The Wii certainly has a lot of accolades under its belt. The ‘Little White Box’ is Nintendo’s most successful home console to date. Having sold over 100 million units worldwide, it’s also one of the best-selling video game systems ever, taking the 5th position. It’s also one of the fastest-selling systems ever, and for a period of time, was one of the most recognized brand-names in the world; everyone and (literally) their grandmother knew what ‘the Wii’ was.
Despite the grand success that Nintendo was able to achieve with the system in the short-term, things didn’t actually bode very well when you look at it from a long-term perspective. The Wii may have found itself sitting under millions of TVs, but the end result is nothing short of depressing—and it’s a problem that is currently affecting Nintendo right now.
The Wii attracted people of all kinds thanks to the simplicity of the Wii Remote. Its motion capabilities captured the attention of both young and old, gamers and non-gamers. The wide, varied demographic that made up the Wii’s user-base was basically an evolution of what Nintendo has always been about: attracting families. Nintendo named its first system the ‘Famicom’, which was short for ‘Family Computer’. While that name was dropped for the console’s release outside of Japan (becoming the ‘NES’), Nintendo’s advertising campaign showed that families were still its primary target. This led other console makers, (starting with SEGA and continuing with Sony and Microsoft), to target the older demographic with grittier titles.
When the gaming craze rose in the 90s, the uptick of violent games led the industry to be the target of a lot of negative propaganda. Many considered video games to be nothing more than brain-rotting time wasters that were primarily targeted at young and adolescent boys. Generally speaking, people were also led to think that video games were just for kids; an adult playing games was seen as being childish. Nintendo was able to nuke these stigmas with the Wii.
The ‘Family Computer’ had returned; a system that anyone could play, and everyone was invited to do so. Here, Big N truly did succeed. So where does this “false success” come in?
While the Wii did have a massive effect on the gaming industry, its rule did not last forever. Sony and Microsoft finally gave into the motion control craze and created peripherals of their own which turned the ‘macho’ PS3 and Xbox 360 into more family-oriented systems. In fact, when the Xbox 360’s Kinect released back in 2010 it was declared as the fastest-selling consumer device ever. This event marked the Wii’s major sign of false success—lack of brand loyalty.
Despite the fact that Nintendo was able to steal the attention of millions, these attention spans didn’t last. The Wii was already well ahead of both the 360 and PS3 when their motion-control components were released, yet, that didn’t stop people from going out and scooping up those systems just because they were suddenly ‘new’ again. Even titles that were basically copies of what Nintendo had already done (like Kinect Sports, for example) still managed to sway millions of people over to the 360.
When the casual gamers, the folks who primarily made-up the Wii’s userbase, left, the console began to gradually flat-line. 2010 marked the last true ‘big’ year for the system, after which, it was pretty much game over; outside of the 2011 release of Skyward Sword, there really wasn’t anything much left of value. At this point, the Wii U had come onto the scene. Although Nintendo unveiled the system as being its next-generation platform, a good number of folks who knew of the system’s existence were confused as to exactly what it was. When the console launched in 2012 it was able to sell over 3 million units at a pretty fast rate, but its sales dropped like a rock shortly after. Outside of there having been a near-deathly drought of titles at the time, the sales drop was also due to the fact that the ‘Wii’ name had already expired.
When the greater portion of the casual crowd left the system in 2010, all that remained were primarily Nintendo faithfuls. This was the group who didn’t really care for titles like Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Just Dance. Rather, this was the group that was salivating over titles like Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime, Twilight Princess, and more niche games like Xenoblade and The Last Story. It turns out that this group was quite small, especially when compared to the casual crowd. The other gamers were already quite satisfied with their PS3’s and 360’s, so not even the announcement of the Wii U caught their attention.
Once Microsoft and Sony entered the motion-controls market, the Wii’s large mass of followers proved to be incredibly unloyal.
There’s no doubt that Nintendo made quite a bit of cash from the Wii (as well as the DS), but this came at the cost of the company’s reputation being further downgraded.Nintendo’s continued focus on family entertainment may have brought in millions of non-gamers, but after they left, all that remained was the actual gamer crowd, and the majority of them were and still are living it up on rival platforms. If the Wii was truly successful, them millions of people would have lined up to buy a Wii U just because it has ‘Wii’ in the title. Nintendo needs to turn this ship around.
One can only hope that with the NX, Nintendo finally finds away to achieve a level of balance. The company shouldn’t throw away its efforts of targeting families and kids, but having a decent variety of titles that appeal to different tastes is what is truly crucial to success. This is why Nintendo actually getting third-party support would be so groundbreaking—there would be a huge variety. Seeing that most of Nintendo’s IPs are relatively clean, there would be no shortage of games under the T rating. Having the true support of other developers would add a much larger variety of titles, in addition to Nintendo’s great games.
The casual crowd is all but gone, and there’s a good chance they aren’t going to coming back either. The gaming industry has returned to its original form: a place for the gamers. Nintendo’s titles are great, but its reputation is far from being in a good position. The NX needs to be the system that rectifies the situation. Due to the lack of details, it remains annoyingly-unclear if the system really will be capable of pulling off such a daunting task, but one can only hope Nintendo has learned its lesson from the Wii, and by extension, the Wii U.