Feature Article

Nintendo's Plan to Quietly Kill the Wii U

Editorial: Tom believes Nintendo's mysterious "quality of life" platform could be intended to quietly nudge the Wii U out of the spotlight.

The Wii U is performing dismally at retail. It's the depressing reality in which we live, and one that has caused us to think up ways to improve the console's fate. What if Nintendo no longer bundled it with the expensive GamePad? Or partnered with outside studios willing to create exclusive games for the Wii U? Then maybe the system wouldn't lag so far behind its competitors. Though such moves might help Nintendo in the short term, they would be mere Band-Aids on an open wound. The Wii U is in a dire situation. I believe Nintendo has reconciled itself to that fact, and has already planned a way to bail from this sinking ship.

Enter the "quality of life" (QOL) platform. No one knows what to make of Nintendo's proposed QOL initiative, partly because we know almost nothing about it. Nintendo wants to improve people's lives in some indeterminate way--using non-wearable technology--and is going to introduce this nebulous product some time next year. According to CEO Satoru Iwata, whatever the QOL platform is, it will be entirely separate from their gaming ventures. Iwata said, “When we use ‘health’ as a keyword, some may inevitably think about ‘Wii Fit.’ However, we are considering themes that we have not incorporated to games for our existing platforms." But what if Nintendo has much grander plans for this mysterious device than they're letting on? This could be Nintendo's next big idea. An idea much more in-demand than their ill-advised tablet controller, and one that could propel the company to the same heights it enjoyed during the peak years of the Wii.

Could Nintendo build an entire platform around the likes of Wii Fit?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let's take a look back at history. In 2004, Nintendo announced the DS, and positioned it as a complement to the Game Boy Advance and GameCube. It was going to be their "third pillar," another portable system that would coexist alongside their other hardware. Remember, this was a difficult time for Nintendo. The GameCube was lagging far behind the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and though the Game Boy Advance was still in its prime, it wasn't successful enough to prop up an entire company. Nintendo was becoming less relevant. They needed to make a serious splash to turn the attention of the gaming audience back toward them.

What if Nintendo has much grander plans for this mysterious device than they're letting on?

As you may remember, the Nintendo DS was a phenomenon. Nintendo had a masterful software lineup that appealed to its core audience while bringing in newcomers as well. There was nothing else like Nintendogs or Brain Age, so Nintendo was able to expand to the casual market, though they never ignored those who kept them afloat during the lean years of the GameCube and Nintendo 64. It soon became clear that their planned "third pillar" was no more than a shield. If the DS were to fail, they could sweep it under the carpet and release a new Game Boy. But after the handheld took off, the Game Boy name was forgotten, and Nintendo has continued to have one dual-screen handheld and one console ever since.

Now we're seeing history repeat itself. The 3DS is selling well, though not nearly as well as its predecessor, and the Wii U is bottoming out. Nintendo is losing relevance. Its investors are demanding that they develop games for smartphones while its loyal fans are gobbling up the few games still trickling out for the Wii U. It's a sad situation. Excellent games such as The Wonderful 101 and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze are being ignored at retail simply because not many people own the system, and third-party studios are sprinting away from the console as if it has Ebola. Is it too late for a price cut? Is it too late to secure exclusive games? The Wii U's fate isn't sealed yet, but the chances of Nintendo turning its fortunes around are so slim that a plan B is needed.

Maybe the Vitality Sensor will make a triumphant return.

And that plan is the curious quality of life platform. When Nintendo first announced this device, I was puzzled. Nintendo has been around for more than 100 years, and in that time they may have transitioned from manufacturing playing cards to video games, but they have always focused on entertainment. Quality of life gives me visions of doing P90X workouts or downing a raw egg after jogging five miles. It makes me think about psychiatric evaluations and acupuncture appointments. People improve their lives in ways that are necessary, but not fun, so I couldn't imagine how a quality of life platform could possibly be appealing.

But then I remembered who we're talking about. There's no way that Nintendo is going to push our minds and bodies to their limits without a carrot dangling tantalizingly before our eyes. I may not have a clue what this QOL thing actually is, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be fun. More importantly, it's going to attract an audience that could not care less about the 3DS and Wii U. Part of the reason the DS and Wii were so popular is that Nintendo broke free of popular gaming conventions to appeal to people who don't want to spend their leisure time stomping goombas or doing barrel rolls. Wii Sports and Picross DS showed those who normally shun games why we spend so much time in front of a digital screen, and elevated Nintendo to the predominant technology company.

So right now, Nintendo is taking a cautious approach with their quality of life platform. They announced it at the same time they said Mario Kart 8 is coming out in May and Satoru Iwata is taking a paycut, news stories that would deflect attention away from this mystery. They're carefully saying that it's separate from their gaming division. Nintendo is trying to make the QOL as inoffensive as possible, something that gets mentioned during investment meetings instead of taking center stage during a Nintendo Direct. But they're only going to stay quiet for so long.

A model for our future wellness.

For the rest of 2014, Nintendo is going to continue with the plans we've already seen with the Wii U. Mario Kart 8, Yoshi's Epic Yarn, Super Smash Bros. and Bayonetta 2 are still going to come out this year. Maybe we'll even see X and Zelda come out next year. But after that? Don't expect much. Nintendo is treading water with the Wii U, but that's not a long-term strategy. Once the QOL platform comes out next year, you're going to see their focus shift. Advertising and store kiosks will force this device into people's consciousness, and Nintendo will distance itself from the failing Wii U. It's a smart strategy. Nintendo doesn't have the third-party support to prop up a console, and can't produce games quickly enough to keep good software flowing. They have to reinvent themselves.

This sounds like a scary situation for someone who was weaned on Nintendo games, but it doesn't have to be. Nintendo will never stop making the video games that we know and love. But it's no longer financially viable to have two separate platforms that cater to the same audience. By having the QOL alongside the 3DS, Nintendo will be able to appeal to the dyed-in-the-wool gamers and the casual populace at the same time. And we'll see traditional games such as Super Mario 3D World released only for dedicated gaming devices, while everything else comes out on the QOL platform. Everyone will win. It may be a rough transition, but I believe Nintendo's quality of life platform will greatly improve the fortunes of the Kyoto company and push the Wii U quietly into the sunset.

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Discussion

1678 comments
spasticus162
spasticus162

Apart from a novelty motion controller. Nintendo's rep comes from great first party games. The answer is clear dump the console manufacturing(except maybe handheld) and become a software developer on multi platform titles. They courted the casuals with wii. problem is most of those casuals are not loyal enough to just jump onboard a new product. Casuals cannot be relied on long term for games sales, or loyalty when a new console appears. This coupled with the fact that nintendo steadfastly refused to keep up technologically wiith Sony and Microsoft means they struggle to attract most gamers. Notrue gamer can tell me they don't want a zelda game with the same graphical quality as witcher 3 or any of the top RPG's coming this generation.

DS_Lightning21
DS_Lightning21

Funny reading this article now...and any article that says the WiiU is dead.  The WiiU owns 2014!

pamelazanest
pamelazanest

Remember how the xbox started? They paid developers for exclusives! Cue Dino Crisis 3 for a good example and now they're doing the same for Titan Fall. Not only that but word around the 'net is Microsoft is trying to make Square Enix's Tomb Raider sequel become an Xbox exclusive. Nintendo should do the same! They did for the Resident Evil Remake and see how good that went? And now for Bayonetta 2 for the Wii U but it's too late. Or maybe not. Either way, they should do something to get fans back. My last one was the Game Cube and now I'm all for Sony and Microsoft. Not because they're better systems but most of the games I like and even most people like are getting released for those consoles except for Nintendo's. If you ask me, Nintendo's system is way more innovative but that's not gonna be enough. It's the games that count. And Nintendo should learn this. 

mruizinho
mruizinho

As a pc gamer, wii u is atm the only console i may buy, and the only one with good games.

Just need a metroid and a new zelda for meto buy it.

d_love
d_love

Very misleading article title.  Is Nintendo struggling with their 2 year old console Wii U?  Most definitely.  Does this article reveal any actual "plans" Nintendo has to "quietly kill the Wii U"?  Definitely not.  My point is, it's more about interpretation based off past factual evidence, and the article headline insinuates Nintendo has actual "plans" which would be discovered by reading the article.  We'd be better served if the headline started "My thoughts on...", or "Looks like...", as opposed to "Nintendo's plans...".

Deathstalker83
Deathstalker83

Bottom line , Nintendo need to get games , it's all about the games , Wii U is a great system ... Nintendo needs to get 3rd party games .. go make a Battletoads game or a new Chakan the Forever Man game ... make a deal with Capcom and make a Castlevania game.. Make a Clayfighter game.......make a deal with SquareEnix ... give us a Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior game .... get creative nintendo .... remember what worked and use it .....

wiredwhale
wiredwhale

First of all, the Wii U is not causing Nintendo any dire consequence, other than a slight drop in profits, which is why the can, at worst, break even this year. Also, just because the Kinect-less XBox is selling better doesn't mean that will work with the Wii U. Why? Because the GamePad is NOT the reason the Wii U is ridiculously expensive, because it's actually the cheapest of the 3. So what good would removing it do? Lower the price even more? Pfft. If people can't fathom paying $300 for a system, then price isn't the reason they're not buying it. 

JudgeSim
JudgeSim

he's so right. what nintendo games are coming in the future? i don't know of any. people are getting tired of the same recycled mario game every year.

colbster
colbster

They needed an updated Star Wars game for it. Rogue Squadron would have been a perfect fit - the game pad would be your targeting computer or let you play mini games to repair your craft. I blame Disney and Lucas Arts. They really just needed one or two more great franchises to keep it above water. Mario can't do it by himself.

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

Saddly the video games world turned their back at gameplay innovation for a long time now and with the rising of the PC crowd ... Nintendo magic is kinda out saddly. I remember once the N64 came out, Nintendo was still quite powerful but they choose to use cartridge instead of CD and so many developpers went away. I though Nintendo had a SNES 2.0 with the GameCube but it died like all of a sudden since then, if it wasn't for the DS and 3DS Nintendo would be out ... and video games would be à 100% streamlined ... same controller for now on pretty much like PC ... their only innovation is graphics because they always used a mouse and keyboard just like Sony still use their dualshock ... it's over.

tayhuck
tayhuck

Wii-U = horrible name.

Game pad should have been a 3DS as an optional tie in controller for developers to use considering most Nintendo fans already own one. Would have kept price of Wii-U down and increased sales of 3DS.

Games are great and I actually love the controller but having a unique controller and only one per system (think kids fighting over the "good controller") missed the mark and increased the price. Imagine if your 3DS could have been the controller.

And the nail in the coffin? Miis. Stupid name. Stupid graphical and design options with no Nintendo magic behind them. And they couldn't improve them from the original wii!? No higher polygon counts and greater customization options? Think Little Big Planet.

Innovation done smarter could have kept them ahead of sony and Microsoft who mostly played this gen safe.

The community instantly gave all this feedback before the system was even released if they'd cared to listen. Sad.

madsnakehhh
madsnakehhh

And that's why you are no longer here McShea,

IndremaLover
IndremaLover

Unbundle the unnecessary gamepad and drop the price to $149 with a AAA game.

Yeah, that should do it.

d-rockp0p
d-rockp0p

I love My Nintendo! And my 3ds. I mean I do Play my PS4 More. But wheb Friends come over We all Play Mario kart and Other Great games 

Mayleene
Mayleene

Nice try there Tommy boy!  Your March 9th article above just proves how stupid you were then and how stupid you are now.

Jdzspace
Jdzspace

this article is from march, this was before mario kart, before their amazing E3 and before apparently Bayonetta became this legendary game as far as reviews are concerned. 


things look really bright for the Wii U's future. there is a reason it's been able to stay ahead of Microsoft hit by hit this year. 

goldtoesocks
goldtoesocks

Still waiting for zelda..... Taking their sweet ass time releasing it.

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

Seeing this article I now know why Tom needed to go. This is facepalm worthy.

TheTenth10
TheTenth10

the conclusion is simple : their main Wii success was the Wiimote/nunchuk and lots of advertising that every family member will have fun with it, so about 80+% of their sales were to "casuals", people with no knowledge, expectaions and thus critical mind. For the WiiU they decided to put a complex controllet (a tablet with joysticks) and advertise HD. So the casuals quit.

brgsteven
brgsteven

The original NES was my second console gaming system when I was a kid after Atari it was the console to have. After the PS One came out I ended my relationship with Nintendo but I was never opposed to owning another Nintendo console as they came out but it was the games that stopped me. Sure they had some cool games over the years but nothing that really stood out to me as a whole. Nintendo made a lot of cash off of the Wii but really screwed up when they developed the Wii U. The game pad is a scary bad idea and developers hate it, it has no internal high capacity (hard drive) storage. And to top it off no one wants to make games for it and the ones that are out there are for kids or if there is a port of a game on it a better experience would be to play it on a PS or Xbox console.

Nintendo ran away from what made people love them so much. They made a poor choice designing the Wii U and it will be their doom. I believe I saw a comment that claimed Nintendo was about to "comeback", we'll I hate to break the news but Nintendo is done, finished, and they will soon end up like Sega. Making software titles for other systems they used to compete with and if everyone stays patient you will be playing Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zell, and Metriod on your current gen console.

I know this post likely made some of you die hard fans steaming mad over this comment but if it's worth anything I wish Nintendo had stayed on top. They were my favorite and next to Atari for me the big N started my gaming life as I know it. I would be great to seem them turn things around but most of us have all but givin up on them.

POMEGRENADE451
POMEGRENADE451

Jesus Christ Tom, I knew you were contrarian just for the traffic, but this is retarded, even for you.

spydayx1
spydayx1

The Nintendo Wii U is a great system all Nintendo has to do is make more games especially more great games based on characters like Mario, Samus, Link, Little Mac, Star fox, Donkey Kong, Tetris Wario etc i would love for Nintendo to sort of create a Anime style platform for there games for example can you imagine a animated version of Mario like a cartoon but it would play kinda like Dragons Lair and  have those special fight battles like God of War when you have to hit the right buttons to attack i mean with the power that these next generation consoles have now they can really do this easy i don't think that games like Dragons Lair was ever really given the credit that it deserves point is Nintendo should definitely find a new edge on its competitors i believe this could be one of those edges but then again this is just my opinion also i believe that augmented reality will be a big thing in the future picture having some kind of Nintendo eye wear head set this thing could look like shades or glasses but when the person turns them on there not only a game system but they would have online web capability meaning that the user could pull up the web in AR access a AR keyboard it would have AR GPS real time battles against other AR players would have for example pokeman characters battling it out in real time with some kind of voice command..........bye

gregrout
gregrout

The gamepad is the one thing that makes the Wii-U stand out. You don't even need a TV set. The idea that Nintendo would chuck this aside to downgrade themselves to OUYA status is utterly insane. It is written NO-WHERE that Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft should all come out with clones of a generic two controller entertainment systems. It seems that Tom Mc Shea has a very hard time realizing this, despite numerous accolades for Nintendo's previous systems that also shared last place in the "console wars". History does have a way of repeating itself. Here's a Gamespot article lambasting poor 3DS sales from 2011. (http://www.gamespot.com/articles/nintendo-slashes-3ds-prices/1100-6325850/) Maybe Gamespot could do something more "gaming" related like, I don't know... actually playing more video games and reviewing them, instead of filler journalism that requires zero research, just speculation and recycling of previous articles. 

joegrizly
joegrizly

How dumb is this article now considering Nintendo is about to sock it to their competition. What this guy should have been writing about was how Sony and MS are basically the same thing now and Nintendo is doing their own exclusive thing.

gregrout
gregrout

The gamepad is the one thing that makes the Wii-U stand out. You don't even need a TV set. The idea that Nintendo would chuck this aside to downgrade themselves to the OUYA status is utterly insane. It is written NO-WHERE that Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft should come all come out with clones of generic two controller entertainment systems. It seems that Tom Mc Shea has a very hard time realizing this, despite numerous accolades for Nintendo's previous systems that also shared last place in the "console wars". History does have a way of repeating itself. Here's a Gamespot article lambasting the 3DS from 2011. Maybe Gamespot could do something more "gaming" related like, I don't know... actually playing more video games and reviewing them, instead of filler journalism that requires zero research, just speculation and recycling of previous articles.  

sun_spirit
sun_spirit

Oh, here we go a f*cking-gain. Another Nintendo slam article based purely on one lackluster reviewers opinion.
We know you hate Nintendo, Tom. Do you always have to make others feel bad about it for supporting the company?


This is no more an article, than a stain on the side of a toilet bowl, dirty, useless and unpleasant to look at. 


Thanks again, Mr. McShit

FLEEBS
FLEEBS

This is one of the most ridiculous articles I have ever read. That's typical for Mr. McShea, though. Good riddance.

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

These are the kind of dumb articles that led to Tom's dismissal. Oops, I meant "laid off". Sure.....

ClaudeLv250
ClaudeLv250

How did I miss this article? A quality of life platform that doesn't play video games and hasn't been detailed is supposed to swiftly and quietly "replace" the Wii U which has notable software scheduled throughout 2015. Right...

Relias27
Relias27

The problem is Nintendo pretty much said they will not go out of the portable or the console market,, and I don't think with Nintendo's plans they can afford to quietly kill off anything right now, they already ticked off a lot of fans with their Wii(Though a lot of that anger has me questioning peoples sensibility) but then to kill off the U, Big mistake, besides, if Nintendo does what I think they are working for next generation, a combination portable/console, they could not afford too. 

FrKnPuertoRican
FrKnPuertoRican

Is it fair to say that Nintendo kicked this theory's teeth in at E3?

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

Nintendo has a way of pushing into new markets and surviving where it's competitors don't have a strong presence.  It will be interesting to see what they plan to do in the long term.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

I agree that its increasingly hard for them to take their place in the console market. The positive would be that they could double down on the handheld device and make it even stronger.



mike468
mike468

I think the Wii-U had potential. There was just so many missed opportunities with the system's overall design. Under powered hardware and the Wii-U gamepad should have been positioned as a replacement to the 3ds, instead of introducing the 2ds. If they sold the system with a normal controller and sold the gamepad separate, but still included and promoted the features together, i think it would have gone a long way towards helping the system. 


Plus their online network needs to be completely overhauled, but considering Nintendo is 8+ years behind MS and Sony it's not going to happen overnight.

OMGMrTea
OMGMrTea

I don't see why so many people have such a huge problem with Nintendo. If you're a Nintendo fan like me, you are in heaven. Tons of great titles available and more on the way. For all the things not Nintendo, i also have a PS3 and PS4. I'm set for all the goodies to come, so what more can you ask for?

indenton
indenton

@JudgeSim Oh I don't know, Bayonetta 2, Sonic Boom, Xenoblade chronicles X, Splatoon, Captain Toad's treasure tracker, Yoshi's woolly world, Kirby and the rainbow curse, Mario Maker, even more Mario Kart 8 DLC?  What about Zelda Wii U and Shin-megami tensei X Fire emblem?  Not to mention Super smash bros.  Not a recycled Mario game to be found here

chipface-z
chipface-z

@goldtoesocks Better than a rushed POS.  Ocarina of Time was delayed lots and it's considered by many to be the greatest game ever made.  People will forget a game is delayed but they'll always remember if a game was bad.

DrKill09
DrKill09

@mike468  One of the main problems is they NEVER marketed it.  No tv ads or anything.

Setho10
Setho10

@OMGMrTea The problem is that the company is losing money. It can't continue to operate with these levels of sales and stay afloat for the rest of the generation. Luckily Nintendo has massive cash reserves that would in theory let them weather sales at these levels for several more years before having to introduce a new console, but investors wouldn't be pleased with that strategy. They want regular profits and hopefully regular growth. At the height of the Wii, Nintendo was one of the most valuable companies in the world with stock prices that rivaled the likes of Apple and Google in the tech categories. Now the company regularly loses money and the only reason they are able to keep operating is because they had so much cash on hand from those days. But if Wii U or 3DS sales were to drop much below their current levels then Nintendo would be all but forced to enact some major changes to survive.

lilflipp
lilflipp

@OMGMrTea Same here. I got my powerful PC, I got my 3DS, and my Wii U.

And I'm actually satisfied. Sure it could be more than what it is but. They are rocking it with the 3DS. Handheld is theirs.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

@DrKill09 @mike468  and general market confusion. Consumers see it as an optional Wii upgrade with a few novelty games on the gamepad.

champybh
champybh

@Setho10 @OMGMrTea  A report came out recently stating that Nintendo has enough $$$ in the bank to operate at a loss for the next 38 years.  This is just a bump, They will be just fine

OMGMrTea
OMGMrTea

@Setho10 @OMGMrTea  

Yes, i agree, they are not doing too great right now. My point was more towards the gamers. For example, i always enjoyed nintendo games and consoles, but i really hated the (profitable) Wii. And now with the WiiU they have brought forth a console that has tons of great Nintendo franchises already out, and finally in HD. They have a gamepad which supports the classic button and stick layout, again, soo MUCH better than the horrible Wii controls. And, i didn't believe it myself before i had one in my hands, the gamepad and the built in screen is actually really great and has the promise to deliver more and even better gameplay mechanics, like in Rayman Legends.


So, it sounds like the perfect Nintendo console for a hardcore gamer, you get all the great Nintendo stuff finally in HD with great(normal) control input, and an innovative gamepad on top. Yet i see a lot of people complaining about them, they should do this and that, "nintendo is doomed" etc.  

I just don't really get why the WiiU doesn't resonate more with the hardcore, since all the "casual" complaints about the Wii have been corrected with the WiiU. I mean, what do people expect from a Nintendo console? Not-nintendo-like stuff??