I wonder if the Wii U was doomed from the start. The common wisdom is that the Wii U has failed for many reasons:
- The name was confusing (is it just a Wii add-on?)
- The tablet controller wasn't compelling
- It was underpowered compared to the competition
- There weren't enough games
But what if none of those were the reasons? None of them helped that's for sure, but I think we're forgetting about the elephant in the room.
Yup, that 101 million-selling, Wii Sports-playing behemoth probably doomed the Wii U before it was even announced. One would think that the undisputed sales champion of the 7th generation of game consoles would be a huge boon to whatever came next. Momentum alone would almost be enough to ensure a solid showing! And yet here we are, with the Wii U a distant third in the console market.
I think the Wii U was doomed because the product it was replacing was sitting in closets across the world when it came out. Yes the Wii sold over 100 million units, which was more than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but I'd wager a lot more of those Sony/Microsoft boxes were still in use than Nintendo's in November 20131. People still went home and played Call of Duty and Minecraft, but how many people were still playing Wii Sports?
It was a classic story: you buy a Wii, you play it a ton, and then it goes in the closet for years. So when the Wii U was shown off and looked very similar to the Wii you had sitting next to your laptop from 2001 and those sheets that you never quite decide to put on the bed2, you don't feel too compelled to upgrade to its replacement. The Wii had great sales numbers, but it ultimately wasn't a great gaming product, and it soured people to the product line.
Nintendo thought "Wii" was a great brand; it was definitely recognizable, but it wasn't loved. By 2013 the "my Wii is in a closet" was basically a meme, and people had no interest in buying another Wii (especially when it had all the problems mentioned above).