Nintendo should look to SEGA’s mistakes or history could repeat itself
Yesterday the internet was set ablaze with rumors that Nintendo would be discontinuing their support of the Wii U this year ahead of the launch of the company’s next console, the NX. Stemmed by a recent Nikkei report that claimed the company would be abandoning the system due to its floundering sales figures when compared to their previous hardware and the Wii U’s likely inability to recover from a console generation that’s been unkind to Nintendo’s latest white box, the news wasn’t really that hard to swallow. Much to the relief of fans of the platform, Nintendo was quick to respond, claiming the company plans to continue support for the console throughout the fiscal year. While this is certainly welcome news for many, I can’t help but wonder if Nintendo might want to take a look back at gaming’s not-too-distant history, and to their former rival SEGA and evaluate if it’s really worth supporting the Wii U for the foreseeable future.
Way back in the mid 1990’s, SEGA was a company awash with platforms to support. The former hardware giant was actively producing games for the SEGA Genesis, 32X, Saturn, Game Gear and arcades all at once. Simply put, they were nothing if not overly ambitious. And while that kind of ingenuity was a beautiful thing to witness way back in the company’s heyday, their commitment to developing games for, and actively marketing so many different platforms, resulted in a brand that lacked both a coherent direction or the ability to communicate their vision to their customers. This over-saturation of hardware ended in lackluster sales of their flagship hardware. This also led to inconsistent first-party development for all of these platforms, as the company’s internal studios were spread so thin supporting SEGA’s fleet of black boxes. Simply put, this flood of hardware was simply too much for SEGA to support, and they paid dearly for it. In the end the damage was done, and the once-great company’s losses were just too great to sustain. SEGA abandoned their final console, the Dreamcast, less than two years after the system’s September 1999 launch.
Flash forward to 2016 and it seems that Nintendo could be facing the same dilemma as their formal industry rivals. If indeed the NX releases this year, as all signs seem to indicate, Nintendo will be left supporting a handful of platforms all at once. With the Nintendo 3DS, New 3DS, Wii U and NX all on the market, in addition to the Big N’s mobile game endeavors, it’s hard to imagine the company, who has up to this point let out a slow trickle of support for their current home console, will manage to deliver a meaningful degree of support for two home consoles and their stable of handheld hardware.
Despite the release of several standout games in recent years, it’s no secret that the Wii U has largely been overshadowed by the Sony and Microsoft’s hardware offerings. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have succeeded in no small part due to their leadership’s keen focus on keeping their platforms flooded with solid software lineups. If Nintendo wants to convince consumers to adopt the NX, they’re going to need to work hard on devoting as much of their resources as possible to ensuring the platform offers enough memorable experiences for players. That said, juggling two home consoles seems like the absolute worst way to do that. If Nintendo ultimately decides to merely pad the NX’s launch library with ports of Wii U titles on the NX, such as the rumored release of Super Smash Bros or an enhanced version of the upcoming The Legend of Zelda game the results would be disastrous. Additionally, if they choose to wait until the Wii U is finally abandoned – which I can’t imagine extends until the end of 2017 – before shifting all of their resources to delivering wholly original and engaging experiences for the Wii U in earnest it could be too late, and Nintendo could find themselves looking over the same precipice SEGA found themselves perched upon nearly two decades ago.
Bandai Namco is currently developing several NX titles. Smash Bros is planned to be a launch title. I am not sure about the date – yet ;).
— Dr. Serkan Toto (@serkantoto) January 28, 2016
Of course, Nintendo leaning towards releasing a slew of enhanced ports for the NX is just speculation, but with less than a year until the console’s expected Fall 2016 release and very little known about the platform, it’s hard to imagine a wealth of original titles will be seeing the light of day if the console releases this holiday season.
That said, I really hope Nintendo manages to reign things in a bit, and doesn’t prolong the life of the Wii U so long that they fail to give the NX the support it needs to carve its own niche. The marketplace is already flooded with enough hardware as it is, and Nintendo needs to convince their customers that they mean business with their next console by delivering what players want – a more capable console to lure in third parties and a mountain of games they won’t find anywhere else. While pulling support for the Wii U may put a sour taste in the mouth of those not yet ready to adopt their new hardware, continuing to support a platform that’s already on life support while trying to usher in their next generation of hardware could prove to be far worse for the company – Just ask SEGA.
So, what are your thoughts on Nintendo continuing to support the NX for the foreseeable future? Do you think that continuing to develop software for so many platforms will do more harm than good for Nintendo, or do you feel like the Wii U still has some fight left in it? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.