The Wii is dead. What will Nintendo do?

The Wii isn’t clinically dead yet, but its best days are well behind it. Sales are massively down, and with that so are Nintendo’s profits and their share price. So they must do something soon, not so much for their gaming audience and fanboys, but rather to keep their investors happy.

The Wii was always just Gamecube V1.5, it was not truly a machine of the current generation like the Sony Playstation PS3 and the Microsoft Xbox 360. It lacked the power and it lacked the HD graphics. But to make up for this it was cheaper, it had that breakthrough gesture interface and it had a catalogue of amazing Nintendo first party games that were must haves for any keen gamer.

The problem now is that the Wii no longer looks cheap, the cupboard is pretty bare of first party titles (most third party titles having missed the mark) and the gesture interface is looking old hat compared to what the competition are about to unleash.

Now, the people that run Nintendo are not fools, they know all of this better than I do. So it is obvious that the successor for the Wii is already designed, that the first party studios are working on games for it and that production is just about to start. So the Wii will be discontinued with about 68 million units made, it will be interesting to see if the Xbox 360 can catch up with this figure over the next five years.

The new machine, if Nintendo keep to their previous naming rules, could well be called the Super Wii. Moore’s Law tells us it will be about four times more powerful than the Wii. And the market tells us that it will be HD. Obviously it will be backwards compatible. But this specification, on its own, will not be enough to compete. Nintendo need to do more. Much more.

Satoru Iwata is the president of Nintendo and he has just given an interview that reveals much of their thinking. It is in Japanese but with the magic of Google Translate you can read it here. And he says that HD is not enough, that Nintendo will be doing something new.

Over three years ago I wrote an article in this blog entitled What is Nintendo? That article is just as true now as it was then and mirrors much of Satoru Iwata’s thoughts. The key here is that Nintendo is an entertainment company first and foremost, they are not a hardware or a software company, it is just the entertainment that matters. And they use technology and innovation to provide this entertainment.

So I don’t know what to expect. They know that they need to innovate, so they could do just about anything. The only thing that is for sure is that it will be fun.

31 comments ↓

#1 BC on 02.03.10 at 7:55 am

Before you all start …you realise that all Bruce wants is hits on his site and lots of comments to make it look active and vibrant.

#2 Bruce on 02.03.10 at 9:10 am

@BC

Haha. It would be very strange if I didn’t want people to read these articles and join in the debates, wouldn’t it?

#3 Daniel on 02.03.10 at 9:25 am

I’m still not convinced of motion controls, and neither are many gamers. The thing with the Wii is, it’s a system of novelty, it’s really fresh and new for awhile, but then the controls rear their ugly heads and cause major pains. If Nintendo continue the motion path (as i believe we all think they will), they really need to nail it perfectly, and try to pin down a lot more quality exclusives.

Nintendo were fantastic with the Gamecube, they have kind of lost me with the Wii. Don’t get me wrong, i thoroughly enjoy some the games on the system, and i still have many titles left to purchase. But the PS3 and 360 are offering far more quality experiences right now, and i don’t think Nintendo can change this until the next wave of consoles hit.

#4 Daniel Lawson on 02.03.10 at 10:24 am

if 60 million consoles later you’re not convinced of motion controls then you’re way behind the curve my namesake

#5 deftangel on 02.03.10 at 10:53 am

Er, dead being an unprecedented 3.8m units sold just *last* December in the US.

I subscribed to your blog again because you posted one article that was half sensible a little while ago. Now you’ve reverted to type and posting link baiting trash like this. I won’t be coming back to verify that you haven’t approved this comment.

#6 sven on 02.03.10 at 1:29 pm

Moore’s Law tells us that your next post will be four times more utterly bonkers than this one.

#7 Reasoned Mind on 02.03.10 at 1:36 pm

“Moore’s Law tells us it will be about four times more powerful than the Wii.”

Uh, no, Moore’s Law has little to do with predicting how powerful any future console will be.

Whilst Moore’s Law has proved (within loose boundaries) to be remarkably prescient in it’s predictions it has nothing to do with what components a given system may have. Try applying that logic to the jump from Gamecube to Wii – previous history does not support this.

Also Moore’s Law doesn’t make predictions of how much computing power is available in future in any case, only the number of transistors which is not the same thing by any means.

#8 Bruce on 02.03.10 at 1:41 pm

@Reasoned Mind

Once again you prove that you haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about.

#9 Spaz on 02.03.10 at 1:41 pm

@BC DUR. If nobody with a site wanted hits, they’d write their thoughts down on a scratch pad, journal or open up a MS word document or something.

@Bruce – The Wii made a LOT of money in its time. All my friends with kids bought one, because it encourages the kids to be ACTIVE. And when we kick the kids to bed WE play for hours. Of course sales are slowing down now that everybody has one. Nintendo is counting its money and is planning to release the next and greatest Wii, or the super wii as you called it. It’s marketing.

#10 wizzel on 02.03.10 at 3:20 pm

Did you see December’s NPD numbers? Just so you know production on the next Nintendo console isn’t starting any time soon.

#11 Adam on 02.03.10 at 9:42 pm

I hope you respond to this Bruce. What I want to know is, why bring out some new hardware now? Third parties definately don’t want to jump into 8th gen when they are still struggling to get a hold of this gen. Also when do you expect this new hardware to be released/announced. Because nintendo still as quie a few wii game to put out first.

#12 Robin on 02.03.10 at 9:55 pm

So let me get this straight. A console which sold 3.8M units in the US in December (over 1M more than the PS2′s previous all-time record best performance in Dec 2002), and which by current estimates has sold somewhere in the region of 60-65M units worldwide, is going to be discontinued, just like that, when it hits the (strangely specific) 68M mark? Erm, ok…?

Surely if the lack of “HD” was the deal breaker you’ve been saying it is for the last three years this would be borne out by sales figures by now.

As others have noted, citing Moore’s Law as some kind of guiding economic principle sounds a little simplistic when discussing a machine based on an incrementally updated architecture from 2001, which was itself based around a circa-1997 CPU core.

For that matter, hasn’t it been the manufacturers who put their faith into escalating complexity as you advocate who have spent the past five years struggling with manufacturing costs and reliability issues while conspicuously failing to recapture the success of the PS2?

#13 S.E. Gordon on 02.03.10 at 10:55 pm

Sorry Bruce, gotta totally disagree with you on this one. Nintendo continues to outsell everyone by thousands of units. As for the software? Perhaps companies should make quality games from the ground up on the Wii rather than shoveling out garbage. What were some of the hottest selling games last year? Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit Plus, Mario Kart, Mario Galaxy, and The New Super Mario Brothers–all on the Wii. At least Nintendo knows how to make a buck from their software.

The Wii has an installed base of approximately 67 million consoles. The PS3 has about 32 million. Nintendo will certainly continue milking the Wii for all it’s worth.

#14 arash on 02.03.10 at 11:52 pm

It’s not a games machine – that’s only a peripheral activity, a trojan horse to get it into the living room. Nintendo have succeeded in creating the electronic equivalent of the exercise bike (albeit one that has a couple of board games strapped to the side). It’s selling to guilt ridden families who kind of justify its presence by telling themselves “yeah, the kids can play it when their friends come over and i can shift some lard in the process” but really its a lie and ends up gathering dust for the most part.

#15 Reasoned Mind on 02.04.10 at 9:07 am

@ Bruce: Oh right I havent the slightest idea of what I’m talking about … funny how that’s all you say and you dont say why I’m wrong though isn’t it?

Come on, explain to us how I am wrong regarding Moore’s Law and using it to predict the computational power of a future processor please. LOL.

Then have a look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moores_law

In particular the section entitled ‘Consequences and limitations’ where it clearly outlines that your are in the wrong but perhaps read the whole article as you appear to be mistaking transistor count and density for speed – common mistake but I would’ve thought an expert such as yourself would realise this.

#16 Reasoned Mind on 02.04.10 at 9:19 am

And btw, manufacturers do not always use the fastest processor(s) at a given price level because there are many considerations to be made (availability, commercial gains for competitors or allies for example, how instructions are executed for given applications etc.) but assuming they do you still cannot use Moore’s Law with any credibility to predict processor speeds in future.

#17 docred on 02.04.10 at 6:22 pm

@Arash

It is just a guess, but I’ll wager you consider yourself a ‘hardcore’ gamer, whatever that means. You may be correct in some of your assertions…but I think there are many other platforms out there that are the ‘flavour of the month’ and tossed aside quite quickly, and quite a number of people who buy 2-3 consoles and as a result divide at least some of their gaming time between them.
Gaming is about having fun. Each person defines fun in their own way. For the people here arrogant enough to think they have the only ‘true view’ of gaming, you unsettle me with your narrow-mindedness. My mother (at 60 years old) loves Mario Kart and Bowling on the Wii. I find them fun, but my game of choice right now is Combat Arms online. My favourite for a couple years was a somewhat less known pure strategy medival setting wargame. Was I ‘less hardcore’ because the game was not as popular or well known? At one point I was setting my alarm for 2am, or 4am, or jumping on at lunchtime at work to take care of the realtime strategic demands. Fairly committed. Make me less of a gamer than your typical WOW player or Halo fan? Truth be told…I don’t care. I enjoy the games I enjoy over the years in all their diversity, and I for one won’t be locked in to one console or one type of gaming or be pigeonholed as a certain type of gamer. I play games to have fun and relax and get away from reality for a while, not so that people will view me in a certain way or so I can be termed hardcore or anything else.

Ahem…bit of a rant there, sorry :) Just a little tiring at times to see such hard lines drawn between so many people who all enjoy what amounts to the same thing, regardless of what company they get their goods from.

Now I’m going to go home and boot up the Commodore 64 and play some Space Taxi, because that game was a heck of a lot of fun too :)

#18 S.E. Gordon on 02.05.10 at 4:06 pm

All those in favor of repealing Moore’s law? LOL

#19 SmaMan on 02.06.10 at 9:13 am

@docred
Amen, brother! I happen to be getting into a classic gaming kick lately. And I’m enjoying every minute of it.

#20 M Sillen on 02.08.10 at 9:31 pm

Oh the gamecube1.5 shows your un-natural hatred of the wii.
Because PS3 and 360 overshot the market it made it hard for game devs to make a profit due to the high cost. Alot of developers and publishers have gone out of business.

While the true innovator Nintendo with motion controls is being shunned by these same developers because they don’t put the effort into design and are not getting sales.

#21 M Sillen on 02.08.10 at 10:14 pm

Bruce if the wii is dead then what about the other conoles way behind.
Is the wii a zombie?

#22 M Sillen on 02.08.10 at 10:54 pm

Bruce, facts are not your friend here’s why:
Again the Wii is still outselling the 360 and and the ps3 sometimes outselling them combined.
The wii had a downturn but is now on the upturn with the new Mario.
It is still trending way ahead of the ps2
And your saying it is dead?
It sold just under 4 million in december way way ahead of the 360 and PS3
And it is dead?

#23 Bruce on 02.12.10 at 10:04 am

Wii 31% month on month sales collapse: http://www.el33tonline.com/past/2010/2/12/npd_january_videogame_sales_decline/

#24 M Sillen on 02.13.10 at 6:30 am

And now sales are rising again. And if wii is collapsing then what about your hd twins they are in the toilet swirling into the cess pool.

Repeat sales are rising and have been since NSMB and WSR released. They had a record December, this means sales were good not bad. In December wii sold 3.8 million and the hd twins combined sold 2.5 million.
These are facts

And their sales in 2008 were spectacular, now their sales are great.
I laugh at all you analysts and your prediction.

#25 M Sillen on 02.13.10 at 6:44 am

And it figures you would just type in a general comment without perspective. I can’t believe you were part of the industry.
This is my generalization:
Wii has almost 50 percent market share world wide.
Wii is stomping the hd twins.

Even with a 33% sales decline the wii is still stomping HD twins.
To reiterate just so you understand sales are RISING despite shortages. So funny

#26 Bruce on 02.13.10 at 3:12 pm

@M Sillen.

What you fail to understand is that the Wii and the HD consoles sell mainly to different demographics. This makes your comparisons invalid and irrelevant.

#27 m sillen on 02.14.10 at 2:37 am

Your point is that the wii is going to be discontinued.
That is so wrong. So the best selling game machine right now a machine that is ****** the hd twins by a mile is going to fore go any more sales and stop producing.
Admit it you just hate the wii and so you post what you want to happen.
My comparisons are valid as the wii is a videogame console as is the xbox and ps3.

#28 Bruce on 02.14.10 at 9:26 am

@ m sillen
You really, really haven’t got the faintest idea, have you?

Baked beans and lobster are both food, but they are not alternative purchases to each other.
Skodas and Ferraris are both cars but aren’t alternative purchases to each other.

The same with game consoles. The Wii and the HD consoles appeal to completely different audiences. At this stage in the cycle the HD consoles are mainly bought and used by gamers. This is why their attatch rate is so high.
The Wii is mainly bought as a family toy by non gamers. Most that I know of are largely unused. They have a low attach rate.
The Wii and the HD consoles are not competing for the same customers 95% of the time.

I suggest that you buy an introductory textbook to Porter’s Forces and read it before making such silly statements again.

And I don’t hate the Wii. I don’t like or dislike any gaming platform. It is called being an adult.

#29 Boris on 02.14.10 at 2:18 pm

Then you should not have started by implicitly comparing the Wii to its HD rival !

I agree HD rivals are not aimed at exactly the same public, unfortunately as a consumer you have the choice between the 3 and you cannot deny it. The price difference is not comparable to Skoda/Ferrari…
I think it would be more something like Skoda/VW, Audi, BMW for the family car category, if you really want to picture the market.

To me, your article could be summarised by the first sentence:

“The Wii isn’t clinically dead yet, but its best days are well behind it.”

And the last bit:

“So I don’t know what to expect. They know that they need to innovate, so they could do just about anything. The only thing that is for sure is that it will be fun.”

No disrespect but if you take time to maintain a blog and express yourself, you must think that it might be somewhat useful. I found it useless and actually quite aggressive in your answers to readers comments.

You sound like a grumpy veteran to me. You could educate people without treating them like you did.

Try to go deeper in your analysis and come up with some positions by confronting different figures instead of just taking one which would accomodate a few lines in a quick article.

All the best for your next articles.

#30 Bruce on 02.16.10 at 9:37 pm

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/27255/Analysis_Nintendo_To_Slow_In_2010_As_Arc_Natal_Lure_New_Casual.php

We expect continued market weakness through ’10 for Nintendo related products, as the Wii cycle fades meaningfully and the DS platform faces considerable competition from Apple related mobile gaming devices. We recognize new hardware from Nintendo is on the horizon.

#31 [GAF] AzureNightmare on 02.23.10 at 2:58 am

LOL @ Bruce

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