So lately, I have been continually hearing the same refrain repeatedly from many different corners, cracks and crevices of the gaming community, Nintendo fans, and non-Nintendo fans, alike. That constant and somehow agreed-upon stance, that Nintendo’s Wii U console was a “flop”. That Nintendo made so many mistakes with Wii U, and that 4 and one-half years after its release, the console will finally be laid to rest, in lieu of the highly anticipated Nintendo Switch!
The reason for my writing about this subject, however, is because I cannot agree in any way with that premise. Many people have been continually espousing Nintendo’s failures as if the echo chamber has grown beyond its borders. I don’t subscribe to that. I will acknowledge the facts, but I will absolutely acknowledge ALL of them, and then ask the question, “Do you think the Wii U was a flop?”
Ok, let’s get to it:
Many people immediately point to the ultimate sales numbers of the Wii U as the determining factor in the argument of console success, and to-date the Wii U has sold 13.36 million units and 92.35 million software units. Admittedly those hardware numbers are not ideal, but compared to what, exactly? Compared to the total number of Wii units sold; a little more than 13% of total sales indeed falls short of hopes. But, although selling more units would obviously be desired, the ultimate desire for any business is to make money, and Nintendo is no different. One thing that we did learn soon after release, the company was earning a profit from every unit that was sold, unlike many other companies who are known for selling hardware at a loss to make it up on the other end. So, if there was a loss on units, a low sell-through would indeed be troublesome, but the company did not take a loss there. In fact, the attach-rate (number of software units sold compared to the number of hardware units sold) was an astounding 6.91. That means there were nearly 7 games per unit sold, and that spells profit across the board.
There was an unfortunate apathy toward the Wii U that took root very early on, and appeared to have multiple sources for its festering. A lot of the early “support” from 3rd-Party publishers and developers began to wane almost immediately for various reasons, none of which were truly confirmed, only speculated about. After that, the glaring lack of preparedness by Nintendo to provide 1st/2nd-Party titles for their brand new high definition system to close those gaps left by the departure of support was illuminating, and many people were no longer clamoring to get the system…only after 3-6 months of being on the market. The momentum died!
Unfortunately, the Wii U was never able to regain any real momentum, despite many efforts to do so. On many occasions, we heard Nintendo of America Vice President, Reggie Fils-Aime, talk of software selling systems, and that the games would be there for Wii U. Now, in my opinion, if that promise was not fulfilled, then that would assuredly have spelled “flop” for me, but that promise was kept, and gloriously so. Nintendo produced some of the most beloved games of this entire generation on the Wii U, alone. Several million-seller titles created hours and hours of enjoyment for Wii U owners. A couple of those titles did indeed move hardware units a little, but not quite nearly enough. That still spells massive success in many circles.
Another often overlooked part of the Wii U was the infrastructure that was created during its lifetime, and that is, of course, Miiverse. Miiverse has been a platform that was embraced by users immediately and eventually took on a complete life of its own, and its implementation with each game as it was released became imperative for full-feature status.
So, I think much of the conversation centers around semantics. Talk of “failure” and “flops” carries such a massive weight of absolute that I find it extremely reckless to embrace that thought process. In no way do I believe the hyperbolic talk of the Wii U being a flop, or that Nintendo failed with it has any credence. When a video game console is developed the main goal of its creation is/should be to play incredible video game experiences. Since the early days of being introduced to video games by my dad in the early 80s, I have always looked to video games as a means of experiencing other worlds, and adventures; battling to save the world, saving someone’s girlfriend or even a princess, or just looking to become the heavyweight champion of the world. No matter what it was, as long as I was able to play fun games for hours on-end, I was ready for it. That’s what spells success, ultimately! The library on the Wii U may not be chock-full of most of the “AAA” 3rd-Party titles that a lot of contemporary gamers have come to expect on their gaming consoles, however I vehemently challenge their necessary presence to qualify a system’s success. Many of those “necessary” titles have proven to be limited experiences, unsustainable, or just not very fun long-term. That’s not to say all of them are that way, but the roll of the dice is not my cup of tea! I tend to pay attention to what is going on in and around my favorite company’s system and act accordingly. That philosophy allowed me play some of this generation’s truest gems and timeless experiences…without regret!
I am, of course, not saying there were not any disappointments felt during this generation, but personally they were minimal, and for a lot of those who had some (or even many), no matter what, they can never prove their disappointments to be universal. Therefore, I again have to challenge how the premise of the Wii U being a “flop” could be an agreed-upon thought. There is a reason there are different genres in video games. People have differing preferences, they also have desires based on their current feelings, as well. At the end of the day, the subjective nature of the gaming industry makes it difficult to have absolutes in a lot of descriptors, and to say that Nintendo “failed” with Wii U, or that it was a “flop” is ridiculous! Consoles that have “flopped” in the past have absolutely obliterated their developing companies. Which hardware generation is Atari in now, since the XE or even the Jaguar? Which iteration of the Sega system are we playing now? How have you enjoyed your newest ColecoVision console? My point exactly! Underperforming, but still producing incredible and memorable content that will be enjoyed for years to come does not spell flop. I do wish it had performed better in the market, but that is mainly because I enjoyed mine, and it’s unfortunate so many people missed out on that.
What is interesting, though, is a good number of the people who are professing “flop” are also the main ones clamoring for Wii U titles on the Nintendo Switch. It’s already a foregone assumption that Nintendo “needs” to have X number of Wii U games on the Switch so the people who chose not to pick up a console this recent generation can now play these great games. Some will see nothing wrong with that, but I cannot say I don’t find that extremely odd. Maybe they think it’s normal to consider a console taboo, but, “oh its incredible exclusive titles are mandatory experiences on the ‘cool new thing’ when it is released.”
I constantly refer to Nintendo as my favorite gaming company for a reason, and I am not ashamed to do so. It’s not a bad thing to enjoy your hobbies without the approval of others, or the consensus verdict based on some jury of peers that you never asked for.
So now, I as you, do you honestly believe the Wii U was a flop? Let me know.
As always, gaming is meant to be fun, so keep gaming!!