Nintendo stocks have continued their fall since the announcement of the Wii U console. After trading large volumes, stock prices are now at the lowest point since the release of the original Wii. After initial bewilderment, it is now becoming more clear exactly what the Wii U is: a new console with a tablet controller, rather than just a new controller. In essence, playing the Wii U should be the equivalent of a full size Nintendo DS, with a few bells and whistles, and the gameplay options opened up by that handheld should go some way to quieting the sceptics.
However, the stated goal to capture the so called hard core market still seems unlikely according to Tim Willits, creative director of id Software, who cautiously stated, ‘I think we should keep our toes where we know best.’ While I can’t say I’ve cared much what id Software has done since the announcement of Quake in 1996, there are good reasons for this caution. That the Wii U will be sold for a higher initial price than the original Wii was will be a burden, particularly in a marketplace already saturated with Wiis, PS3s and Xbox 360s. The Wii backwards compatibility and HD graphics are unlikely to impress those many households which already have a Wii and a PS3. Thus, sales will rely upon the way the new controller is utilised, and hard core gamers are generally gimmick-shy. Furthermore, many blockbuster titles rely on the wide-user base afforded by multi-platform releases, and multi-platform releases by their nature make limited use of features available on only one platform.
The worst danger is posed by the fact that is seems only one tablet will be able to be used per Wii U. This will severely limit game design in one of Nintendo‘s core genres: casual, multi-player party games.
Like the Wii controller, there’s also the possibility of Sony and Microsoft ‘borrowing’ the functionality of the Wii U and either developing peripherals for their existing systems, or their next generation consoles when they arrive.
Nintendo has a short window to make a splash. They do have the potential to do so. In fact, their share price drop may have less to do with actual potential, and more to do with perceptions and the lacklustre presentation of the Wii U at e3: Yusuke Tsunode, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Securities Co, put it simply: ‘There were high expectations for the new version of the Wii and this fell far short.’ Perceptions have sunk consoles in the past. Users and game developers both have to invest considerable time and money into a console, and they thus gamble on the hope that other users and game developers will do the same. The console market, it seems, is a kind of speculative stock market.
However, Michael Pachter from Wedbush Morgan was surpised by the market backlash, believing that it likely has more to do with the release of the Playstation Vita, a well-priced competitor to Nintendo’s handheld dominance, than with the Wii U. With the type of in depth knowledge of the gaming market we’ve come to expect from Wall Street, Pachter was quoted as saying ‘They integrated a tablet into a console.’