Nintendo’s Third Party Problem
Nintendo’s Wii U has been out for roughly eight months and there have been numerous reports of third party developers canceling Wii U versions of their games or simply not developing for the console. Ubisoft, once one of the Wii U’s most prominent third party supporters with titles like Rabbids Land, ZombiU, and Assassin’s Creed III, has ceased all Wii U exclusives, including the long awaited Rayman Legends, and even Electronic Arts has announced that it has no Wii U titles currently in development. It looks like hard times for the Wii U and Nintendo may have a failing console on their hands.
However, doesn’t this scenario seem familiar to anyone? Nintendo has been in this situation not once but twice before. The Nintendo 64 struggled with its third party support due to the company’s decision to stick with cartridges instead of moving on to compact discs and the GameCube was a distant third behind the Xbox and PlayStation 2 during the sixth generation of consoles due in large part to more third party games coming out on the other consoles. However, Nintendo have always manage to weather the storm last place in a console generation usually brings. So why should this generation be any different?
Gamers like to talk about how Nintendo is finally going to fall and how they’re going to have to either become a third party developer or go out of business. It’s expected that Nintendo is going to go the way of Sega and survive only on their licenses. However, Nintendo has a thriving handheld market and although the 3DS isn’t as popular as the original DS, it is doing well enough to keep the company afloat. What’s more is the 3DS does have decent third party support so does Nintendo have a third party problem at all?
I know it seems like I’m asking more questions than answering but there’s a point to this and here it is: Yes this generation is different and yes Nintendo still indeed has a third party problem. However the real question is how long will Nintendo remain in the console business? You see, for the first time in 30 years, Nintendo is losing money. Despite the N64 and GameCube’s problems, those consoles manages to make money for the company because the built them so efficiently that they would still make money despite it’s low sales. The Wii at the end of its life wasn’t so lucky and the company reported its first loss back in 2011. Similarly, the 3DS despite its success is still losing money with Nintendo because they expected the sales to be better than what they currently are. So the company was already hemorrhaging money when the Wii U came out and lets not forget that the Wii U is the company’s first HD console, which costs much more than SD content.
Some people say that you buy a Nintendo console now to play Nintendo games, not to play third party titles and therefore the point is moot. However, time has shown that this has managed to keep Nintendo afloat but not dominate its market like it did in the NES and SNES days. That may have been fine then but Nintendo is now in a place where just getting by is not going to cut it anymore. A company that’s losing money combined with a failing product cannot stand and unless something drastic happens, the console race may turn into a two man show.
It’s true that Nintendo has had a third party problem but it’s only been a problem that has concerned gamers up to this point. There weren’t enough games for the N64, games played awkwardly on the GameCube and most of the third party games on the Wii were crap but that only concerned those who played and developed the games, not the business end of the company. However, now it’s a business problem. Because even though we have Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Bros, and The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD coming soon, time has proven that’s not enough.
I would rather Nintendo not fade away but I’m not so blind as to not see that they did this to themselves as well. I’ll probably buy a Wii U at some point because I want to play Mario Kart 8 even though its the same thing as the other Mario Karts and I’m an idiot but it won’t be enough. Nintendo itself isn’t enough anymore. Nostalgia can only take you so far and it looks like that point is now.