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Wii U at the tipping point - Nintendo

The Big Event: E3 in association with
Wii U at the tipping point - Nintendo

Thu 19 Jun 2014 1:56pm GMT / 9:56am EDT / 6:56am PDT
HardwarePublishingE3 2014

Scott Moffitt says Mario Kart and Smash Bros. will turn the console's narrative, explains VR's biggest drawback

The Wii U has struggled since its launch nearly two years ago, but the console is ready to pull a 3DS-like resurrection, Nintendo of America executive VP of sales and marketing Scott Moffitt told GamesIndustry International at E3 last week.

The 3DS stumbled at launch, enduring sluggish sales until Nintendo instituted a drastic price cut on the hardware. While Moffitt noted the impact of the price cut, he said a pair of first-party releases was another key driver in reversing the handheld's fortunes.

"There are a lot of people that are going to have a hard time resisting buying a Wii U once Smash Bros comes out."

"We had the price cut in August [2011], and then we had Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, which really drove sales that first holiday, and on 3DS we haven't looked back," Moffitt said. "So we've had momentum ever since that first holiday and we've got now 260 some games in the library and some of the best, most highest rated, most highest quality content we've ever had on that platform. Everything we launched seems to do above forecast and surprises us on the positive side."

The situation with the Wii U is similar, Moffitt said, adding that the console is about to reach a very similar tipping point.

"As I look at what we have coming this holiday, now with Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros, plus the innovation of Amiibo, I think we are right at that tipping point where we have a lot of great content that is about to be released for that platform that's going to tempt gamers into buying the system," Moffitt said. "From the comments I'm reading online, and following gamers' comments, I think there are a lot of people that are going to have a hard time resisting buying a Wii U once Smash Bros comes out. I think that's going to be a major hardware driver for us. So that's the narrative we hope that plays out and that I think we are starting to see play out."

One avenue that Nintendo won't be pursuing to spike Wii U sales is an unbundling of the GamePad, Xbox One Kinect-style. Both companies pitched the peripherals as essential components of their visions, but when Xbox One sales lagged, Microsoft found the demands of potential customers more convincing than their original plans. While Moffitt said Nintendo is still working to create gameplay experiences that demonstrate the true benefits of the Wii U GamePad, he said removing it from the hardware bundle is not in consideration.

"We think GamePad is the only innovation that's come in this new generation of consoles. So we have the only real point of difference."

"We think GamePad is the only innovation that's come in this new generation of consoles. So we have the only real point of difference. Certainly graphics are faster, graphics are better. This is not a real innovation for gamers. We are fully committed to leveraging the GamePad, to keeping it bundled with the system."

As for the problem of third-party support for Wii U, Moffitt namechecked the continued efforts of partners like Sega, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and Activision. While some big companies who have dropped the system, Moffitt understood why that would have happened and acknowledged it was Nintendo's problem to fix.

"It's all about driving the install base and so that's our work to do, right? We need to get to a critical mass where it makes financial sense for them," he said.

Moffitt added that third-party games don't all come from the big AAA publishers. He touted the company's efforts in lowering the barriers to entry for indie developers looking to publish on Nintendo platforms.

"We talked to a lot of them before launching the Wii U and we addressed some of the issues that really were holding some of them back from developing realistic content on our platform," Moffitt said. "At least for the indie community, we've become a lot easier to do business with and we're seeing a steady flow of content now."

However, those efforts were largely invisible at E3. Where Microsoft and Sony devoted sections of their booths to indie developers working on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 respectively, there was no such equivalent in Nintendo's booth.

"[VR has] one disadvantage relative to what we know is often very fun for gamers, which is playing games socially in a living room. This is a very single player solitary gaming experience."

"With any show, you have choices to make," Moffitt said. "Every time I go down to our booth floor and see how many people are waiting to play Super Smash Bros, when I look outside at the Best Buys... Last night we had four hours of game play on Super Smash Bros. and we had 1,000 people in line. We had to turn people away. So it's a tough choice for us as a platform holder. We don't have enough game stations down there on Smash Bros. We try to feature as much content as we can in the limited space that we have. Right now we just have a lot of demand for Super Smash Bros. We could have used 10 more game stations on that game alone. Choices have to be made."

Finally, Moffitt weighed in on the VR trend. While Nintendo has a distant history in the field with the Virtual Boy headset, Moffitt suggested Nintendo was taking a wait-and-see approach toward returning to it

"What I'd say is it's appealing technology," Moffitt said. "It's interesting. We're going to follow it closely to see where it goes. It's got a lot of advantages. It's got one disadvantage relative to what we know is often very fun for gamers, which is playing games socially in a living room. This is a very single player solitary gaming experience. Not all of our games are fun to play with multiple people in a living room in front of a game console but it doesn't lend itself to that kind of an experience as well as what Wii U does now. That would be a disadvantage of going in that direction. Could it be a nice addition to our hardware platform? Sure."

For more from Moffitt, check out the first part of the interview, which ran yesterday.

23 Comments

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

412 981 2.4
but the console is ready to pull a 3DS-like resurrection, Nintendo of America executive VP of sales and marketing Scott Moffitt told GamesIndustry International at E3 last week. and we would expect him to say anything other than this.. why?

as for this
It's got one disadvantage relative to what we know is often very fun for gamers, which is playing games socially in a living room. First off Im pretty sure VR will have multi player games at some point, so your friends will be in virtual reality with you..and how cool is that, and as for gamers all sitting around a living room playing games together? some one should get him a calendar, this isnt 1988.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 19th June 2014 3:46pm

Posted:4 months ago

#1

Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University

436 496 1.1
There won't be a 3DS style resurrection, because 3DS was never in the same situation as Wii U. Wii U sales have been poor since January of last year, whereas 3DS went through a rough patch that lasted a few months and never hit the lows Wii U has.

That being said, I hope Wii U is on track to finding a larger niche that it seemed set too twelve months ago, especially given the quality content Nintendo are lining up for it.

Posted:4 months ago

#2

matthew bennion Web Development

32 33 1.0
Popular Comment
VR is a fad and will be until its third iteration when the cost of hardware doesn't require you to be a millionaire to experience full emersion. I'd estimate 5 to 10 years!

Posted:4 months ago

#3

James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.biz

247 387 1.6
Well, that's the real question, Matthew. How long will it be before these things are consumer realities? How much will it cost? How long until there's enough compelling software to encourage rapid adoption? Oculus and Sony and others have yet to provide any answers. I was hoping one of the VR headsets would at least launch by this holiday but now I'm doubtful. I don't think we can even determine if VR is a fad yet. It's just way too early. I remain excited but also cautious.

Posted:4 months ago

#4
Althought it's the one platform we don't currently develop for I was super impressed with Nintendo's presence at E3 this year. I even wrote about it the other day. I also bought another one last night. [link url=""] https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140616180851-5866831-5-huge-things-nintendo-did-right-at-e3-this-year[/link]

Posted:4 months ago

#5

Jim Burns Research Asisstant

48 85 1.8
Wii U is a wonderful system. I hope it is successful.

Posted:4 months ago

#6

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

412 981 2.4
Popular Comment
VR is the future of gaming, and so much more, it cracks me up people cant see the obvious. I believe history will show comments such as VR is a fad is right there with such comments as TV is a fad.

Unless Sony, Oculus and the others come up with answers to questions like, how should VR games be controlled it depends on the game, Joysticks work perfect for cockpit games, steering wheels and gamepads work great for driving games, etc.. Control is one of the issues most are least worried about. Have you even tried the latest VR? because who in the world is designing games in which you turn by using your head? You turn your head to change the field of vision, not control your character.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 19th June 2014 9:11pm

Posted:4 months ago

#7

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

412 981 2.4
again I ask, how much time and how many games have you played using the latest iterations of Occulus? Because you are asking questions that sound to me like you havent spent much time at all investigating this technology.

The fact that most people aren't worried about controls in VR shows, that most people don't plan to make games different from what we play today in VR, but then it's a gimmick, nothing more. no, actually it shows that a lot of people, developers know this technology and know what they are talking about. Perhaps you should spend some more time with this technology.

This tech opens up all sorts of control possibilities for developers, now if you want to have a meaningful debate about various controls schematics and use of such devices as future kinect type devices, and the advances that will be needed with regard to latency within those devices, now that is a worthy debate to have, but to simply say controls overall in VR will be an issue and relegate VR to nothing more than a gimmick is actually quite silly.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 19th June 2014 10:18pm

Posted:4 months ago

#8

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
Nintendo: "VR has the drawback of limiting local co-op."

Nintendo 2011: "Here's our new console with a nifty controller that only one person can use! Everyone else can just use Gamecube controllers!"

Nintendo just doesn't like that VR is taking off now instead of when they tried (and failed) to do it themselves.

@Daniel Hughes
I could kiss you for that comment (but I'll refrain for our dignity). It's like sales figures are only "bad" or "great." No sense of degree with this industry. Sure, the 3DS didn't hit expectations when it launched, but it was never as bad as the Vita or the Wii U.

Hoping for a flood because "it did rain that one time" isn't a good analysis.

Posted:4 months ago

#9

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing

358 215 0.6
There's several important differences

1- the 3DS has no competition. None worth mentioning, outside of the tablets and phones that are slowly stomping Handhelds in general.

2- kids don't drop and break their consoles. A HUGE portion of Nintendo's business comes from replacement systems. So when the price of the new hotness gets close enough to the old,a moody springs the extra $50.

3- Nine of junior's. Friends with whom. He wants to play online with, have WiiU, and Call of Duty is dead there with no DLC, AND IT DOESNT HAVE Skyrim, which my deens and Tweens play like an MMO (purely anecdotal, but according to them widespread)

4- without a massive price drop, they're going to buy an X1 or OS4 that the kid asked for, and that many parents would also,like to play and use the services in. Will this influx of fan favorites sell consoles? Of course, but only to the people who were going to buy them anyway for the most part. When they find out that they can't play anything but Nintendo games on it, that'll be all she write. The people who buy nintendo must of loyalty are mostly nostalgia based. The last 15'years of kids lack that, and just want to play COD and Minecraft with their friends, two things WiiU does poorly compared to the competition

Posted:4 months ago

#10

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,020 1,467 1.4
Popular Comment
@ Todd I'll try to say this without coming off like a jerk, but it's pretty hard. Every time someone says no one plays games together with friends in the same room, all I can say is "then you need real friends."

Indeed, the total disconnect from this experience that Sony and Microsoft have created has just made their systems crappy PCs (you can play online better and free on a PC). The only true game console is the one designed to play not only singleplayer games, but multipayer games with many people in the same room. And I say this as a PS4 owner as well.

Is VR the future? It's certainly a part of it, but the social gathering and interaction of games in person is ABSOLUTELY also a part of it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nicholas Pantazis on 20th June 2014 1:52am

Posted:4 months ago

#11

Christopher Ingram Editor-at-Large, Digitally Downloaded

52 45 0.9
...the innovation of Amiibo,...
NFC is not innovation. Sure, having the figures compatible with multiple games is a great feature, but it is still a toys-to-life gimmick. This isn't innovation.

Posted:4 months ago

#12

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,135 1,171 1.0
Did he really use the words Amiibo and innovation in the same sentence? Because Skylanders is sure out there and nobody else requires plastic stuff to migrate data from one system to the other these days. Trying to upsell people on plastic crap instead of making their gaming more seamless with a simple software solution is more shady than anything else.

If games are such a social experience, then why doesn't the WiiU include at least two controllers, instead of a "go sit in your corner tablet"? Obviously online play ion Mario Kart 8 is a fluke and needs to be patched out asap.

Does anybody use any common sense these days before presenting their arguments to the public?

Posted:4 months ago

#13

Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments

302 383 1.3
His comments on "living room" experience make a lot of sense from Nintendo's perspective: as a general rule, they're probably the strongest of the three in this regard, and it's something VR appears to be a poor fit for.
They're also a toy company, and again, that's probably not a strength of VR at this point.

Amused that unbundling the gamepad comes up again - it's really not something that makes any sense, since unlike the xb1 and kinect, the wiiu is actually reliant on the gamepad. Whether they were right to include it or not, it would be impractical to remove it now.

Posted:4 months ago

#14

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,020 1,467 1.4
Popular Comment
@ Klaus Pretty sure you have no idea what Amiibo is. Don't get me wrong, it's not innovative, but it has nothing to do with migrating player data. The idea of Amiibo is a toy version of Pokemon, where you collect, level up, and customize your toys then bring them to friends houses to battle them out and play them against each other in multiple games.

Also, it does come with two controllers. All new Wii Us sold come with an extra Wiimote Plus. The system launched with two major local multiplayer games from Nintendo (Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U). The gamepad is great for singleplayer, but it's also great for asymmetrical multiplayer, and it's the only system that supports this unique and fun experience consistently. Also no one ever said online games shouldn't exist, just that it's not what consoles excel at and shouldn't be the only focus of their multiplayer experiences.

Does anybody bother to have the bare minimum information required to create an informed opinion before presenting their arguments to the public?

Posted:4 months ago

#15

Quincy Ward Studying Computer Science, University of Arkansas

14 22 1.6
Honestly I think once Smash and Zelda comes out, I am going to go Wii u. The games I have been playing on PS3 the past few years have been great but I have not had the fun experience like when I had Gamecube and N64 (skipped wii completely).
Nintendo's fun is a different kind of fun.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Quincy Ward on 20th June 2014 2:33pm

Posted:4 months ago

#16

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
@Nicholas
Asymmetrical multiplayer, like Kinect gaming, is a massive failure. The sales reflect this. No one wants it, and that's after Nintendo Land was supposed to sell the concept to us. MS pulled their heads out of their asses on Kinect; now it's time for Nintendo to unshackle the Gamepad and drop the Wii U's price to something people are willing to pay. $300 for asymmetrical gameplay isn't working.

@Neil
It's not that difficult. The Kinect's removal means certain games can't be played. The public clearly doesn't care. Nintendo Land can't be played without the Gamepad. Gamers also, clearly, don't care or they'd have bought it.

Posted:4 months ago

#17

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,020 1,467 1.4
Popular Comment
@ NIck I wholly agree the WIi U is not successful, nor is $300 an appropriate price for it ($200 would be). But you can't blame the concept for the advertising. It's almost impossible to show the fun of asymmetric experiences in commercials, but anyone who's tried it can tell you it's genuinely unique and a really fun way to play with friends.

Unbundling the gamepad would not help the Wii U though. Everything that works well about the system, everything that makes it not just a PS360, is in that gamepad. The ability to very quickly launch games, navigate menus, play off-TV, and have unique multiplayer experiences all require that gamepad. Nintendo will likely NEVER sell the mass market on its qualities, and it's too late for the Wii U to rally into any real success, so why should they sacrifice the system's best feature for what would be a tiny sales boost? They're better off riding the WIi U out and dropping the price as they can.

Posted:4 months ago

#18

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

412 981 2.4
@ Todd I'll try to say this without coming off like a jerk, but it's pretty hard. Every time someone says no one plays games together with friends in the same room, all I can say is "then you need real friends." Nick, this isnt about you, its about how games are played. I dont know how old you are but Ive been around since there have been console games and to say that games are played the same way today as they were played 20 years ago is folly. Do some people still gather around and play some Madden together on a saturday night? of course, but it's not the way the majority of gamers play anymore. So save your insults, I have plenty of friends, but guess what, these days I dont have to sit in their living room for us to play games together and "gasp", it doesnt make us any less "friends", its just what gamers do now.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 21st June 2014 5:24pm

Posted:4 months ago

#19

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
@Nicholas
"The ability to very quickly launch games, navigate menus, play off-TV, and have unique multiplayer experiences all require that gamepad."

But none of that is selling anyone at all. Microsoft made the same argument about Kinect, but it didn't work. Consumers just see it as non-critical features that are greatly jacking up the price of the system. Unshackle the Wii U from the Gamepad, sell the system with a Pro Controller for $150-200, and watch as the sales take off. Thousands of people out there want Wii U titles like Smash Bros, MK8, etc... but they aren't going to over-pay for them.

There's a reason that Nintendo sells the Pro Controller at all, and allows Gamecube controllers as well. Millions of people just want that and some 1st party games. Not Kinect-style gimmicks that are useful, but ultimately not something that one would choose if they were offered an option without it.

Posted:4 months ago

#20

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,135 1,171 1.0
@Nicholas
What you are trying to tell me is that instead of synching my game state over internet storage and bringing in my save game at a friends house in order to compete, I have to buy plastic figures? Twist it all you want, it is a glorified memory card with very limited storage. Everything Amiibo does can be done with a USB stick. The figures are nothing more then money sinks, which is why the term was rightfully brought up in another article. If this was a new feature of Call of Duty wherein we would transport our leveling progress via lifesize gun replicas (and switch weapons for that matter), we would laugh them out of every public event. But when we are told, "don't worry, it's targeted at your kids so they make you spend more money" it is suddenly ok?


I also checked the SKUs available in Germany, they do not come with an additional controller of any kind.

Posted:4 months ago

#21

Jed Ashforth Senior Game Designer, Immersive Technology Group, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

111 198 1.8
...it's not the way the majority of gamers play anymore... I dont have to sit in their living room for us to play games together ...its just what gamers do now.
Todd, I genuinely have no idea whether online multiplayer is more popular than couch multiplayer these days, but you're only giving anecdotal evidence here and telling us it's 'just how it is' with the majority of gamers. I'd be very interested to see figures supporting this rather than just opinion.

For what it's worth, I'd say I personally spend much more time playing split screen, co-op or vs with my mates or family on the couch than I do playing online multiplayer, which is probably about 2-3 hours a week at most. I probably spend twice that time each week with other players engaging in couch play. My understanding was that it's a minority of last and current gen players that ever even go online with their consoles, and yet a 2nd pad gets a very high take-up within the first couple of months after purchase of a console.

Very interested to find out more if anyone can provide links?

Posted:4 months ago

#22

Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University

436 496 1.1
Personally, I don't see why local and online play can't co-exist. Mario Kart 8 is a great example of that; solid online play, same old great local splitscreen, and the option to go online with two players from the same console.

Like Jed, though, I'd be interested in data on local/online multiplayer gaming habits and how they've developed in recent years.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Daniel Hughes on 23rd June 2014 9:38pm

Posted:4 months ago

#23

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