It's official, third party publishers have it out for Nintendo's latest home console. When it comes to support from the mainstream video game industry for the Wii U, things are beginning to look a bit bleak. Price, DLC and game features (for better or worse) have led the latest round of news showing many major companies giving the Wii U the digital middle finger. The question is whether we, the Nintendo consumer, choose to support these companies in a vain attempt to make them feel like they really matter to the Nintendo equation. To fully answer this question, we need to take a look at the bigger picture which we will explore in 2 parts.
Let's kick things off by looking at these companies and their recent business decisions reguarding the Wii U. Warner Bros. Interactive has made Nintendo headlines a few times this year with their exclusion of online multiplayer for Batman: Arkham Origins, the delayed reveal and slow release of Wii U DLC for Injustice: Gods Among Us and the recent revelation that Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition will skip the system entirely. The struggling Square Enix went from announcing Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut as a Wii U exclusive to making it for every system to ultimately charging $20 more for it (The Wii U version will cost $50 while the nearly identical PS3/360 version will be $30). Even UbiSoft (one of the bigger Nintendo supporters) has burned bridges with Nintendo fans by dropping offline Co-op from Splinter Cell: Blacklist, revealing that there will be no DLC for Assassin's Creed IV and their well publicized delay of the excellent Rayman Legends. All in all, it's rather disrespectful to both Nintendo and their fans considering that this has been happening since the days of the N64. Fans have finally had enough and are showing this with their wallets by not buying the games. After years of being pissed on by third party companies, it's about time Nintendo owners finally make a stand. Ironically, third party's will site these poor sales as the reason for not supporting the console not realizing that they shot themselves in the foot by releasing an inferior version of their game for Wii U and even announce that they are doing this.
While this may sound like doom and gloom, the last three console generations have shown that Nintendo really has no need for these companies. In all honesty, there has not been a Nintendo "system seller" from a third party since the days of the Super Nintendo in the early 90's. The N64, GameCube and Wii were all sold by stellar first and second party software (If you don't believe me, I challenge you to find a single third party game that was a system seller for Nintendo in the same way GTA III was for the PS2). There are some companies such as Sega who have jumped on this lack of competition and partnered with Nintendo to bring multiple exclusive Sonic games to the Wii U. It should be noted that the excellent Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed for Wii U managed to sell about the same amount of copies as the same game on both PS3 & 360, an impressive feat considering the massive difference in install base between the systems. This shows that Nintendo fans will support third party companies who treat them with respect. Even with all the drama surrounding Rayman Legends, the Wii U version is selling best despite the massive delay and loss of exclusivity. Sadly, even a month after its release, it hasn't even broke a half million in sales despite being released across 5 systems (Wii U, PC, 360, PS3 & PSVita). The funny thing is that this all really started with Rayman Legends back in February of this year. The game was originally a major exclusive for the Wii U and there were many people planning to buy the system for the game which would have given Nintendo's HD system the post holiday push it needed. I would not have been surprised if the game managed to sell over a million copies but less than 20 days before its release, UbiSoft announced their delay to move the game multiplatform and the result shot through the industry like a bolt of lightning. EA shut down all development for the system, UbiSoft pulled back support and companies such as Square Enix became unwilling to truly commit to the system outside of Deus Ex (this is baffling when you consider their insane level of support for Nintendo handhelds). So what is the future for the Wii U?
If history is anything to go by, Nintendo tends to be at their best when at their "worst". From a sales standpoint, the N64 was beaten to a pulp by the original PlayStation but the N64 had the most defining games of its generation (and possibly all time) with Mario 64, GoldenEye and Ocarina of Time. The GameCube was murdered by the PS2 in system sales but the GameCube gave us Smash Brothers Melee, Metroid Prime and Zelda: Wind Waker (a game so ahead of its time that 12 years later, its HD version STILL looks and plays better than many of today's games!). Despite being a sales monster, the "inferior hardware" of the Wii was shunned by the hardcore and still gave us 2 Mario Galaxy's, true motion control Zelda (Skyward Sword), Mario Kart Wii and Xenoblade Chronicles (a stunning JRPG that dwarfs many games on the "more powerful" PS3/360). Needless to say, Nintendo has big things planned for the Wii U and there is little doubt that said things will sell a lot of hardware. As for the rest of the Wii U library, Nintendo has seen the writing on the wall and is wisely not chasing the third party's for support seeing as there is an imminent crash about to happen if said companies don't change their development habits. Nintendo has instead opened their system to the indies and as stated many times before, the indies are jumping at the chance to support the legendary company.
Continued in Part 2