#wii u

Natasha Lomas on how the numbers are shaping up so far in the gaming console space:

The thing is neither of these new generation console flagships is selling very well when compared with previous generations of flagship consoles. The console market appears to be shrinking significantly — and that’s evidently having a knock-on impact on games studios and game development.

At this relatively early stage the new generation stacks up as follows: Wii U at 6 million, XB1 at ~4 million and PS4 at 6 million: a total of ~16 million. So only around 244 million to go — just to perform as well as the last generation. But with game budgets increasing a flat console market isn’t a good thing. This new generation needs to be outselling the last, not looking like it’s going to have a really tough time shipping the same.

I hate to say “I told you so” …but, well, I did.

Erik Kain:

Nintendo doesn’t need to get out of the home console market, it could simply revolutionize it by combining the concept of the home console with its portable success. One of the great features of the Wii U is that, if I want to, I can simply unplug it from my TV and plug it in next to my bed and play games on the gamepad itself. It makes me wonder—why is the Wii U a home console, in the traditional sense, at all?

Imagine the graphics of the Wii U on an updated version of the 3DS (or some new DS machine) and then pair that with some sort of small receiver that allows you to play all your handheld games on any TV. There are Android devices that do this already, of course, but they only play Android games—nothing even close to par with Nintendo’s first-party offerings.

This strikes me as a good, simple idea. Rather than continue to focus on a stand-alone living room console, why not focus on handheld gaming (a segment that they’re still doing pretty well in) with some new AirPlay-like functionality to get these games to work on TVs? The Wii U is almost the opposite of that approach. They got it backwards.

Takashi Amano & Cliff Edwards are full of bad news ahead for Nintendo:

Nintendo Co.’s prospects for meeting its profit and sales forecasts for this year are diminishing after Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. each sold more game consoles in 24 hours than the Wii U maker did in nine months.

Not good — especially when you consider:

President Satoru Iwata vowed in October he would meet a forecast for 100 billion yen ($974 million) in full-year operating profit and 9 million units in Wii U sales. Analysts are skeptical, with the average estimate for profit at 57 billion yen and for sales at 6.2 million units.

That’s a huge gap. We’ll see, but it’s definitely not looking good:

Those moves may not be enough to make up lost ground, as the company sold just 460,000 Wii U machines in the six months ended Sept. 30, about 5 percent of its target for the fiscal year. Nintendo reported a net loss of 8 billion yen in the quarter ended Sept. 30, saying Wii U hardware “still has a negative impact on Nintendo’s profits.”

Five percent of the yearly target, six months in. And:

Shares of Nintendo have lost 82 percent of their value since closing at 72,100 yen in November 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Yikes. And that’s with the stock gaining 41 percent this year. And:

The Wii U features a tablet-like, 6.2-inch touchscreen controller that lets players connect wirelessly to the console and shift the display between the device and a television. In the nine months from January through September, the company sold 850,000 — fewer than Sony and Microsoft did during the first day their new consoles were released.

Hard to overstate just how awful and embarrassing that is — especially since those consoles don’t seem that great either.

This is turning very ugly very quickly for Nintendo — which is sad, but not shocking.

Sam Machkovech:

Finally, this year, this week, fans can buy a legal copy of Earthbound directly from Nintendo for the low, low price of $310+tax.

That is to say, $10 for the game as a download, and $300 for the Wii U console that fans—that is to say, people who obsess over slow, cartoony quests starring children who wield yo-yos as weapons—likely do not own.

Just the ticket Nintendo needs to make Wii U not a mega fail…

I’m starting to think the countdown to iOS may be (un)officially on.

brad-t asked:

Nintendo is a hardware company. Saying they should put their games on iOS reminds me of everyone saying Apple should license OS X. It doesn't work that way.

I, of course, realize this. But I don’t view the situations as all that similar. Apple fell because it was mismanaged over several years. Nintendo has fallen because the world has simply changed around them very rapidly. (Remember how insanely popular the Wii was just a few years ago?) And it’s not going back.

They need to become the Pixar of the gaming world — another company which focused on hardware once upon a time.

Sam Byford:

Nintendo made an operating loss in 2012 for the second consecutive year as its new Wii U console failed to spark excitement among consumers. The company lost 36.4 billion yen ($366 million) over the 2012 fiscal year; last quarter, the company unexpectedly predicted that it would lose $220 million in 2012 after previously saying it would turn the same amount in profit. The Wii U has sold 3.45 million units worldwide to date, missing Nintendo’s goal of 4 million units for the financial year — itself a lowered expectation after the company initially predicted it would sell 5.5 million systems. Three months ago, Nintendo announced worldwide Wii U sales of 3.06 million.

Say it with me: i - O - S.

Frank Cifaldi for Gamasutra:

We’re told by someone with access to the NPD’s data that sales for January were “well under” 100,000 units. By our estimates, sales were somewhere between 45,000 and 59,000 units for the month, which is lower than any of the three previous-generation home consoles sold in their worst months, with the possible exception of a recent performance by the original Wii.

Ouch. And that’s with an extra “leap” week in January to bolster sales. This is continuing to look like a total disaster for Nintendo.

Some good follow-up thoughts by Marco Arment on my thoughts about Nintendo.

Arment is of course right that Nintendo wants to remain in the hardware business because when things are going well, it’s a much better business to be in. But things aren’t going well. And I’m not sure they ever will again for Nintendo, sadly. As Arment notes, the Wii turned out to be a fad.

The Wii U is just a very strange product. Nintendo’s can’t compete with Microsoft and Sony on high-end gaming hardware. And they can’t compete with Apple on touchscreen-based gaming. So they seemingly did a half-assed job on both.

While the Wii was a fad, it worked very well for a time because it was different. It forced the competitors to come to them. Nintendo no longer had to chase down the big guys in battles they couldn’t win (see: above). That’s the only way Nintendo stays alive. They need to truly innovate in videogame hardware.

Like Arment, I’m worried that instead they’ll go down the Sega road and just pump out cheap versions of their great old franchises to anyone who will take them. That’s why I’d love to see Apple step in and buy Nintendo, and let them operate as the independent iOS gaming wing of the company. If Apple wants to move hardware, it’s hard to imagine a better way than having exclusives on all of the Nintendo titles going forward (as well as the back catalog).

It should be like Pixar within Disney. Remember, Pixar started out trying to make hardware as well.

Daisuke Wakabayashi for WSJ:

Nintendo slashed its sales outlook in the wake of disappointing holiday demand for its new Wii U videogame console, which it had been banking on to rekindle consumer excitement.

For the current fiscal year to March, Nintendo now expects an operating loss of ¥20 billion, compared with an earlier projection for an operating profit of ¥20 billion.

Yikes. Hate to say “I told you so" here, because I love Nintendo. But the writing has been on the wall for a while. I just don’t see how Nintendo stays in the hardware business.

Yes, yes, you could have said the same about Apple way back when. But the difference here is that it’s not about mismanagement. The world has simply changed.

We’ll see how Microsoft and Sony fare later this year, but I’m pretty bearish on stand-alone gaming consoles. Microsoft is wise to make the Xbox more of an “entertainment hub”, and less about pure gaming.

I just wonder how long it will take the very proud Nintendo to license out their games. If I were Apple, I would give them a blank check for iOS exclusives on Mario, Zelda, etc. Apple is all about making moves to sell hardware — imagine how much hardware such a move would sell.

Garrett Murray:

The GamePad also features NFC support, a stylus, a proprietary port on the bottom and OH MY GOD WHO CARES. Basically, the GamePad is Nintendo’s answer to the iPad. Only its touch screen is non-capacitive (and therefore quite poor), its resolution is lower, it’s thicker, heavier and uglier, and you can’t play games on it without being in reach of the Wii U console. Playing for an extended period of time on the GamePad is very fatiguing because the GamePad is large and quite a bit heavier than any other game controller on the market.

Even more damning may be Murray’s list of just how long it takes to do anything on the Wii U. It’s almost 2013, those load times are unacceptable.

I’ve had a bad feeling about the Wii U since before it launched. Murray’s notes seem to confirm all of my worst fears.

Speaking of the Wii U, here’s Engadget’s review by Ben Gilbert. It features an important note near the top:

Note: Nintendo delayed TVii into December, and the majority of promised functionality was not made available to reviewers ahead of the console’s November 18th release date (including crucial components like online infrastructure, the Miiverse social network, Nintendo Network, Nintendo TVii, and Wii backwards compatibility). As such, we’re updating our review as we use those features, post-launch.

It sure sounds like this was a rush job. I get it — the all-important holiday shopping season — but this has me very worried about Nintendo’s prospects here. I’m sure it will sell out quickly because it’s Nintendo, but they’re going to bolting on key parts mid-flight. Always better to finish a plane before it takes off.

John Biggs on if the Wii U’s touchpad controller will work in the era of smartphones:

I honestly don’t know the answer to this but I can say that the Wii U/GamePad experience is dedicated to gaming just as, say, Kindle Fire is dedicated to reading. There are some distractions in the form of YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu (all unavailable when I wrote this) but the key endeavor here is getting Mario back to Peach’s castle, come hell or high Bowser.

Good line and good thought (though I assume he means the Kindle and not the Kindle Fire). The Kindle has continued to do well and evolve in the age of multi-purpose tablets. Certainly, you can make an argument for a dedicated game console continuing to find the same success.

The issue I see is that all of these consoles are now trying to do everything (YouTube, Hulu, movies, music, etc) and what’s likely to be showcased is that tablets/smartphones do these things better. That just means the gaming experience will have to be that much better on the consoles — especially when you need to continue to convince people to spend $60 on individual games. We’ll see.

Interesting that consoles are now transforming into handheld systems with TV-viewing optional. I welcome this change. I play games on my iPhone all the time. The Wii? I haven’t used it in over two years.

But can this hybrid model compete with the iPhone? It’s apparently very powerful, but the iPhone will continue to get more powerful — and it will do so every year, unlike consoles which are upgraded every 5 years or so. Soon, the iPhone will be more powerful than this.

And you have the iPhone in your pocket all the time no matter where you are. This? It has a 6.2-inch screen. If you’re going to go big, wouldn’t you rather have a 9.7-inch screen? 

And if we’re comparing it to the iPad, Wii U also has no multi-touch, a mediocre touch screen, and a freaking stylus!? 

But they do have Zelda. And Mario. Those are strong cards. I hope Nintendo plays them well. 

As for “Wii U”? Awful name.