Published on July 8th, 2013 | by Adam DeMarco2
Wii U’s third-party support is looking rather anemic
Not that this is a problem with which Nintendo is unfamiliar, but the Wii U seems to be losing third-party support faster than college freshmen lose their sobriety during rush-week. In a piece published today on GamesIndustry International, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot made it clear that the company was disappointed in the sales numbers for Wii U launch title ZombiU, and that (despite a tweet from Ubisoft Creative Director Jean-Philippe Caro which said a prototype for a sequel was being worked on) Ubisoft has no plans to release a followup.
The same article features statements from Activision President and CEO Eric Hirshberg, and the head of EA’s sports division Peter Moore. “It’s been a disappointment,” Moore says, “when you look at sell-through and, as a company, we have to be very judicious where we deploy our resources…. It seems like a box that’s out of sync with the future of EA – which is one that gives a real social feel to our games. The Wii U feels like an offline experience right now.” All Hirshberg had to add was “We came to the table with a robust slate, but we have no announcements now.”
In the past, Nintendo has managed to remain successful in spite of a less-than-stellar track record with third-party software, but it’s certainly disconcerting. The big N has always relied pretty heavily on their first and second-party titles to peddle their hardware, but even they can’t be completely self-sufficient. Though they never sold as well as their Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 brethren, yearly releases like Call of Duty and Madden were still pretty decent sellers on the Wii. The fact that Activision and EA, respectively, have no plans to release those games on Nintendo’s new console — titles that literally release every year on every platform available — does not bode well at all. If a company isn’t even willing to develop a port of their best selling franchise for the Wii U, what are the odds they’re going to throw down the cash required for a new IP designed to work specifically with the Wii U’s unique controls? I’d like to wager twenty rupees on “somewhere between slim and none,” please.
A quick glance at the upcoming release schedule of Wii U games doesn’t paint a particularly flattering picture, either. Activision has Angry Birds Trilogy and Skylanders Swap Force in the works. Ubisoft has announced nine games (one of which is currently listed as “on hold”). EA has Fifa ’14 coming out next month. That’s a grand total of twelve games from the three major players in publishing, and all of them are multi-platform titles (including Rayman Legends, which was originally planned to release as a Wii U exclusive, but has since been announced for 360 & PS3 as well).
Despite the bleary outlook, Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata remains hopeful that their strong first-party games will help the Wii U attain a larger install base, thus courting more attention from third-parties. And if history is any indicator, Nintendo may be able to do exactly that. A price cut helped the underperforming 3DS become the pocket-sized colossus that it is today, and the Gamecube was able to achieve moderate success despite a lack of outside software support early in its lifespan too. In a Q&A with Nintendo investors, Iwata also hinted that more new third-party titles would be announced this year (given his inclusion in the new iteration of Smash Bros. I’m thinking a new Mega Man title from Capcom wouldn’t be a stretch). For Nintendo’s sake, hopefully Iwata isn’t just wearing a nice pair of rosy glasses.
Though I’d be foolish to close the book on the Wii U just yet, I’ve got to admit that things aren’t looking too peachy in the Mushroom Kingdom these days. With new offerings from Sony and Microsoft poised to compete over your holiday shopping dollars, and only Nintendo’s (sure to be quite good) first-party games to look forward to, the Wii U might be in for a bit of a rough patch.