Nintendo Still Seeking a Product to Define the GamePad, With Hopes of Sales Driving Third-Party Support
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
"We first need to create a strong foundation in areas Nintendo excels at"
With the Wii U currently enduring a tough run in the marketplace, finding answers to the conundrum of enticing consumers is becoming increasingly challenging. The system is struggling for third-party support, yet that becomes less likely with each poor set of sales results, while it has an expensive controller in the GamePad that is yet to capture the imagination of a mainstream audience.
This was naturally an area addressed by Satoru Iwata in the recent investor Q & A, in which he admitted that Nintendo was at fault for failing to make the controller's features "explicit to our consumers". On the flipside, Iwata-san reported increasing interest in 3DS development, even in territories typically more focused on the home console market.
We developed Wii U in an attempt to change the way people play with a video game system on TV. Traditionally, the players needed to be in front of a TV in order to play a home console, meaning that it was impossible to play when others were watching TV. Under these conditions, especially in Japan, handheld game devices increased their share and the home console market became smaller. With Wii, we managed, to a certain degree, to bring everyone back into the living room to play games. However, while you could occupy the TV screen and enjoy games when you were playing with the others, it was still difficult to occupy the TV screen when you are playing alone, which was a huge issue for us. On the other hand, battery-powered handheld devices only allowed for a limited range of gaming experiences. The starting point for the Wii U GamePad was the question of how we can offer rich gaming experiences anywhere in the house without being restricted to the TV screen. In addition, we have considered, for example, what is made possible by having two screens or a mechanism in which there is a screen only one person can see, and combined these propositions to develop Wii U. However, I feel it is our fault that we failed to ensure that these features were explicit to our consumers. What Mr. Miyamoto and I are trying to achieve is a product whose concept people can easily understand, which is linked to what I said earlier today about developing titles that are only made possible by the Wii U GamePad.
Finally, in terms of third-party support, while many point out that Nintendo has traditionally been weak in terms of acquiring it, if you consider the Japanese market, it is fair to say that the number one dedicated video game system that Japanese third-party publishers are focusing on is Nintendo 3DS. This is because Nintendo 3DS has an overwhelmingly strong presence in the hardware as well as software markets for dedicated game systems, meaning that it would be illogical not to do business on Nintendo 3DS, and we are cooperating with third-party publishers in a variety of ways as long as we can establish win-win relationships. On the other hand, if you turn to the overseas markets, as home consoles are more popular, many publishers are not as focused on handheld devices. In such an environment, while we are certainly not satisfied with its overall unit sales or the results from the last year-end sales season, the fact that Nintendo 3DS has now sold over 10 million units in both the U.S. and Europe seems to be news for third-party publishers, and we have recently been receiving more proposals from third-party publishers. However, as many overseas software publishers are specialized in developing games for high-end home consoles, while they are very interested in Nintendo 3DS, it appears that they are currently investigating what they want to develop on our platform.
Going on from those points, there's an assurance that Nintendo will become more active in assisting with localisation of Japanese games to Western territories. There's an acknowledgement that genres with a weaker role on Nintendo hardware make third-party support an additional challenge on Wii U, but the message remains that if first-party games can drive the Wii U to stronger sales, third-parties will become interested in the platform.
Also, we sometimes distribute, or even publish depending on the circumstances, games that were made by Japanese software publishers in the overseas markets, and you can expect to see more examples of this this year and the next. As for Nintendo 3DS, as I mentioned before, its total global sales have already exceeded 40 million units. As for Wii U, opinions significantly differ among third-party publishers. Software publishers that develop content that has great affinity with audiences that Nintendo has historically been strong with, namely children and families, are still very active supporters of Wii U, and their enthusiasm for Wii U can also been seen from the fact that they have even reached out to us to help people upgrade from Wii to Wii U. On the other hand, software publishers are not necessarily keen on making games in genres that have weaker affinity with audiences that Nintendo has not been as strong with, where making a huge investment does not guarantee a sufficient return. With regard to Wii U, we first need to create a strong foundation in areas Nintendo excels at and achieve a sufficient sales volume. If we manage to do so, those publishers in the overseas markets who are currently not interested in Wii U will be attracted to the Wii U platform, as they were to Nintendo 3DS. This is going to be our approach in the near future.
While the eShop store may provide some relief on the Wii U, it's tough to argue with the fact that the system is struggling for retail third-party support. Are you happy with the news that Nintendo will continue to work on bringing more Japanese games to the West, and do you think that interest can be boosted in the GamePad to improve sales and, ultimately, entice more third-parties on board? Let us know in the comments below.