Shigeru Miyamoto stated in an interview with Fortune that the rising popularity of tablets during the Wii U’s launch window is the biggest factor in the ultimate downfall of the console.
The Wii U’s predecessor, simply called the Wii, was the third best-selling video game console behind the PlayStation 2 (155 million) and original PlayStation (102.49 million) with a total of 101.52 million units sold as March 2015. Despite not being an HD console (480p was the highest output resolution), the console found a strong core gaming audience while appealing to the untapped casual audience who found the intuitive motion control interface easy to grasp.
The Wii U, only in its second year of release, has sold a total of 9.5 million (half of that in North America) while the original Wii had reached over 44 million units sold in the same timeframe. Sony’s PlayStation 4, which is currently the sales leader this generation of consoles, sold 9.5 million in nine months and currently sits at 22 million units sold.
Third-party publishers died off quickly, including Ubisoft, which had invested in the original Wii from the early days of the console. Combined with an anemic launch library for the Wii U and an underpowered architecture compared to its contemporaries the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the Wii U was not appealing to developers from the beginning. Ports of PS4 and Xbox One games to the Wii U would not be possible, forcing developers to decide to focus development on the more powerful consoles or spread across all three. When the dismal Wii U sales figures started trickling in, nearly every publisher abandoned the console. The last major AAA release for the console would be Watch Dogs, and even that title did not receive all the DLC released.
Gamers and journalists, including the Inquisitr, all have theories as to the reason the Wii U failed, but Shigeru Miyamoto thinks the reason is due to the rise of tablets.
Speaking to Fortune Miyamoto stated, “I feel like people never really understood the concept behind Wii U and what we were trying to do. I think the assumption is we were trying to create a game machine and a tablet and really what we were trying to do was create a game system that gave you tablet-like functionality for controlling that system and give you two screens that would allow different people in the living room to play in different ways. …. Unfortunately, because tablets, at the time, were adding more and more functionality and becoming more and more prominent, this system and this approach didn’t mesh well with the period in which we released it.”
Anyone who watched Nintendo’s live stream for E3 2015 can tell that Nintendo was signaling the close of the both the Wii U and 3DS. The opening of the live stream had Nintendo of America’s president, Reggie Fils-Aimé, speaking about the mysterious NX console that will be supposedly unveiled in 2016. In an interview with Forbes, Reggie was confident that four of the coming titles between now and the next E3 will be significant hardware drivers: Super Mario Maker, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Skylanders, and Star Fox.
The company is making strides in adapting, including a partnership to develop mobile games with DeNA as well as the exploding Amiibo market, which are certainly helping the bottom line as Nintendo did show a profit in the last quarter. The Wii U isn’t the juggernaut Nintendo hoped it would be, making the expectations for the NX even higher. We will know more about this new console when Nintendo decides the time is right.
[Image Source | Handout]