Here's a thought that should have set stomachs turning at NCL in Kyoto: the Wii U is now at the same point in its lifespan (in North America, at least) as the SEGA Dreamcast was when official support ended... and over that time period, Dreamcast outsold Wii U by nearly two-to-one.
As Canadian gaming writer Patrick O'Rourke points out in the story linked above, there are some pretty major differences between the SEGA of 2001 and Nintendo of today, particularly financial. Nintendo didn't have a string of failed or below-expectations consoles and add-ons leading up to Wii U; and the Wii was a blockbuster compared to the middling Saturn.
But even for a Wii U owner and supporter like me, this is a bit troubling. In about 18 months, Nintendo has only sold two-thirds as many units as it planned to sell in the console's entire second year. If Dreamcast was no longer viable with about 10 million consoles sold in that timespan, how much longer can Nintendo afford to market a system that's sold barely 6 million worldwide?
More concerning is that once again, Nintendo has forgotten that games are required to sell consoles. After Reggie Fils-Aime promised us in several interviews last year that there wouldn't be another Wii U games drought... we're in another Wii U games drought. Here are your platform-exclusive (literally, all games that are not LEGO, movie tie-ins or Cabella's hunting games) retail title offerings so far in 2014:
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Feb. 21)
And here are all announced 2014 release dates to come for retail Wii U releases, again excluding the interminable LEGO series and multi-platform movie tie-ins:
Mario Kart 8 (May 30)
That's it. Two original games in five months, both sequels.
Now, granted there are quite a few download-only titles coming to the eShop, mostly indie games and a few bigger games like NES Remix 2. But most are not exclusives, and none are what I would call system-sellers.
Reggie was either being disingenuous or flatly lying when he said there'd be no drought in 2014.
Ah! But there are some big releases to come, right? Bayonetta 2, X, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and of course some unannounced Zelda and Mario titles we may or may not learn about at E3.
Anticipation doesn't sell consoles a year-and-a-half out of release. Gamers are notoriously demanding and impatient. Nintendo hasn't convinced very many to adopt by now, and I suspect they may not do much better than double total lifetime sales by the end of this year.
Failing that, this could be the final E3 for the Wii U before Nintendo pulls the plug.