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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wii U — Consumer-friendly failure. Nintendo Switch — the opposite!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - The market doesn't support consumer-friendly measures, I guess.

Here is a radical idea: Nintendo went from a very consumer-friendly console in the Wii U to one that... is decidedly less so, with the Nintendo Switch. The result? The Switch, last we checked, is stomping the Wii U's lifetime sales in its first year. Can't wait for Nintendo's annual report at the end of this April!

It's something I thought of as I was finally returning my Wii to its original packaging this weekend (consider it a grave), instead of having it sit around for years unconnected to anything and just collecting dust and taking up space. There are all of these Wii Remotes laying around, and if you go back all the way to Nintendo Land, you can see what Nintendo was trying to do. Since they sold a hundred million Wii consoles, and some multiple of that in Wii Remotes, then Nintendo would have a huge hardware and accessory base to work from for their next console.

And so they made the Wii U, which set out to have asymmetric gameplay experiences as its core selling point. Nintendo Land was supposed to sell that concept to the market place, bundled with every Wii U. The Wii U GamePad in conjunction with all the Wii Remotes out there would enable those experiences, and it was sort of correctly assumed that everyone in the world would have a bunch of spare Wii Remotes to work with. You didn't have to buy any new controllers!

Nintendo made a big mistake, though...

Wii Remotes Wiimote Wii Motion Plus Wheel Classic Controller wrist straps
Ludwig's shelf of Wii accessories that he hasn't used in years, including two Wii Remotes, a Wii Remote MotionPlus,
a Wii Classic Controller, a Wii Wheel, a sensor bar, some wrist straps, and two Nunchuck controllers.
Also features the Wii U GamePad that lives on its charger because it can't function otherwise,
as well as a cameo by Ghost Trick.

...Nintendo was SO consumer-friendly by being SO backwards-compatible, that the conventional wisdom is that customers didn't know the Wii U was the next generation of hardware, as opposed to an add-on. No one has actually ever provided me evidence that this is what actually happened as opposed to well-written theorycraft, but let's pass this off as what happened.

Nintendo really went out of their way to not screw over the 100 million Wii owners when making the Wii U, to their possible sales detriment. That's looking out for the consumer. The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, is infamously backwards compatible with nothing.

Many people are complaining about the cost of the Switch's accessories. Many people were complaining about the lack of a game bundle with the Switch's release. The Switch is now filled with pretty scummy micro-transactions of dubious worth, while the Wii U was only just starting on that as a novelty. Now, it's expected for everything on the Switch, and people are kind of tricked into thinking this is in their best benefit. People complained... and the Switch is selling tremendously anyway. The complaints are just words. No action.

The only thing the Switch does to be friendly is that you get two Joy-Con controllers, and you can play some multiplayer games with one Joy-Con per person. I haven't ever done that myself, but I imagine in practice it's pretty cool. Each Joy-Con costs $50, or $80 as a bundle. A Wii Remote back in the day cost $40, and they gave them out at discounted rates when they sold Wii Play and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. That said, Wii Remotes are a pain to use because they run on AA batteries, and then they creepily melt or turn into acid or something. ...It happened to me. Wasn't consumer-friendly. I don't keep batteries in the Wii Remotes as a result.

Anyway, it looks like the lesson here is that catering to your customer base and doing things they want gets you less profit than the alternative.


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Just wait until the Nintendo Labo comes out. You think that's consumer-friendly? Nope!

6 comments :

  1. I'll go out on a limb and say it's the marketing that hurt the Wii U. The fact that it was consumer friendly was an unintended consequence of its failure.

    Also, the Nintendo Switch supports GameCube Controllers, so it IS backwards compatible with something. Although, GameCube support isn't at it's finest, but that's at least going for it.

    I actually had a concept image of the controller UI if Nintendo ever decided to add support for Wii controllers using the Nunchunk's extension, including a Wii Classic Controller and an SNES controller (from the SNES: SNES Classic Edition).

    https://imgur.com/PQi7F3R

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The GameCube support was an accident, so I'm not sure that counts?
      (And only if you have the USB adapter.)
      I mean, it doesn't actually recognise it as a GameCube controller, just a USB-hooked controller.

      Wot's with the unevenly shaped player port squares in your concept? I like it otherwise.

      Delete
  2. It might have become an old relic of the past now, but during its prime, the Wii revolutionized gaming by expanding the consumer base to a largely casual audience who would have never played video games without it. Everyone from young children to the elderly in nursing homes could find enjoyment in playing games such as Wii Sports. Despite all of the shovelware the console would acquire in its lifetime, nothing could stop the Wii from selling out of store shelves for the longest time. However, unlike its predecessor, the Wii U never could find the momentum to push its struggling sales forward. While the Wii's primary gimmick was motion controls, the Wii U did not offer anything enticing for previous Wii owners to adopt the newest console. Although I would say the Wii U was superior and had a better library of titles overall, the lack of a central focus of what the console is about is what led to its demise. Without proper advertising, too many were left confused and only considered the Wii U to be an optional add-on. While certain games utilized the GamePad in unique ways, Nintendo did not do enough to show consumers that it was something new and exciting. Instead, only those who followed the company closely ended up purchasing the system and the consumer base of Nintendo games shrunk as Microsoft and Sony pulled ahead.

    Then there came the Switch. Within a few years time, Nintendo had quickly released a product that appealed to a new demographic that is more mature than previous console generations. The central gimmick of the console was also clear from the very start; it is a gaming system that could be played on the go or on the TV. The ads reflected this by showing people playing the system in their hands and then placing the Switch inside the dock. Nintendo learned from their previous mistake and instantly avoided causing any confusion by showing what the system is capable of. The sales numbers reflect this as the Switch has already surpassed the life-time sales of the Wii U in a short amount of time. Although the Switch will probably never surpass the Wii's sales due to the market being less technologically advanced in that time, the Switch will still be a high selling console for the foreseeable future and be a financial success for Nintendo once again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (Through all of that, I don't think you actually addressed the central point of this article!)

      Delete
    2. My main point was basically reiterating what you said in your fourth paragraph. To expand upon this further, I would say that consumer friendliness is not critical to the success of of a console. Also, consumer friendliness also goes beyond just backwards-compatibility. First, the most noticeable featuring lacking on the Switch is a functional Internet Browser and streaming apps. Even if these are not completely necessary, having these options available would only be a benefit to consumers. Second, in my opinion, the user interface was better on the Wii U. The Switch's UI is too minimalist for my tastes. Even the eShop got a downgrade. As evidenced by these things, the Switch is selling well not because of how consumer friendly it is but because it has proper advertising and a steady stream of games.

      Delete
    3. The eShop is pretty bad on the Switch. It doesn't even have music!
      As you mentioned, there are also a bunch of non-gaming features that aren't on the Switch that consumers enjoy, and Nintendo has been supplying those features on the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS. They got people used to them.


      I didn't even mention in this article the consumer-unfriendly move to go from FREE online play to PAID online play! That's a big one!

      Delete

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