Fool Me Once, Shame On You; Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me

This classic saying has been used since the dawn of time, but I find it has particular reference when talking about Nintendo over the past few years. Let’s put all fan-isms aside here and look at the facts. Nintendo released a brand new console that, as a corporation, was ill-prepared to support. They did the exact same thing with the 3DS when it was first released. The purpose of this article is simply to call Nintendo out and see if anyone out there can figure out what the heck the company was thinking with their current launch strategy for the Wii U, when looking back at disastrous 3DS launch.

3DS, The Facts:

March 27th, 2011 – 3DS launched in North America with Pilotwings Resort, Steel Diver, Nintendogs + Cats, and 13 third party games for $249.99 USD.

June 6th, 2011 – Virtual Console released for the 3DS

June 19th, 2011 – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D released for the 3DS.

July 28th, 2011 – Nintendo announces a price reduction for the 3DS to $169.99 USD.

August 12th, 2011 – $169.99 price reduction goes into effect.

September 9th, 2011 – Star Fox 64 3D is released for the 3DS.

November 13th, 2011 – Super Mario 3D Land is released for the 3DS.

December 4th, 2011 – Mario Kart 7 is released for the 3DS.

February 7th, 2012 – Resident Evil: Revelations is released for the 3DS.

February 21st, 2012 – Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D is released for the 3DS.

March 23rd, 2012 – Kid Icarus: Uprising is released for the 3DS.

When the 3DS first hit the scene it was a runaway success for the first two weeks or so. After that sales started to dry up. While the above list doesn’t include every game released on the system, it does highlight the very earliest AAA hits. It also highlights some major issues with the platform and Nintendo as a whole. Looking just at the launch, there were far more exciting third party games available than what Nintendo had to offer. Sure Nintendo typically launches with only one big game, but this time around there was nothing available. Pilotwings, I mean really?!?! Within four months Nintendo was forced to cut the price of the system by 32%, making it one of the largest price reductions in the company’s history. From a business perspective, that’s a very desperate move. In fact, that’s a “last resort” move done by a company to ensure the platform has a future. In this case, it worked.

By lowering the cost of entry, and releasing a string of hits one after the other the 3DS eventually found its footing and became the success it is today. Was this all part of some master plan, the answer is it sure as heck better not have been. Just by looking at the facts it’s clear the system was released too early. It didn’t have its full feature-set in place, there were virtually no Nintendo-made games available, and Nintendo thought they could simply ride on the success of the DS, and all would be fine. Obviously that wasn’t the case and only by making some smart strategic moves was the company able to save the platform. They took massive revenue losses in doing so though. You’d think the company would make damn sure that their next system wouldn’t have similar issues, right? Right?!?!

Wii U, The Facts:

November 18th, 2012 – Wii U launched in North America with Nintendoland, New Super Mario Bros. U and 21 third party games for $349.99 USD for the Deluxe model and $299.99 USD for the Basic model.

March 18th, 2013 – Lego City Undercover released for the Wii U.

That’s all the information I can provide for the Wii U, some five months after its release. Keep in mind the platform has yet to receive its own version of the Virtual Console, and there remain countless issues with the system’s operating system. A firmware update is being prepared for sometime this month (April), and Nintendo promises the VC will arrive this “Spring,” but no official release dates have been announced for either.

Notice the complete lack of software from November on from Nintendo. Sure there have been third party games, but almost all of these have been available on other platforms as well, making the system feel as though it is without any exclusives. Nintendo has a robust release scheduled lined up for later this year, but exactly when all the stars will align is anyone’s guess. Currently Pikmin 3 is set for release in Q2, although it was originally set as a launch title so we have no confirmation on whether or not that will actually happen.

Any business student will tell you that clearly something is going on with the management at the company. I can understand making a mistake, but to repeat the exact same mistake only a year later is absurd. Nintendo’s direction is completely lacking here, as is evident by the lack of preparation with their new console. At last year’s E3 we knew the writing was on the wall as Nintendo failed to announce virtually any new software, instead focusing only on what was announced the previous year. Since then the president of the company has come forward to reveal exciting new software, but that might as well be a pipe-dream if players are expected to wait over a year for content to arrive.

The problem goes further than that though. How is it that the most basic system software wasn’t even ready for launch? Sure the Virtual Console may not have been ready, but why was the OS so sluggish? If any other technology company in the world released a device with all these problems they’d have a complete failure on their hands. Lucky for Nintendo, they have millions of dedicated fans. Question is, will that be enough this time around?

One of the very basic problems Nintendo has on its hands now is one of product confusion, and this relates back to mismanagement at the corporate level. How the system was allowed to be released with the name “Wii U” after the E3 2011 reaction remains a mystery, and a scary thought. Management realized people thought the tablet was simply a Wii accessory so they came out and talked more about the hardware in a later video. Didn’t that clue them in that perhaps naming the system “Wii” anything would be a bad idea? Next they started talking about how this was a system designed to bring the core gamer back into the fold, while keeping the casual market they so successfully catered to with the Wii. So how do they go about doing that, they showcase Nintendoland, Wii Fit U and other games along with the hardcore stuff like Mass Effect and Ninja Gaiden. If anything that just makes gamers on both sides confused.

That’s not a very business savvy way of bringing your new console to market. Then slap on the $300+ asking price, mainly for six year old technology, and it starts to become clear why the Wii U hasn’t exactly taken off. It’s using legacy hardware, it’s confusing and it has no identity. That last bit is the most damaging right now. All the software is either ports of PS3/Xbox games or rehashed Wii games. Look at the two big software titles, Nintendoland clearly started off at the R&D department, and NSMBU could have just as easily been a Wii release. Even the start menu tells you to press the 1 button. We know the same is true for Pikmin 3, so until Nintendo releases several Wii U-specific games, the platform will remain without a soul.

So is all hope lost? Obviously not, because the 3DS has proven bad business decisions can be corrected. The worrying part is why these bad decisions were made to begin with. Anyone in charge of a billion dollar company should have the common sense to look at the mistakes the company has done within the last 12 months in order fix them, not repeat them. With a price reduction, and a plethora of brand new Wii U-exclusive software the system still has a chance to gain back some steam. Nintendo also needs to completely change the style of the marketing because right now it feels far too much like the older Wii strategy, which clearly isn’t working. Whatever the case may be, Nintendo has to get these changes in place before 2014 rolls around or all hope will surely be lost and the best Nintendo will be able to hope for is a 10% market share.

As the title suggests, Nintendo fooled their fanbase once, but most won’t be fooled again.

8 thoughts on “Fool Me Once, Shame On You; Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me”

  1. The Wii U had an excellent launch line-up (argubly their best), but after that it’s been really sluggish. The only major releases aside from Lego City is the multiplatform release of Injustice tomorrow and Resident Evil Revelations next month. That Rayman Legends delay hit them very hard because a lot ot people bought the system just for this game. If it were released on time, we wouldn’t have this major down period right now. Obviously it was out of Nintendo’s hands…all Ubisoft’s fault.

    I guess the only advantage Nintendo has at this point, and the buisness factor they’re playing their cards on, is releasing the system before the competition. If I recall correctly, the Xbox 360 had a very similar launch strategy too; strong launch line-up, before the competition by 1 year, but having a period of slow releases during Q1. That worked wonders for them obviously, despite the red ring debacle. I’m expecting things to look up during Q2 for the Wii U, releasing hit after hit just before the PS4 and next Xbox gain their bearings in November.

    If this plan doesn’t work, it’s going to be extremely hard to correct it. With the 3DS, it was an easy fix because the original price was sold at a profit. With the Wii U, however, they’re already selling it at a loss from what I understand, so further reducing the price alone is going to hurt them more than help.

  2. The main problem is with management failing to fix the main issues the 3DS had at launch though. Remember the Wii was a phenomenon, so not looking at the mistakes made with the 3DS launch is all the more perplexing. Knowing all the problems they had with the 3DS, why didn’t they simply say “OK let’s make sure we have this and that ready for day 1, then we can pump out hit after hit starting a month later.” So long as they got the ball rolling prior to the other system’s launching they should be fine. It’s bad business to rely on others in the case of Rayman, and even worse to confuse your userbase. The Wii was the casual’s go-to system, and the way Nintendo handled everything about the Wii U has been a confusing mess.

    Currently their strategy seems completely flawed, whatever that strategy may be. Honestly at this point I don’t know what they can do to correct it. We can’t compare it directly to the 360, or even the Dreacast because both of those platforms were top of the line for their time of release, whereas the Wii U was outdated from day one. Even if we do take those systems as examples, the DC completely failed to steal the PS2’s thunder and the 360’s biggest success was listening to gamers and doing the exact opposite of what Sony was doing. In essence, Microsoft didn’t even need to try because Sony was funneling gamers to the 360 with all the horrible mistakes the company was making at the time.

    I’ll give you the 360’s launch wasn’t stellar but during the coarse of the year games slowly but surely improved in quality until they hit their peak one year after launch with Gears of War, which was leaps and bounds better than anything Sony had ready for day 1 on the PS3. If we do compare the Wii U to the 360, that means they need essentially a brand new Zelda or a brand new 3D Mario this November that will blow away the competition.

    I’m not saying it’s all doom and gloom, but looking at this from a business perspective, it really highlights some very poor management decisions. From an unpolished OS, to the lack of software, and even the bizarre branding of the console itself, paints Nintendo’s management in a strange light. Under no circumstances should the Wii U have been managed the way it has been.

  3. It’s not so much so “relying on others”. It’s more of “give third parties breathing room”. They’re spacing out their first party titles for that very same reason. Gamers and developers always complain on the difficulty on competing with Nintendo within their own hardware. Also, Nintendo’s slow start from their end is they’ve just adapted HD gaming as developers, while everyone else already has a head start on that font. Another problem is some 3rd parties bailed out from the Wii U as early adopters in fear of its small user-base.

    The reason I’m comparing the Wii U’s launch to the Xbox 360 is because I’m throwing tech out the window, just as most of us should. The Wii has already proven tech is no longer a point of comparison. While next-gen specs are looking impressive, I can’t say that they’ll sell well because we’ve yet to see a price-point. This, along with innovative control mechanics, will make or break the PS4 and next Xbox.

    A new Mario by November and even earlier is definitely doable since Tokyo Studios has been quiet since Galaxy 2 a few years back. But besides that point, Q2 will have to be the deadline in which Wii U releases pick up. They can’t delay further than that.

    It doesn’t need a Gears of War in terms of tech…it needs another hit in terms of GamePad believability. They need to convince more users on the GamePad because their strategy has never been about tech to begin with. There’s a chance that lightning doesn’t strike twice and high specs overcome controls, putting Nintendo in a terrible position of GameCube-like sales. Money and sales will talk.

  4. Personally I don’t buy the “breathing room” mentality only because they knew the release schedule as they license the software to work on their machines. So they knew exactly what was coming down the pipeline way before any of us did, and they should have had at least one game ready to ship two or three months post launch. They had Zelda for the 3DS three months after launch and that didn’t even help, so how the heck did they not expect this situation to happen yet again. The launch itself really doesn’t matter because as long as they have software to back the console up as time goes on they should be good to go.

    The only reason I mentioned tech before was to show that the platforms I mentioned started off relatively weak and as people got used to the tech, more impressive software was released. Sure Gears was graphically impressive, but that was Microsoft’s way of proving Sony was full of crap in over inflating the PS3’s true potential. Nintendo might actually be able to do something similar if these next-gen system can’t really perform as well as they’re being marketed as.

    Also when I mention technology I don’t automatically mean graphics or tech specs, but also system capabilities. The Wii U has some awesome tech inside with the tablet. I truly love being able to continue playing a game in another room while Sarina watches TV. That’s wicked cool! That doesn’t excuse the fact that their OS, and the Network as a whole still isn’t up to par. It’s getting there and I’m hopeful but generation’s end they’ll have all their cards in order, but the original Xbox had a much more refined network and that was over a decade ago. That sort of stuff should have been completely perfected by day one. They shouldn’t need to release the VC months later, or have to fix sloppy programming. Sure I expect updates, but I also expected more from day one, or rather…five months later.

    I fully agree with you on the release schedule. If they can’t increase the rate of games hitting the system by this summer they’re in serious trouble. As it is they’re already in serious trouble because we’re now month number five and there are no new releases in sight. I don’t count ports because odds are very high core gamers have others consoles with much larger friend lists where they’ll buy those ports.

    Sure the Wii U doesn’t need a Gears of War in terms of OMG graphics, but it does need one in terms of community. That was one of the first really huge games on the 360’s version of Xbox Live. It was played all the way up to and past Halo 3. It also needs said game to highlight the tablet in a bold and interesting way. They can’t afford to wait until the very end of the console to release a core gamer’s killer app like they did with the Wii and Skyward Sword.

    All this to say, once again, that they didn’t look at the info I posted above. There’s no way of getting around it. They knew the 3DS suffered because there were months with no software on top of the other issues, and yet here we are five months into the Wii U and again, there’s nothing to play on it. You’re supposed to want to play your new console as often as you can. After all it’s a brand new piece of tech, but I don’t even have my Wii U anymore because after a month I had seen all it offered. Sad, isn’t it?

  5. You make some good points regarding breathing room. It is kind of odd. Hard to explain what their mentality is.

    Ultimately, you’re right in terms hype. Despite playing the devil’s advocate, I feel you. I like to look at things half full, but I still haven’t gotten the hype that I want yet with the Wii U. My friends and I had an awesome time with Nintendoland for the first three months, but after that it’s been dead for me due to the slow releases. 1 big game per month during Q2 will definitely turn things around. Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101, Game & Wario, etc.

    I completely forgot about Monster Hunter 3. I know you don’t count ports, but in my case I didn’t play the original. I might give it a go just so I feel I own a Wii U.

  6. Basically I’m just trying to come to understand what their strategy is Ahmed, because looking back at the past five months I feel as though they’re completely lost. Like I get coming out early to beat the competition, I totally do. At the same time, they had the past 12 months to see how messed up the 3DS post-launch was. So they knew they had their work cut out for them. They also knew a year ago that they had to get games ready just in case all hell broke loose.

    If they can do the one big game per month like they eventually did with the 3DS, they could still turn their fortunes around. I’m hoping they do just that, so I can end up buying the system again. Steven just picked one up now, and he’s perplexed by the situation as well, coming in five months later.

  7. Yeah ive been meaning to get one ever since i saw footage of mario u. Now however i just dont want to feesl like ive bought a dead console. I cant beleive the virtual console is still missing. Also, im sure casual gamers must be confused as to why most games make use of the wiimote, and the system doesnt even come packed with one. Its common knowledge that consoles usually ship with one controller, no more but in this case packing an extra wiimote wouldnt hurt. Anyow, im hoping they can turn things around again but with what they have announced right now, the future of the wii u is not looking bright.

  8. I’m sure you’ll love Mario, Zelda, and the other Nintendo offerings. You also appear to be much more experimental with games lately as you’ve been downloading a ton of stuff from the eShop, so who knows you might do the same on the Wii U. The only thing I recommend you do is pick up a dedicated external HDD for the Wii U as saving those HD games will completely destroy your 32GB of storage. Still can’t believe they only included that little.

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