Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 27, 2013

Wii U is a burning platform

The ‘Burning Platform’ is a business term coined after a famous leaked Nokia memo. When your platform is burning, you do things you normally wouldn’t do such as jump into icy waters. If you knew the burning was going to come, you’d have thought up a better plan than jumping into the water. The Wii U is a burning platform. Nintendo is doing things with it they normally wouldn’t do. One of these was the price cut. Another was the bundle of the hardware with NSMB U (Nintendo is trying their hardest to kill off 2d Mario). An earlier burning platform for Nintendo was the 3DS. Nintendo ended up selling the 3DS at a loss which is the equivalent to jumping into icy waters.

Last generation, when Microsoft and Sony were watching, stunned, as the Wii left them behind, they acted similar to how Nintendo is acting today. They announced price cuts, some new ‘bundles’, and how the latest first party game is a ‘system seller’.

Why are game journalists telling us what is a ‘system seller’? Doesn’t that sound suspicious? Game journalists tell us whether a game is good or not, but the ways of the market are unknown to the game journalists as they are to many people. I prefer the term ‘killer app’ than ‘system seller’ which is another reason for my suspicion.

There is something called ‘Nintendo Fan Fiction’ where fans write stories about Mario, Princess Peach, and Zelda. It is most creepy, but there is something even creepier than ‘Nintendo Fan Fiction’. It would be ‘Nintendo Developer Fiction’. Yes, Nintendo developers’ favorite pastime seems to be writing fictional stories about how they see the market playing out. Miyamoto created an entertaining fictional tale about how Pikmin 3 would re-kindle RTS interest in the West (since RTS is bigger in the West) and how everyone would go out and buy Pikmin 3. Iwata created a fiction about how Nintendo Land was going to be the new Wii Sports. The latest Nintendo Developer Fiction is how Super Mario 3d World will, all by itself, drive market momentum behind the Wii U. This is very entertaining seeing how Super Mario 3d Land failed to created any significant momentum for the 3DS (3DS sales are still way behind DS sales). Come to think of it, every 3d Mario game has failed to create sales momentum for the hardware. Mario 64 didn’t sell the N64 (especially not outside America). Super Mario Sunshine didn’t sell the Gamecube. Super Mario Galaxies 1 and 2 didn’t sell the Wii. Super Mario 64 DS only delivered sales victory to the PSP over the DS during its time in the sun. I see a pretty clear pattern that trails through generations.

Yet, the current Nintendo Developer Fiction is that everyone is going to rush out their door to buy a Wii U for ‘Super Mario 3d World’. Color me skeptical. People might be buying a Wii U for Christmas, especially the bundle with the 2d Mario in it, but for 3d World? Well, we’ll see when the actual sales data comes in.

If Nintendo Developer Fiction doesn’t come true, then the Wii U is Gamecubed. If the Nintendo Developer Fiction DOES come true, then the Wii U is N64ed. In either scenario, the Wii U’s goose is cooked.

Nintendo’s bumbling around really makes me nostalgic for the good old days of Yamauchi. Sure, he had the N64 and Gamecube problems (but remember that Iwata designed the Gamecube and Miyamoto was the force of direction behind the N64), but the handheld line under Yamauchi never faltered. Nintendo has had to resort to buying marketshare in order to protect its diminishing handheld presence with selling the console for a loss, buying rights to Monster Hunter, etc.

It is better for Nintendo to consider the Wii U a loss and start working towards Generation 9. Nintendo will have to look at the two greatest selling Nintendo consoles to replicate: the NES and the Wii. Of course, when this happens it will be the burial of the twin Nintendo ideologies of ‘Now Is The Time for 3d!’ and ‘A More User Friendly Gamecube’.

NES and Wii had something in common: customers saw them as access to gaming. Today, people view the Wii U in a very different way: as access to an eccentric way of gaming. Wii U is just way too eccentric for the general population.


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