Nintendo has been struggling to get major third party publishers and developers on board the Wii U train. With the exception of Ubisoft, no other major publisher has supported the Wii U with their latest and greatest games.
So far, Wii U’s momentum and sales have been driven by Nintendo and their own solid Wii U games lineup. Nintendo games have dominated the Wii U games charts — even Ubisoft, arguably the biggest third party Wii U supporter, had less than 5% of its sales come from the Wii U, despite putting out half a dozen Wii U games in the first year alone.
That’s not a good sign. A worse sign is that developers overall seem to have moved on from the Wii U to the next gen and mobile platforms. At this year’s Game Developers Conference, only 4% responded that they will be developing for the Wii U this year. Even if GDC is historically indie and mobile-focused, 4% is still a bad sign.
The Wii U is still a “novel” device in the eyes of many publishers. Gamers buy the Wii U to play Mario, Zelda, and Pikmin. Those gamers likely have a secondary console (or PC) that’s better suited for hardcore action games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield.
Nintendo carries some of the blame as well. They have consistently marketed the Wii U to kids, while the console market now prefers blockbuster action titles — just look at Nintendo’s Wii U Holiday 2013 TV commercials. The commercials are meant to convince parents to buy their kids a Wii U.
When Nintendo believes that their target audience are housewives who are going to buy the console for their kids, how can anyone expect third party publishers of big action games to support such a console?
Third party publishers today are very focused on big-budget, triple-A action games, which tend to sell well and deliver the greatest profits. Games such as Battlefield, Call of Duty, GTA, and Splinter Cell. The few of those games that have been released on the Wii U have been complete flops. The Wii U version Splinter Cell Blacklist accounted for just 2% of overall sales. It’s even worse for Call of Duty Ghosts, whose Wii U numbers accounted for just 0.3%.
Third party publishers are simply not getting any return of investment on their games. EA dropped the new Need For Speed game on the Wii U after Most Wanted did poorly. Even indie developers are losing on the Wii U: Toki Tori 2 developer Two Tribes had to close down after bad Wii U sales (the game was exclusive to the Wii U and PC). Two Tribes was betting big on the Wii U and lost.
The fact of the matter is, it’s not financially feasible for third parties to support the Wii U. Nintendo carries some of the blame in how they’re targeting mainly kids, but Wii U owners are partially to blame.
We all love to speak up about the lack of third party support on the Wii U, but the fact of the matter is, when third parties like Ubisoft do release games on the Wii U, we rarely buy them. We buy the Wii U to play great Nintendo games, but it’s unknown if Nintendo will be able to support an entire console with first party games only.