The House of Mario is Burning Down in This the Year of Luigi

The popularity of Nintendo in the core gaming sector is waning. Seb Wuepper takes a look at reasons and possible ways out of this dilemma.

by on 14th Nov, 2013

Mario Game Over

Nintendo, you are in trouble. In deep, deep trouble. This poll finds there is a 1% demand for the Wii-U (and there is a 1.4% margin of error, mind you). Your home console, your core device, isn’t selling, and it's not very likely that you'll be able to survive on the success of the 3DS as a company. Look, the Wii was a huge success, but only in the very short term. The people that made that success possible are not there to stay. They have not been turned into long term customers. Those girls (and guys) bought a Wii, bought a couple of games, and after those faded into the background of their lives, never touched the console again. Maybe to watch some Netflix with it, sure, but not to play more games. You need to step up your game, or the Casa di Mario will be finito. 

And those people certainly did not come back to buy a Wii-U. Sure, the Wii-U is more targeted at the core gamer than the Wii was originally. But that's not the reason it's not selling to the typical, casual Wii owner. There are several reasons for that actually:

One is, as I said before, the casual market that Nintendo opened up with the Wii is not sustainable. Those people have not become gamers the way the core gamers have. They will not return for another console cycle. They already have a console and two or three games. They do not need another one. Not yet. Maybe not ever. It is not a sustainable market. 

Another is the fact that the casual market has long since moved on and has been taken over by Apple and Google. People who might have been the target audience for the Wii are now playing on their iPads or Android devices. They will not be coming back to dedicated consoles. The iOS market is siphoning off all the potential buyers right there, simply by offering people an alternative gaming platform with their telephones. Sure it's not the same and it's not offering the same couch co-op experience, but those people don't need that, especially if they already own a Wii. They still play Mario Kart or the odd dancing game once every few months. For everything else, for their gaming guilty pleasures, they have their iOS devices. Or Facebook, at that matter. 

Yet another reason is that the core market also has moved on. This is entirely Nintendo's fault for doing their thing. Which was great for them in the short run, but now that they're trying to get back, nobody seems to be missing them. It might be because the core market is now more or less perfectly satiated with the releases of the new 'big' consoles. For core gamers, Nintendo had become a secondary thing, an "also ran", a side-console with the Wii, and in most cases people are either still happy with their Wii, or just not willing to shell out another $300 for a little thing on the side, especially not when compared with the Playstation 3 just $100 away.

Now where does that leave the Casa di Mario in this the year of Luigi? First of all, if they want to sell the Wii-U, they need to pick up their marketing. If Nintendo doesn't manage getting up a somewhat decent install base, then this thing will run itself into the ground, if it is not too late for that already. The Wii-U has too few decent games, so people don't buy it in big enough numbers, so third party developers are not willing to develop for this platform. And with the release of the now even more powerful new consoles, this will not get any better. Nintendo have painted themselves into a corner, their niche of the market is almost gone now and it will be tough to recover from this. 

Another thing is the price point. You can get a Playstation 3 for about $180 now, which is a platform with a ton of games. Hell, add $50 per year and you get all those neat Playstation Plus games for 'free'. It may be an outgoing console, but it's still competition. It's cheaper, and it has a ton of games readily available, and there's still some new ones coming out at least until somewhere next year. The Wii-U's price needs to move closer to the $200 mark, and fast. Maybe then there will be more units sold. 

I wonder if Nintendo can survive on the moderate and slow success of the 3DS alone until they get their home console sector back together. So far it seems the ship has sailed and Big N is slowly sinking. Then again, the 3DS enjoyed some pretty huge successes this year with the Animal Crossing: New Leaf craze and the recent new edition of Pokémon. Maybe this combined with their Wii (sans -U) money filled war chest is enough for the company to weather this storm, but they have to think of some new strategy and fast, because if things keep going this way, there won't be anything left, and it will be 'Game Over' for Nintendo (Yes, I went there. Don't judge me!).

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