A lot of the rhetoric behind the transition from Wii to Wii U suggests that Wii is in a natural slump, nearing the end of its life, and so it’s time for Nintendo to move on… but honestly, I think that’s easily disputed. VentureBeat posted up an infographic comparing the yearly sales of each Nintendo console since the N64, and suggests that Wii has followed the very same pattern as the last two generations, with the Wii U opportunely timed to launch at just the right point in the curve.
But this is nonsense because Wii as a whole simply isn’t in the same end-of-life slump that its predecessors faced - at least, not for the reasons most people would like for you to believe. While unit sales for Nintendo 64 and GameCube both slipped to numbers far below their first-year sell-through by the tail end of their fifth years (incidentally right before a new hardware launch), we just haven’t seen that trend with Wii. In fact, in fiscal year 2012 Nintendo sold four million more Wiis than they did in FY 2007. That’s despite piss-poor software support and in the face of climbing sales for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
This isn’t the sign of a dying console - but it might be the sign of a starving one. Skyward Sword was the biggest Wii project released throughout all of 2011, and it didn’t release until the holiday season. Imagine how Wii might have flourished had it seen another New Super Mario Bros. - the game that propelled the system to its highest height in 2009.
I don’t say this because I think that Nintendo shouldn’t get ready for a new piece of hardware. Far from it! Instead, I think that Nintendo shouldn’t have so totally abandoned Wii when there was no sign of it slowing down until they stopped bringing it critical software. I guess you could say that the “over 100 games in development” counts as support… but will any of those games be AAA first-party titles? I seriously doubt it.
At the same time, there’s a reasonable case to be made for Nintendo needing to jump on HD as soon as they could to avoid getting shut out by Sony or Microsoft’s next-gen outings. I think it’s already clear that Wii U’s tablet is not going to make the same waves among consumers that the Wii Remote did, so Nintendo needs to sell its new system on being an affordable cutting-edge machine instead of ignoring system power in favor of sheer innovation. Of course, at the end of the day software is all that matters… but even then Nintendo needs to bring in third-party developers before they decide that the system isn’t worth their time.
The point here is not to say whether Wii U needs to come soon - I agree that it does - it’s whether Wii could have had another couple years of flourish left in it had Nintendo given it the kinds of full support it got from 2008 to 2010. Do you think that Nintendo picked the right time to leave Wii in the dust?