EA’s decision to hold fire on Wii U development is the biggest indication yet to how poor the console’s launch has been.
Performing well below expectations, with no momentum whatsoever, there’s no reason why any third party company should produce titles for this machine (unless of course Nintendo happens to pay them a significant sum of money to do so).
It’s therefore no surprise that former Wii U exclusives, like Rayman Legends, are now finding themselves on the release schedule for Xbox 360 and PS3.
Yet, although third party support is crucial for long-term success of any platform, the biggest games maker on Nintendo platforms is Nintendo itself. Whether it’s Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Kart, Goldeneye, Smash Brothers or Wii Sports, Nintendo’s titles dominate on Nintendo’s platforms.
In many ways, this was the biggest failure of Wii. The console sold millions upon millions of units, but third parties struggled to crack it. EA, for one, developed a number of Wii exclusives (Boom Blox/My Sims etc) but only had limited success.
In fact, the highest charting third party Wii game of all time is Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games from Sega, and that game still featured Nintendo’s mascot. You have to go to 15th for the next best selling third party game, Ubisoft’s Just Dance 2.
You have to go all the way back to the Super Nintendo and Street Fighter II to find a game that was mixing it with Nintendo's big brands.
EA’s range of sports titles – FIFA and Madden included – all sold well below 1m units worldwide on Wii. In reality, the news that Nintendo is publishing three exclusive Sonic games on Wii U is far more significant for the platform, because Sonic games have historically been decent sellers on Nintendo's consoles.
That’s not to say that EA’s decision to slow its support for Wii U is welcome news at Nintendo HQ. Not having any of EA’s big brands on show will make that sparse release schedule look even weaker. And the fact that one of the biggest games company in the world is turning its back on the platform holder (albeit temporarily) is a damning indictment of the console’s first six months on the market.
But Wii U’s fate is still in Nintendo’s hands. Its system sellers – Mario Kart, Mario, Zelda and Smash Brothers – are in development, and some are even due later this year. Those games have sold tens of millions on every Nintendo console released so far.
The news that EA is not supporting Wii U is another disappointing blow in that console’s story. It’s now up to Nintendo to change EA’s mind.