Nintendo didn’t have a big E3 press conference this year, but that didn’t stop the company’s CEO, Satoru Iwata, from giving some candid interviews with the press at this year’s expo. Speaking to Polygon and IGN, Iwata gave his thoughts on why the Wii U has been selling so poorly, why Nintendo has never tried to restrict used game sales, and why the company isn’t worried about the PS4’s cheaper than expected launch price.
When asked about the Wii U’s poor sales (the system is selling even slower than the Gamecube, which was previously Nintendo’s least popular home console,) Iwata blamed himself. “”We are to blame…We relaxed our [marketing] efforts, so the consumers today still cannot understand what’s so good and unique about the Wii U. Because we’re always trying to be unique, it takes some energies on our side to [make] people understand the real attractions about whatever we are doing.”
Iwata admitted that even Nintendo’s own games haven’t managed to illustrate the advantages of the second-screen equipped controller, saying “We have been unsuccessful in coming up with one single software with which people can understand, ‘OK, this is really different.”
Iwata previously told investors that he will resign from his position if Wii U sales don’t improve by the end of the next fiscal year.
This year at E3, Microsoft received a lot of (well deserved) flak for placing restrictions on used games and requiring users to “check-in” to Xbox Live every 24 hours. Sony received a standing ovation when they declared that the PS4 wouldn’t feature similar DRM. The Wii U has been able to play used and offline games this whole time, and Iwata told IGN that he doesn’t think used games are a problem for the industry, nor were they ever a problem to begin with.
“The best possible countermeasure against people buying used product is making the kind of product that people never want to sell… You’re never going to want to sell these games. That’s something that always occupies our minds. We need to make software that players don’t want to sell.”
Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime recently stated that he’s not worried about the PS4’s launch price, which is currently only $50 more expensive than the Wii U Deluxe Set. Iwata reiterated his company’s hesitance to drop the Wii U’s price despite it’s poor sales, saying “Because from the very beginning we came up with a very aggressive price point. We do not think [a price cut] is a very easy option to take.”
Nintendo’s stance on used games is admirable, and it’s a common sense approach that I wish more publishers — especially Microsoft and other publishers who load their games up with online passes or DRM — would adopt. With that said, I think Nintendo’s refusal to drop the Wii U’s price could potentially seal the system’s fate: there were a lot of fun, potentially system-selling Wii U games at this year’s E3, but despite that, I honestly don’t see anyone buying Nintendo’s latest console if they can get the substantially more powerful Playstation 4 for just fifty dollars more. The 3DS didn’t start selling well until Nintendo gave it a drastic price cut, and it’s obvious that they need to do the same for the Wii U. Despite Iwata and Fils-Aime’s statements, I’d honestly be genuinely surprised if Nintendo didn’t announce a price cut for the Wii U at or before Tokyo Game Show. I can’t see how the system will survive without one.