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Nintendo Wii U: Is It The Next Dreamcast?

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First Posted: May 18, 2013 02:47 PM EDT
Attendees wait in line to see the new Nintendo Wii U controller during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles June 7, 2011.

Attendees wait in line to see the new Nintendo Wii U controller during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles June 7, 2011. Credit:Reuters

It's been an interesting week for the Nintendo Wii U, but ultimately another bad one. The platform secured three new Sonic the Hedgehog games as exclusives while losing software support from Electronic Arts.

If this was 10 years ago, the Sonic announcement would have been huge. Now, though, we've got Sonic as an exclusive for a platform that just lost EA support. The last time that happened was with the Dreamcast, and things are looking tough for the Nintendo Wii U, too.

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As many have noted, EA isn't as big a publisher as it was back when it essentially sentenced the Dreamcast to death, but it's still a major company whose support is important. As Matt Martin notes over at GamesIndustry International, though, it simply doesn't have money to throw around anymore. The company has its own problems, and it needs to spend where there's money to be made.

The Nintendo Wii U simply isn't a place where that's possible right now. It could be in the future, if Nintendo somehow manages to plug all the holes in its increasingly leaky ship, but the longer that takes and the longer it goes without major third party support, the harder and harder that mission becomes.

"EA has pulled out of the Wii U because sales of both hardware and software are dreadful," Martin wrote. "We're not officially allowed to report sales numbers from Chart Track in the UK but everyone in the publishing business can see them quite clearly. There's no need for pretence. When you can get to number one in the Wii U charts by selling less than 1,000 units it's no longer a tragedy, it's an actual farce."

What's more, Martin writes that the Wii U's issues run deeper than a simple lack of software. The original Wii was a system that intuitively tapped into something anyone would be intrigued by and want to try - motion control. The Wii U doesn't capture the imagination nearly as well.

"The Wii U has been defeated by the most humbling of challengers - consumer apathy," Martin adds.

"The mainstream bought the Wii because it was a fun novelty, they didn't buy it for a new Zelda game. What's the Wii U's novelty? That it does everything a current-gen console does but a little bit slower and with a Fisher Price tablet attached?"

Interestingly, Martin says that even if Nintendo were to show up at E3 with Mario, Zelda, and Starfox in tow, it would be overshadowed by Sony and Microsoft. Outlets want and need to cover things that will hopefully lift the video game industry out of the doldrums its currently in, and so far the Wii U does not fall into that category.

He has a point. As of now, the only kinds of headlines the Wii U is generating consistently are for awful numbers, lack of software, and missed expectations. Nintendo is trying to plug the gaps with new software announcements, but even then, the next big game arriving is Pikmin 3 in August. That's still two and a half months away, and let's face it: As much as I personally like the Pikmin series, it's not going to move systems at the pace Nintendo needs, if at all.

The video game industry is at an interesting crossroads. Many feel that traditional consoles need to make a very convincing case for why they're needed in a world where you can buy titles for a dollar on your phone. If Nintendo can't make that case with the Wii U, then it's no surprise that consumers and third parties will abandon it.

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