Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata is confident that “Super Mario 3D World” will be one of the biggest selling Wii U games of the year. In fact, he believes it’s one of the games that will help Wii U reach 9 million sold worldwide by March 31st. Wii U has sold 460,000 units worldwide in the last six months which is roughly 5% of that goal. While there may be other system selling Wii U titles like “Wii Party U” and “Wii Fit U”, the bulk of the pressure is on “Super Mario 3D World” to turn Wii U’s fortunes around.
There’s no denying that “Super Mario 3D World” will be the Wii U’s biggest seller this holiday season. That’s not even close to being debatable. But “3D World” isn’t just about selling itself as a piece of software — it’s more about selling hardware. That means “3D World” has a lot more pressure on its shoulders if Satoru Iwata wants to reach even 60% of that ridiculous fiscal goal by March 31st. My main issue is Nintendo of America keeps stacking the odds against 3D World’s ability to create awareness for Wii U in North America.
The first problem: Xbox One launches on the same day that “Super Mario 3D World” releases in North America.
Microsoft will do everything in their power to make sure media outlets like CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and ABC News treat the Xbox One’s launch as a huge event. Remember, Microsoft is (or at least was) co-owner of MSNBC, and they are currently partners with Yahoo. Microsoft even paid the NFL millions of dollars to call Xbox One the official game console of the NFL. This is a company with lots of sway over the mainstream media, and guess who reads and watches the mainstream media? Mainstream consumers. Mom, dad, aunts, and uncles — the same adults who bought Xbox 360 for their kids on Xbox Live — will be targeted by all of this. Another thing to consider is that Xbox One’s launch will dominate social media (Twitter, Facebook) on November 22nd. In general, console launches from any of the big three would dominate social media discussion.
Surprisingly, Xbox One is not the biggest threat that will distract attention from “3D World”.
The second (and bigger) problem is Nintendo releasing both “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” and “Mario Party: Island Tour” on November 22nd in North America. Nintendo is even taking it a step further by releasing “A Link Between Worlds” 3DS XL bundle on the same day as “Super Mario 3D World”. I find it bizarre that Nintendo is releasing two brand new 3DS games along with a 3DS XL Zelda bundle on the same day as Nintendo’s biggest Wii U title.
I’ve said this in the past, but I believe that all of this aggressive 3DS/2DS/Pokemon marketing will continue distracting kids away from Wii U, and persuade them into purchasing a 3DS XL or 2DS instead. Since Pokemon X & Y was released last month, kids have plenty of motivation to buy that Zelda 3DS XL bundle instead of a Wii U. The Nintendo 3DS provides a console experience in your hand, and that’s why it’s a real problem for the Wii U. Past Nintendo handhelds weren’t anywhere close to offering a full console experience like the 3DS does. I know many gamers who purchased the 3DS, and they treat it as their main Nintendo system. Because of that, I do believe 3DS is indirect competition for the Wii U even if Nintendo doesn’t see it that way.
Third problem: In the United States, Nintendo is releasing the $99 Wii Mini five days before Wii U gets its biggest game of the year. There’s still mainstream confusion surrounding the Wii U, and now they release a new version of the Wii which could potentially create more confusion? I really don’t understand the logic here.
Nintendo is doing a fantastic job persuading families to buy cheaper alternatives (2DS, 3DS, Wii Mini) over Wii U. Especially when those cheaper alternatives have larger, better quality libraries of software than Wii U at the moment.
Many people have told me, “Well, the iPad Mini can co-exist with the iPad. Why can’t the $99 Wii Mini co-exist with the Wii U?”. Sure, but was the iPad selling worse than the GameCube? The iPad Mini released after the iPad proved itself to be a very successful product. The 2DS released after the 3DS proved itself to be a successful product.
Wii U has been an unsuccessful product so far, and they continue releasing cheaper alternatives for family fun that cannibalize the sales of that unsuccessful product. This holiday season, families can buy both a Wii Mini and a 2DS for $230 which is approximately $70 cheaper than a Wii U. This wouldn’t be a problem if each of Nintendo’s four products targeted a different market, but that’s not the case. All four of Nintendo’s products (Wii U/2DS/3DS/Wii Mini) are directed at the same family/kids audience. It also doesn’t help Wii U’s situation when 2DS, 3DS, and Pokemon cut into Wii U’s marketing budget, and you still have two 3DS games coming out this month that need marketing.
3DS, Wii U, and Wii Mini might be separate products, but consumers have limited amounts of money to spend, and limited amounts of time to play video games. I’m okay with Nintendo launching the Skylanders Wii U bundle on the day of PlayStation 4’s launch, but I’m not a fan of Nintendo pitting multiple 3DS products against one Wii U game on the same day. I’m not a fan of Nintendo launching Wii Mini on the same week as “Super Mario 3D World” when everyone is already confused about Wii U.
At this point, Nintendo of America might as well throw the kitchen sink at Super Mario 3D World. Maybe that will slow it down even more.