Will the Wii U suffer the same fate as the Dreamcast?
It's not a very bright time for Nintendo's new console. People burned on the Wii have since turned their backs on Nintendo, and those who never got behind Nintendo are laughing even louder. The Wii U had a good enough launch as far as libraries went, with some big name third-party titles like Mass Effect 3 and Assassin's Creed 3, and for once in a very long time, it actually had a Mario title right alongside with it. Finally displaying in high-definition and incorporating standard analogue sticks and face buttons into their controller (not to mention releasing a traditional Pro Controller), things looked good for Nintendo. This had the makings for the best Nintendo system yet.
So what's going wrong? On November 18th, 2012, why were you able to walk into a store and pluck one off the racks? Why were you able to go to Amazon.com or any number of retail websites and not see the "Out of Stock" status for the Wii U? Why were they going for just about the same as the retail price on eBay? Why were the casuals, who Nintendo targeted so vehemently last generation, so clueless that the Wii U was even out? Why don't people want a Wii U?
It's obvious where they went wrong. Personally, I attribute the major problem to the Wii U's slow start by simply naming it the Wii U, and not the Wii 2. People see Wii U and they think, "Is it an add-on?" They look at the Wii U and see the console pretty much looks just like the Wii. Then they see the tablet controller and think, "Oh, yeah it is. 300 dollars for a tablet controller? No thanks." The entire concept of the machine was wrong from the very start, I even remember Reggie and Co. trying so hard to explain what it was all about last E3. Oh yeah, and the fact that Nintendo probably spend $23.50 on advertising didn't help them at all.
Everyone should know by now that the Wii U is moving dreadfully slow. It managed to move around 55,000 units last month. Bad news keeps rolling in with game delays and cancelations. EA Sports announcing that they will cease support is a major blow, and it's a blow I'd like to focus on. The reason being is that the Dreamcast was hurt severely by a similiar announcement, that being EA would not support the Dreamcast.
That's just one of a few parallels I'd like to mention with the Wii U and Dreamcast. The second is that both the DC and the Wii U released within about a year before stronger, larger competition released their offerings. Consumer faith wasn't there for the DC because of Sega's past mistakes. Sega finally got everything right with the Dreamcast, and it should have definitely had a longer life than it did, but people had enough of Sega. The CD, the 32X, the Saturn. Nintendo's burned a lot of people in present years, and that exact same shortage of consumer faith is present in the Wii U. Also, this really has nothing to do with anything, but both consoles had screens in the middle of their controllers. *cues Twilight Zone theme*
"But the Wii U's only been out a few months! Give it some time!" Ahh, now see, this is where I think Nintendo will fair better than Sega. Nintendo knows how to ride the storm. They can last like a nomad crossing the desert with just a bottle of water. They know they have enough loyal Nintendo fans that will buy their first party titles, and they know the systems will once again start moving when the big guns come out. The Wii U isn't doomed, but it sure as hell is a long long ways away from succeeding.
What matters most, though, is how much they can control the damage this generation. If they somehow manage to put out games slow enough for even the most die hard Nintendo fan, they might lose even more consumer faith. They need to rethink their focus immediately and work as hard as they can to get third party support back, because at this rate, Nintendo fans will be bored waiting for first party titles. They've got to start spending more money and create more internal game studios to keep that supply going. If they start building momentum this holiday season and continue to build it into next year, the Wii U will be alright. If not, Nintendo will just have to do what they can until next gen and try once more.
I have no crystal ball, but the way I see it, this in no way is Nintendo's last console system. Depending on how well or how horribly this does, it will determine whether or not Nintendo's NEXT system will be their last one. People think that if Nintendo fails this generation, that's it for them, because unlike Sony and MS, they have nothing else to fall back on. Well, Nintendo's doing just fine in the handheld business, so they'll be okay, at least for one more generation.
Will the Wii U suffer the same fate as the Dreamcast? No, it won't. But the very fact that thought is on our minds is quite worrisome indeed.