After spending three-and-a-half years languishing at the bottom of the market, the Wii U is finally being put to rest. That’s according to a report published by Japan’s Nikkei on Tuesday, which claims that Nintendo will cease production of the ill-fated console before the end of 2016, perhaps in preparation for the rumored NX console.
Hours later, Nintendo responded to the report by denying it out of hand, saying that it wasn’t an official report from the company. According to Nintendo, “production is scheduled to continue” in the coming months.
But whether or not the report is completely accurate, it begs an interesting question about the future of the company: Is the next home console Nintendo’s last chance to compete with the PS4, Xbox One, PC and VR?
Ever since the Wii U launched in 2012, Nintendo’s revenue has been sliding at an alarming pace. Despite the shocking success of the Wii, sticking with a brand name wasn’t enough to buoy the upgraded console. The E3 reveal was confusing and disorganized, the tablet-sized controller turned people off and the lack of third-party games was an ominous sign long before the Wii U even made it to store shelves.
The Wii U felt like it was dead in the water from day one. To make matters worse, when the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched at the end of 2013, the Wii U became laughably outdated. Graphics aren’t everything, but when your 1-year-old console can’t even begin to stack up against the competition, consumers take notice.
So where does this leave Nintendo?
In my mind, this is the beginning of what could either be another massive revitalization for the flailing House of Super Mario, or the final chapter in the long, winding saga of Nintendo as a hardware powerhouse.
If the NX manages to strike a chord with the general audience the way the Wii did ten years ago, Nintendo won’t have to worry about high-end processors and limited time exclusive map packs — it will just need to provide an experience that the average consumer can enjoy and that the hardcore gamer can appreciate.
Easier said than done, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
On the other hand, if Nintendo delivers yet another flop, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the company abandon the home console business for the foreseeable future. That’s not to say we’d never see another Nintendo console, but if the NX were to bomb, we’d be talking about a bare minimum of five consecutive years and two straight console generations of critical and financial disappointment.
Besides, home consoles are far from Nintendo’s only source of revenue.
To date, Nintendo has sold over 57 million Nintendo 3DS consoles worldwide. The portable console business isn’t the cash cow it once was, but 3DS sales are still trouncing Wii U sales month-to-month. Then there’s amiibo, the company’s toys-to-life figures – some of which are harder to find than rare Beanie Babies in their heyday.
And then there’s mobile. Over one million users signed up for Miitomo, Nintendo’s first mobile game/app/social network within days of its release. Imagine what those numbers could be for a full-fledged Mario or Zelda game?
Regardless of whether or not the NX tanks, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Nintendo is able to keep up with Sony, Microsoft and the onslaught of VR devices. It’s still too early to sound the death knell for Nintendo’s home consoles, but the company is going to have to bring its ‘A’ game to E3 this year.