Wii will miss you, Nintendo (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY ) .
The Japanese gaming pioneer halted production of the original Wii console in Japan earlier this month. It confirmed on Friday that shipments to Europe are also being discontinued. The scaled-back production of the bar-raising console that encouraged gamers to get off the couch with its motion-based controller will continue to feed stateside gamers.
"There is no change in the status of Wii in the United States, and it is available for purchase this holiday season," Nintendo of America tells enthusiast website GameSpot, but its demise here is just a matter of time. With production being scaled back, it will be hard to get third-party developers to back the platform. Unlike Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) and Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , Nintendo is best known for its in-house games. That would seem to serve Nintendo well, but how actively will it continue to develop Wii titles for just the fading U.S. market?
It's over. Don't make the mistake of buying a Wii. It's a dead console walking. Nintendo wants you to buy a Wii U, but it was selling poorly before a recent aggressive price cut. Nintendo is anchoring itself on the console front to the Wii U that hasn't gained serious traction with gamers. If it doesn't have a strong holiday selling season, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Japanese icon pull back and focus on its more popular handheld gaming business and putting out software for other platforms.
This brings us to Microsoft and Sony. They're rolling out new systems next month. Pre-orders have been reportedly running strong for both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Some may argue that the two consoles are too expensive, but Sony's PS4 is cheaper than the PS3 when it was introduced. However, it will be interesting to see whether they follow Nintendo's lead in nixing the current platforms when their next-generation gaming boxes hit the market.
One can argue that Microsoft and Sony have a bigger reason to discontinue the Xbox 360 and PS3. The new consoles run on an entirely new chip architecture. Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) has been winning some analyst raves now that it's the company powering all three consoles, but Microsoft and Sony's switch to AMD hardware make it incompatible -- organically -- with older titles. A cloud-based solution is in the works, but it won't be available in time for either launch. This may make it awfully tempting for both companies to cut the cord with supporting the Xbox 360 and PS3, but that seems unlikely. Nintendo may be willing to all but turn its back on Wii owners, but Sony and Microsoft know they will continue to have tens of millions of gamers on earlier platforms for years.
Nintendo's decision should not influence Microsoft and Sony. After all, Sony is still even selling its PS2 to make sure there are entry-level choices out there. That will be important with the Xbox One and PS4 hitting the market at price points of $499 and $399, respectively. The price gap won't be as narrow as we saw between the Wii and the Wii U. If anything, Nintendo's retreat should fortify Sony and Microsoft's efforts to keep the low end of the market going.
Microsoft and Sony can't repeat Nintendo's mistake by getting rid of the current consoles when the new ones roll out next month. The game's still being played.
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