Wii U: The Box of Broken Promises

I love my Wii U, but I’ve got to admit that Nintendo’s failed to deliver in a number of critical areas – even areas that the company’s executives like Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime promised would be better than previous hardware launches. It’s a bit concerning to see a company that did so well developing and marketing Wii flounder so much in the face of so many issues – so many broken promises to consumers.

Now that the launch window period has come and gone, it’s easy to identify some of the holes in Nintendo’s promise package with Wii U. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger failures.

Promise #1: Wii U Will Learn from the Software Drought of Nintendo 3DS

Remember when Mr. Iwata said that Nintendo was going to avoid the issues they faced with 3DS when launching Wii U? He specifically addressed the major software drought of 2011 as something they were dedicated to overcoming:

As we learned a bitter lesson with the launch of the Nintendo 3DS, we are trying to take every possible measure so that the Wii U will have a successful launch. The company was unable to launch much-anticipated first-party titles for the Wii nor for the Nintendo 3DS in a timely fashion in the first half of the term. In the game platform business, creating momentum is very important, but the momentum was once lost, and it has had a large negative effect on our sales and profits.

Pikmin-3-preview-2However, with Wii U we’ve seen the same pattern repeat itself. The system has seen one Nintendo-published software release since day-one, and it didn’t even come out until the second half of March. And there were only two first-party games at launch: New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land. Every other Nintendo-published title – including Lego City – was developed by a third-party studio.

What’s more, there still aren’t really any first-party releases in sight. We know Game & Wario is supposed to be the next in-house Nintendo title to hit the system, but the signs are pointing to a May or June release at the earliest. Other titles like Pikmin 3, Wii Fit, and Nintendo-published The Wonderful 101 – all of which were supposed to be released during the launch window – are still pretty far off; Wind Waker Wii U, the next 3D Mario, Mario Kart Wii U, and Super Smash Bros. seem light-years away.

That leads me to the next broken promise…

Promise #2: Wii U’s Software Library Will Double During the Early Part of 2013

This promise is related to the last. In December of last year, Reggie Fils-Aime went on record to say that the Wii U’s “more than 30 games” at launch would more than double during the early part of 2013.

Wii U launched in the Americas with more than 30 games. Over the next few weeks and months, we’re going to double that number. We’re excited about the list of games that are coming in the first part of 2013.

the-wonderful-101-screensNow, admittedly, “the next few weeks and months” is a bit vague. However, take that together with the declaration that they’ll be delivering this upcoming software in the “first part of 2013,” and I think it would be pretty fair to say that Nintendo should have been able to double the software lineup of Wii U within its launch window – that’s almost four months from the time Mr. Fils-Aime made this promise. That means that by now, Wii U should have more than 60 games under its belt.

However, since December 5, the system has only seen 18 new games (about 50-something games total). Even if you’re a little generous and count the games released just before the Nintendo Direct aired, there have only been 23 new games for Wii U in North America since its November 18 launch. That’s almost double, but not quite. And even adding in the known releases for April and May doesn’t quite push the library to the promised numbers.

Promise #3: Third-Party Developers are On Board With Wii U for the Future

Okay, I’ll admit, this one isn’t quite a promise in the same sense as the other two. However, it’s nonetheless a point that Nintendo has been driving home since they first announced Wii U – even though in hindsight it seems pretty obvious that reality says differently. Satoru Iwata told investors the following about the third-party situation for Wii U:

While the future of dedicated gaming platforms is now widely discussed, as the graphs for the U.S. market justify, I believe that [Wii U’s] lineup [of third-party titles] proves that Nintendo‚Äôs vision is shared by many, and there is active support for that too. My aim is to set a successful example towards and after the end of the year that rewards the investment our third-party publishers put into their titles and will then create a chain of other successful titles.

rayman-legends-previewThe fact of the matter is that Mr. Iwata overstated the level of commitment third-party publishers have to Wii U. You just have to look at the current upcoming third-party lineup, the Rayman Legends delay, the ignorance of titles that are actually a good fit for Nintendo’s audience as candidates for Wii U ports, and the ongoing drama of third parties skipping support entirely to see how that situation has fallen apart.

Meanwhile, though many developers seem to have abandoned Wii U, they’re perfectly content to put development force behind platforms that haven’t even sold a single unit yet. We’ve already seen over a dozen games announced for PS4, and it isn’t even E3 yet. Knowing Sony’s aggressive practices in terms of securing third-party support, I’m sure there are many more on the way.

The Good News

There’s something to be said about these still unmet promises, however: they all have to do with software releases – specifically, the lack of software releases. That seems to suggest that once Wii U’s back on track with a steady stream of software releases, it should start doing better at satisfying consumers.

I can think of at least three games due by the end of the year that should start to regenerate Wii U’s performance. However, there’s a problem with that: those games likely won’t be coming until the end of the year. And the other unfortunate thing: there’s no guarantee that they’ll even make that window. After all, Nintendo’s failed to deliver on software promises before. Who’s to say they won’t do it again?