This week has been a very bad week for Nintendo. The next Call of Duty marketing blitz doesn’t mention any plans to come to the Wii U. The next Madden definitely isn’t coming to the Wii U. And this comes on the heels of major game after major game dodging the console entirely.
So what’s going on? And can Nintendo turn it around?
It’s not a huge secret that Nintendo and third-party developers have a contentious relationship at best. It started back in the Nintendo 64 era and has continued since, largely thanks to Nintendo’s refusal to participate in the graphical horsepower wars and general tendency to go its own way.
And to be blunt, Nintendo hasn’t really needed major publishers. It runs its business almost entirely differently from Sony and Microsoft. The Wii was quickly left behind by “mainstream” gaming, not least because the Wii’s enormous audience turned out to be interested in minigames and PS2 shovelware a lot more than “hardcore” gaming experiences.
Nintendo’s pretty tight-lipped about Wii U sales, except to say that maybe it could sell a few more units. However, the fact that they sent an email blast to Wii owners telling them that the Wii U was, like, totally different and they should buy one says perhaps more than Nintendo cares to admit. There were literally tear sheets at PAX East explaining the differences between the two consoles that Nintendo was handing out.
Let’s be honest here: Part of the reason most publishers don’t want to work with Nintendo is that they see themselves as a toy company. Many game companies see themselves as adults making games for adults. Granted, the maturity of games like Call of Duty are questionable at best, but the point is, these companies take themselves very, very seriously, and Nintendo can’t, or won’t, cater to that.
Is Nintendo Screwed?
No, but the problem is fairly simple: They need games, and traditional game publishers are making it clear they are not going to make games for the Wii U.
So where is Nintendo going to get games? From the indies. Really, this is where Nintendo needs to turn. Supporting the Unity Engine is a great start, but Nintendo needs to start getting aggressive and working to bring any game with a modicum of a fan base to the Wii U. In theory, for example, Wasteland 2, the enormously popular Kickstarter, could be a Wii U game with some control scheme tweaks.
More to the point, indies are less hidebound by publishing structures and received wisdom. Come to a publisher with an isometric RPG, even after all the success on Kickstarter of the genre, and they’ll laugh at you. So they’re just making it themselves.
Nintendo, and the Wii U, need that. They need fresh perspectives, and fresh games that you can’t find on other consoles. So, you’ve got the Unity engine, Nintendo: Use it.
I want more like this!
Follow us on Facebook and get the latest before everyone else.