Are the Nintendo Wii U’s days numbered?
There’s some controversy in Japan over whether the gaming company will stop production on its Wii U. Earlier on Wednesday, Japanese news outlet Nikkei reported that Nintendo (NTDOY) was halting production on the Wii U, implying that it was deciding instead to focus on software and its follow-up hardware platform, the NX. Soon after, a Nintendo spokesperson spoke to another Japanese news outlet, IT Media, saying that the report was inaccurate and that “from the next quarter and thereafter as well” Wii U production would continue.
Gaming-news site Kotaku earlier reported on the claims.
While Nintendo’s reported response seems to have put the issue to bed, it highlights an important issue for the company: Exactly what to do with the Wii U.
Nintendo launched its Wii U console in 2012 after coming off the wildly successful Wii. The console features better graphical capabilities than its predecessor, as well as a controller that delivers dual-screen functionality.
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While the feature seemed appealing to some, the Wii U got off to a slow start that it never overcame. Nintendo revealed earlier this year that it had sold just 12.6 million units worldwide by the end of 2015 and acknowledged that sales were relatively stagnant. Meanwhile, its top two competitors, Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox One, which both launched well after the Wii U, have easily surpassed Nintendo’s console in total sales. Sony, for instance, said that it had sold nearly 36 million PlayStation 4 consoles worldwide by the end of 2015. The console’s success puts it on pace to be one of the most popular of all time.
Meanwhile, the Wii U has floundered, forcing Nintendo to perhaps prematurely announce that it was working on new hardware, currently codenamed NX. The company has also moved into mobile apps, though its first attempt in that arena stumbled out of the gate.
Those issues, coupled with Nikkei’s strong, reliable track record in covering the Japanese video game market, lent some credibility to its report. While it would seem odd that Nintendo would stop production before it has another console ready to go, if demand isn’t there, producing more inventory might not make much sense.
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Regardless of Nintendo’s intentions with the Wii U, production is by no means an indicator of its commitment to the console. Even if Nintendo decided to at least slow Wii U production, it would likely support the console with new games for the foreseeable future. In an interview with TIME last year, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima seemed intent on supporting the Wii U platform and its customers.
“I think our first job right now is to make sure that the customers, those 10 million customers who have a Wii U at home have software to play,” he said. “And we need to make sure that they are satisfied with their purchase and continue to enjoy playing on this platform. So we can’t just abandon them and say ‘Hey, it’s time to move on to the next thing.’”
He added, however, that Nintendo is still “working on NX and looking at the experiences we can bring to that platform.” But at least then (and presumably now), he believed Nintendo’s “job” is to “support the consumers who have purchased Wii U and make sure that they have software experiences available to them.”
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So, regardless of what the future holds for Wii U production, at least its current owners know they won’t be left behind.
Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s Wii U production debate.