Will People Actually Buy Games on the Wii U?

Picking up from my previous post on whether people would actually make games for Nintendo’s Wii U, whether or not people will buy them is probably a more important question. It’s the only real problem Nintendo faces nowadays.

With the Wii (and now 3DS) Nintendo has proven that they can sell hardware. Their own games also sell more than almost anything else. The problem for the last 15 years has been building a library of 3rd party games which requires Nintendo to convince the publishers that their games can actually sell on Nintendo hardware.

How many people will actually buy the Wii U ports of games like Batman Arkham City, Darksiders II, or Metro Last Light? How much of that potential audience already owns a PS3 or 360?

The way I see it, on one end you got hardcore Nintendo-only gamers. I don’t know how many such people are left after the Wii years (they were a concentrated base during the N64 and Gamecube years), but if they’re there, I actually feel fairly optimistic about how they would receive the ports if they’re done well.

I’ve spent years trying to fight the popular notion that Nintendo hardware owners only buy Nintendo games. From what I’ve seen I think it depends on quality and the amount of marketing for 3rd party games. I have a feeling Ubisoft’s Wii U games will reap certain benefits. It worked for Resident Evil and Soul Calibur II back on the Gamecube, which is why I’m still disappointed that Capcom hasn’t planned a Wii U version of RE6. I’m absolutely sure it would sell copies.

On another side you’ve got the new base Nintendo picked up with Wii Sports and Wii Fit and whatnot. If Just Dance 4 for the Wii U is real, then that’s one big attraction right there. Nintendo already knows they need to open up with a Wii Sports equivalent. I think with that they can at least get an initial boost from fads like this, like what happened with Kinect. It’s something to start with.

3rd parties were baffled with how to follow that up on the Wii though, and I’m still not sure anyone other than Ubisoft and maybe EA knows how. Perhaps there might be some appeal overlap between those mass-market games and the likes of Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto (provided they make it to the Wii U, I’m certain COD will).

That brings us to a third sector – the core gamers who don’t own Nintendo hardware. Here’s what I think Nintendo wants to happen in regards to the Wii U ports: A family might get a Wii U in order to play Mario, Just Dance, or the latest Wii-brand game or whatever in their living room. A hardcore gamer in that family, whether it’s a son or the father, notices they can also get Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed on the same console, and decides to get that version.

That’s just a general guess really. Most people who play console games still only own one console so I doubt a lot of people will go for both a Nintendo and an Xbox outside of the most hardcore who post on forums. They’ll want the one with the widest breadth of games and that’s what Nintendo is trying to offer. The ultimate dream that they’re probably trying to attain here is a single platform on which you can play Mario, Wii Fit, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto.

The other reasons to buy 3rd party games on Wii U, like the hardware, might turn out to be middling, at least at first. The Wii U ports will probably look just like they do on Xbox (some might have minor visual improvements) and I don’t think the tablet will make a big difference except for games made specifically for the system.

The other big decider for core gamers though is online. Live has been the real killer app for Microsoft this generation, and so many core gamers are attached to their Live profile and friends lists. I don’t think Nintendo has any chance of copying Live feature-for-feature, but the 3DS has me convinced that they understand enough of the basic feature set that, in combination with other advantages, they might make up the difference in overall appeal. That’s still kind of a slim chance though for people who are already loyal to Live.

If you ask me personally regarding ports, if I were to buy a Wii U this year, I would probably still buy any multiplatform games on the PC. Most console gamers however probably don’t have that option.

Lastly there’s the issue of where 3rd party Wii U game sales will be once Microsoft’s and Sony’s next consoles arrive. They will likely be more powerful than the Wii U, though we have no idea by how much. The best outcome for Nintendo would be for the Wii U to become the PS2 of the upcoming console generation. The PS2 was weaker than its competition but games sold the most on it because it had already established its base in its year head start and because of its predecessor’s popularity.

Within the last few days someone posted some pretty pessimistic numbers on polls about how many people are interested in buying the Wii U at this point. Polls like that have to be considered premature at this point with the lack of a date, price, and launch lineup. I guess a lot of people really can’t wait until E3 to start talking about it.

BULLETS:

  • As of this typing, a game called Dice With Buddies is free on iTunes right now and I need some people to try it with.
  • I’m surprised it took GameStop this long to start selling Steam money vouchers.
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