Nintendo Global President Satoru Iwata is well aware that the Wii U faces an uphill battle in the coming months, especially with Sony and Microsoft launching brand new consoles to compete in the coming holiday season. Iwata sat down with shareholders at the 73rd Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in Kyoto to discuss Wii U’s current performance and how the company will compete, turn less-than-stellar sales around, and attract more third-party development in what has been a rather distant relationship.
One question touched on whether developers in general have reached the limits on creative potential. One shareholder posited that Nintendo’s E3 2013 showcase felt more like extensions to existing franchises, rather than titles that seem capable only on Wii U. Nintendo has developed a reputation for designing games that appeal to mass audiences, and they considered whether or not forthcoming games like “Super Mario 3D World” and “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” appeal more to “traditional” gamers than families.
Iwata responds that this is something of a balancing act: “Most of those who are interested in E3 are video game fans that are eager for information on so-called traditional games and we had a lot of information to be disclosed to such people.” He also understands the importance of reaching families and ‘casual’ audiences who helped make Wii the success that it is. However, the reputation Wii earned over the course of its lifetime seemed to have spurned the more ‘hardcore’ crowd:
“We would like as many people as possible to pick up, experience and enjoy our video games. It is important to let people who originally had no interest in games, find themselves enjoying Wii U in their living room every day. We must also satisfy avid video game fans. When it comes to Wii, as ‘Wii Sports’ spread throughout the world at a sensational speed, some misunderstood that all Wii could do is enable them to play games by moving the Wii Remote. With Wii U, therefore, we planned to satisfy existing video game fans first and provide new surprises later. But, just as you pointed out, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the consumers to be impressed by improvements in graphics alone, so we would like to seek different ways to make an impression on consumers.”
Another larger issue addressed is the lackluster support from third-party developers. Iwata and (“Mario” and “Legend of Zelda” creator) Shigeru Miyamoto came to the realization that Wii U development requires twice the human resources compared to Wii, which could explain why first-party output isn’t as steady as they and Wii U owners would like. Nintendo is hopeful that titles like “Pikmin 3” and “The Wonderful 101” will help shift the console’s momentum, and allow third-party studios to consider Wii U a viable and worthy investment. Iwata expanded on the situation: “There were so many games released by third party publishers for Wii U during the launch period, but most of them were converted from other platforms and therefore could not enjoy brisk sales. As a result, some software developers have become pessimistic about Wii U.”
Nintendo faces lots of challenges in the coming months, but they are hopeful in steering their ship on the right course to 2014 and beyond.