream of quality games. Perhaps a price cut sometime before this holiday season and the release of a new “Zelda” title in October will save the Wii U.
As for Microsoft’s phone and tablet platforms, that’s anybody’s guess. As Brad Reed at BGR noted a few weeks back, the latest ComScore data indicates that its phone platform is going in the wrong direction when it comes to market share. To help with the app situation, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reported earlier today that Microsoft has released a new tool that makes it easier to make apps for the platform.
Maybe opening the door to app development to those with less of a tech background will be the thing that closes the gap between what’s available on Windows Phone and what’s on iOS and Android, making it a more viable option for consumers.