One of Nintendo’s greatest errors in marketing the 2012 release of their newest console was neglecting to simply call it the “Wii 2.”
Nintendo’s early ad campaigns focused entirely on the Gamepad peripheral, often avoiding even showing the console itself. And without a name that clearly announced it as the successor to the hugely popular Wii, many consumers around the world were duped into thinking that the Wii U was nothing more than a new controller peripheral for the existing console – not a new console altogether. Even CNN was duped at E3 2012, and were forced to correct their coverage after learning otherwise.
Nintendo acknowledged their marketing issue after their introductory E3 presentation, stating of the Wii U console, “… it’s confusing relative to the Wii.” That was back in June of 2012, but sales over the life of the console have remained dismal. Only 3.91 million units shipped between November 2012 and September 2013 (nearly the entire first year of release), compared to over two million of each of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles in just a couple of weeks.
As a result, it seems that Nintendo still believes that they have some advertising issues to address. Ten seconds into a new video on Nintendo’s YouTube channel, they finally address the console in a way that they likely should have over a year ago — “Wii U is an entirely new technology, and true successor to Wii” — before moving on to showcase some exclusive games.
Too little too late? Perhaps. It seems that the sales numbers of this console have no hope of reaching the original Wii, as that console sold more than the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 combined in the first half of 2007, and more than 100 million units total as of September 30th, 2013.
The Wii U’s sales numbers are not good, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a worthwhile purchase. This year has seen the release of some excellent games that the console was starved for. Super Mario 3D World is appearing on some Game of the Year lists for 2013, and unique experiences like The Wonderful 101 and Pikmin 3 can’t be found anywhere else. Even last year’s underrated ZombiU is still a worthwhile play at bargain bin prices today.
Let’s not forget that some new titles from marquee franchises have yet to hit the console. In 2014, we’re expected to see Mario Kart 8 and a new Super Smash Bros. game hit the Wii U, which are guaranteed to help move some units. We also have yet to see official announcements of new core entries in the Zelda and Metroid franchises, games I’m particularly excited to play with a proper dual-stick control scheme after being forced to utilize Wiimote motion controls for the life of the original Wii console.
Seeing the Wii U struggle mightily to sell has even caused some of the games journalism community to cry: “Dreamcast.” With sure-selling franchises still in Nintendo’s back pocket, we shouldn’t be too quick to proclaim the Wii U as the next Dreamcast – Sega’s excellent console that fell prey to the PlayStation 2, effectively resulting in Sega’s demise as a player in the video game console space. Let’s not forget that Nintendo’s 3DS line still dominates the handheld console space, having shipped nearly 35 million units in less than three years thus far. So, regardless of the Wii U’s struggles, Nintendo is still raking in the dough – they’re simply not facing the same kind of predicament that Sega was.
Regardless, this new video from Nintendo seems to be a clear admission that they still feel the need to clarify exactly what the Wii U is a year after its initial release. And with the massive successes of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles so early in their life cycles, the Wii U might just be left in the dust in this console generation. Still, as an early adopter myself, I’m not experiencing buyer’s remorse just yet. I’m not about to buy the Wii U version of any cross-platform third-party games (save for the excellent Wii U version of Rayman Legends), but there are enough quality exclusives to satisfy, and yet more right around the corner.