Nintendo has been falling behind their competitors to an extreme extent with their Wii U console and they know it. Earlier this month, they had to slash their sales forecast by a massive 70 percent and to make matters even worse, recognition that the Wii U is in fact a next generation console and not just an extension to the Wii is an issue. If real life was like a video game then they would need to pop on a Game Genie in conjunction with their marketing strategy, enter a few cheat codes and use them to level up.
The problems that have been poised by the Wii U’s failure are substantial and range across a broad number of categories. On one hand, Nintendo’s focus has been on developing diverse hardware which allows them to create interesting games in-house. With the Wii, they had created motion sensitive controllers. With the Wii U, their gimmick was developing a tablet-like controller. While this certainly creates platforms for some interesting games, it has also been the key focus of Nintendo’s marketing strategy rather than on their many likable characters. For instance, take a look at the couple of ads below for the Wii U which are a good representation of many of Nintendo’s ads for this console.
The fact that Nintendo’s iconic characters are no-where to be seen in these advertisements isn’t the only problem. Consider that “Nintendo” itself is a very powerful brand name. When mothers talked about their children’s gaming consoles such as they Playstation or Xbox, it was rare to actually hear them mention that level of distinguishable brand recognition. To them, their children always had the newest “Nintendo.” Not only that, but the company also had this brand recognition built into all their early consoles. It was like having the cheat codes they needed to boost their sales up with in their early days.
Consider the names of all of their early systems. Back in the 1980s they developed the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Followed by this, it was the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the Nintendo 64 (N64) and the Nintendo Gamecube (GC). Finally they released the Wii and then the Wii U.
Even with the original Wii console, it’s debatable that people still associated it as the Nintendo Wii. However, with the Wii U it is very clearly being marketed as only the “Wii U.” In the above examples, “Nintendo” is only mentioned in the fine print of the first advertisement and the name is nowhere to be seen at all in the second one. This begs the question, is the Wii U really powerful enough to be marketed as its own brand? The slashed sales forecast suggests that it is not and additionally, the fact that people are having difficulty recognizing the Wii U as a completely separate console reinforces that belief. Reddit user killer8424 writes:
I honestly didn’t know wii U was an all new system. They would have been better off calling it wii 2
Now for the sake of contrast, compare these Wii U advertisements with many of Nintendo’s highly successful vintage advertisements for the NES from the 80s and 90s. Notice how they all include the brand name and in most cases, the catch phrase, “Now you’re playing with power.”
$1 apps on iPhone and Android are pretty good. Nintendo wants $5 for a 30yo NES game. Wii U should have had hundreds of old games for $0.25/ea while waiting for the big titles to come out.
Another failure is the console simply having a lack of certain, highly anticipated games. According to Reddit user junther1111 and many others who chimed in to agree:
I know a lot of people that are waiting for Mario Kart and Smash Bros to buy a console.
Meanwhile, Nintendo will be announcing a new management strategy on Thursday. They have also been doing their best to squash rumors that they will be offering any of their titles onto smartphones. According to a recent report, it is more likely that they will be using smart devices to promote their products. Maybe smartphones and tablets are like the cheat codes that they need to use in order to level up their business strategy with. Perhaps the Wii U is just like Windows Vista, and whatever comes next will be like the Windows 7 that solves all of Nintendo’s problems.
By Jonathan Holowka