Nintendo Just Blew Its Last Chance to Save the Wii U

Nintendo (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY  ) is a company in crisis. With tablets and smartphones captivating the interest of casual gamers, Nintendo's family-orientated video game systems have faded in popularity. Nintendo's Wii U, in particular, is widely regarded as a failure: It's fallen far short of management's projections, some retailers have stopped selling it, and major third-party video game publishers have all but abandoned it.

Yet, the system remains relatively new (just over 16 months old), and many of Nintendo's most popular franchises have yet to see a Wii U installment. While unlikely, there had remained a possibility that the system could rebound -- that Nintendo could, by releasing a string of quality, exclusive games, revive interest in its struggling platform.

Forget about it.

The next iteration of Super Smash Bros. -- Nintendo's popular fighting franchise -- will be coming to the 3DS, its hand-held video game console. If there was any game that could've saved the struggling Wii U, Super Smash Bros. was it. Ironically, the game could now guarantee the Wii U's demise.

The importance of Smash Bros.
Of Nintendo's many franchises, Super Smash Bros. stands out as one of its most successful. The last entry in the series, 2008's Super Smash Bros. Brawl, sold over 11 million copies, making it one of the top 10 best-selling games in the Wii's history. Its predecessor, Super Smash Bros. Melee (released in 2001), was the top-selling game for Nintendo's prior console, The Gamecube. The original Super Smash Bros., now 15 years old, was one of the best-selling games for Nintendo's N64.

In other words, Super Smash Bros. is one of Nintendo's most popular series, and each iteration has reliably sold millions (It's even played semi-professionally). With more than five years since the last installment, the next entry in the franchise could not only move millions, but entice gamers buy the Wii U itself.

3DS sales will cannibalize Wii U sales
But that's not going to happen now because, for the first time, Nintendo is planning to release the game on multiple consoles. Prior iterations in the Super Smash Bros. franchise had been confined to Nintendo's then-current living room console: If you wanted to play Super Smash Bros. Brawl, for instance, you needed to own a Wii -- the game simply wasn't available for any other video game console.

But this Super Smash Bros. release is different. In addition to launching on the Wii U, Nintendo is also shipping the game for its handheld console, the 3DS. The games won't be precisely the same, but the differences will be minimal, with the same cast available in both versions.

While some Smash Bros. fans may run out and buy a Wii U, more are likely to purchase the version released on the 3DS. That game will launch several months ahead of the Wii U version, retail for less, and likely have a larger install base -- extremely important for a multiplayer game with online matchmaking.

There's a good chance most Super Smash Bros. fans already own a 3DS, given that it's far outsold the Wii U to date (almost 50 million consoles compared to just 6 million). Even if they don't, it's more affordable to go get one, as the entry-level 3DS retails for just a fraction ($125) of the Wii U's price ($299).

It's not just the Wii U
Of course, while the 3DS version of the game may devastate sales of the Wii U, it could give a boost to the 3DS, which, while not as disappointing as the Wii U, has still fallen far short of expectations.

At this point in its life, the 3DS has underperformed its predecessor, Nintendo's DS. If Nintendo's January projections prove accurate, it will have sold fewer of the 3DS in 2013 than it did in 2012. That's pretty disturbing, given that the system is only three years old. The DS, in contrast, saw sales growth well into its fourth year.

While its console competitors have branched out, shipping full-featured media boxes that play the most advanced games, Nintendo has kept it simple, focusing on dedicated gaming hardware aimed at a more casual audience. Before the rise of mobile games, that was unquestionably a recipe for success -- today, it's far less clear.

Nintendo has big plans for the future: It's working on a radical new product it calls its QoL platform. Details are scant, but investors in the company should hope it succeeds -- with its consoles struggling, its current gaming-focused business model appears unsustainable.

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Read/Post Comments (23) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 12, 2014, at 3:33 PM, jokergallagher wrote:

    Ya so basicly this is click bait as usual. First off both games are very different based on which version you buy, it also has cross play features that well give you a bonus if you have both versions. Not to mention the new Zelda and mario kart well boost sales. If your statement were true, then the 3DS mario kart would have killed the Wii U version which, which is not true because when it went for pre order on amazon it was in the number one spot of any amazon product (and that's just one site) so ....no no this is tottal crap. Its not even E3 yet

  • Report this Comment On April 12, 2014, at 5:31 PM, Twilord wrote:

    You're quite the fool alright! ;3

    Nintendo is being smart in an unconventional way for themselves. They're using the 3DS as a bounce platform and, with its massive success (its leading the generation by quite some distance), that is a very intelligent strategy.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 12:39 AM, midastouch85 wrote:

    Agree with first comment above, this is click bait.

    Nintendo has a mountain of cash it's sitting on; it's far from doomed. The 3DS is dominating handheld console sales, and it has a large catalog of fantastic games. Additionally it has ongoing digital sales of older games. 3DS cash flow is solid for the foreseeable future. There is no comparison between the quality and depth of console games and mobile games. Mobile games take less time and money to make, but they don't make a lot of money either. I'm a big fan of Google and Amazon, but they aren't near producing the quality of games Nintendo has. Nintendo has a particular lock on the Japanese market.

    Nintendo's losses are small and sustainable for a long time. Sony is in a much worse overall position as a company, and Microsoft is also not doing terrific.

    A sensationalistic article. And what is orientate?

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 3:26 AM, ah0tp0tat0 wrote:

    I really hate how people are saying that Nintendo is in jeopardy when they are far from it!!!!!

    They are currently dominating with the 3DS which is doing better than the home consoles. There is also the fact that the company itself is worth a lot compared to other video game companies. They are not doomed at all but they do need to get rid of Iwata that is making the dumb decisions for the company.

    Smartphones aren't the way to go and I respect Nintendo for that. One last thing is the title of this article is one of the dumbest things I have heard in awhile about Nintendo.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 4:06 AM, xThomas wrote:

    None of you four commenters or the author of this article are correct. Nintendo is in BIG trouble with the 3DS and the Wii U can only be considered as a total failure. It would be a disaster if not for Super Mario Brothers.

    For the article - Smash Brothers will likely be a killer app on the 3DS, but I see zero potential for it on Wii U. If it were Wii U only who would buy this game? People would see more Super Smash Bros 64, Melee and Brawl. Portable smash is not seen before.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 6:54 AM, NonCasualGamer wrote:

    The person above me is a troll. He didn't give one reason why the Wii u or 3ds are complete failures. Not to mention the use of the phrase "killer app."

    They are both doing fine, and the ps4 sucks ass.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 10:17 AM, Interventizio wrote:

    The article is probably right. Anyway, Nintendo should become a software company and starts licensing its franchises to third party developers.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 10:18 AM, Interventizio wrote:

    Nintendo should become a software company and start licensing its franchises to third-party developers.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 12:07 PM, andfisher wrote:

    This article conveniently forgets to mention Mario Kart. Mario Kart Wii did GTAV level sales. much more than the supposed 11 million of Smash Bros Brawl. The Wii U version of Mario Kart is out next month. Yeah... The Wii U must really be doomed because one game is coming later than expected.... If you believe that, I have some bridges I am interested in selling you.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 12:23 PM, Venderhain wrote:

    The Wii U strategy makes sense because releasing Smash Brothers around the holidays along with whatever package Nintendo is marketing at that time is likely to improve sales. They can hit with a fresh wave of advertising.

    Not that they'd do this, but a Mario Kart package with a discount on Smash Brothers would be hard to pass on.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 5:38 PM, YoureTheFool wrote:

    Seriously? How dumb can you get? Have you realized that they are making TWO games called Super Smash Bros. WII U AND Super Smash Bros. 3DS?!? Get your facts straight before you waist time trying to prove a point that's false. Idiot.

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2014, at 11:05 PM, ironwaffle wrote:

    I agree with the person and people aboveme in general. You are an idiot. I made an account just to say this. The wii U installment will probably in most cases have much more features and be much better than the 3ds version.(which will probably still be fun)

    this game will only make people want to put the money in for a wii u for super smash bros wii U even more. You clearly have no idea what you're talking about and again are an idiot.

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 2:47 AM, xThomas wrote:

    Calling me an idiot is unkind. 3DS lost Nintendo a lot of money. I see Smash on 3DS as a good move considering 3DS has the controls for it.

    Speaking personally, I am interested enough to buy a 2DS because of Smash Brothers. On a handheld. I didn't want a 3DS at all before (3D is not for me, I have bad eyes). If I do get it, Mario 3D land will be a second buy because as a kid I always played Naughty Dog's Crash Bandicoot games on Playstation.

    noncasualgamer: That you even want me to give reasons why the Wii U is a failure is mindboggling.

    Wii U lucky to sell 3 million units this fiscal year.

    Wii U re-releases Wind Waker Zelda.

    Wii U releases Super Mario 3D World. multiplayer 3d Mario, some have wanted this for a long time. But insulting because Super Mario Brothers games now get crap production values (music graphics presentation) when they should be the best.

    3DS

    Price cut

    general consumer rejection of 3D (3D revolution is a flop)

    some consumers (like me) can't imagine console controls on their handhelds (or their Wii)

    More expensive to develop for 3DS compared to DS, which means less games. Cheaper development = more games (a reason old DS sold despite PSP). More games increases the probability of a hit.

    andfisher: That was on Wii. I really want a solid gameplay first, which MKWii lacked items wise. On that note, I'm not seeing what anti gravity and gliders have to do with Mario Kart at all - I wasn't interested in MK7 at all because of gliders. Mario Kart 8 has good production effort but if core gameplay changes, Mario Kart could suffer.

    (Bikes I could forgive because the Wii was awesome)

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 4:54 AM, andfisher wrote:

    @xThomas your opinion of Mario Kart Wii doesn't have any relevancy on its sales. Assume then, that neither does your impression of Mario Kart 8 on its respective sales.

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 4:58 AM, Venderhain wrote:

    You think Super Mario 3D World has bad graphics and music?

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 6:04 AM, smashbrolink wrote:

    The article entirely downplays the fact that each version will have differences that will make them both worth having[as well as an undisclosed benefit for having, and connecting, both versions to each other], on top of the fact that the Wii U version, by virtue of being able to hook up to wired internet, will have more stable online multiplayer.

    It also ignores the fact that releasing the Wii U version close to the holidays, when games traditionally get more sales and more attention, practically guarantees the Wii U version some limelight, and the 3DS version will only help players become convinced that they want both versions to get the most out of the game, by releasing early to give said players a taste of what's to come on the Wii U version.

    The Wii U version will also be the more popular version in regards to tournaments.

    On top of that, it alludes that the 3DS is "in trouble" when its sales are plenty strong enough to keep Nintendo's profits rising, despite not outselling the DS, and is still getting a really strong line-up of games outside of Smash Bros.

    Way to live up to the website's name; a foolish article made by someone who doesn't know what they're talking about.

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 6:26 AM, Holyfire wrote:

    Smash Bros on 3DS is a perfect idea, the franchise was built for mobile gaming from the start. Simple yet challenging fighter game, imagine if they had wireless multi player.

    Whether 3DS cannabalises Smash Bros WiiU or not, doesn't matter. Its gonna be a financial phenomenon for Nintendo. As having some of the highest selling games in the world. Smash Bros will be up there too. I got my WiiU version pre-od

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 7:34 AM, Stealth2k wrote:

    This article lives up to the name fool.

    Total nonsense.

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 9:34 AM, NonCasualGamer wrote:

    Thomas, 3DS and Wii u are doing fine. Your opinions do not reflect the opinions of real gamers, therefore, you don't matter.

    And ps4 is pathetic.

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 9:56 AM, NonCasualGamer wrote:

    "some consumers can't imagine console controls on their handhelds"

    What does that mean? Every single handheld emulates console controls the best they can with what limited space they have. The Wii u has the best possible screen and controls for any handheld ever designed. Inb4newfagsaysitsclunky.

    And thanks for admitting you're a troll by saying the 3ds failed because you have bad eyes. That's cute.

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 10:31 AM, jlahoud wrote:

    Motley fool have a problem with Nintendo...thats why they write thoses non sense articles against the big N.....I say never underestimate the power inside Nintendo

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 10:38 AM, jlahoud wrote:

    Having a game like smash bros on handheld devise is something but having the game on the big screen in a living room with friends is something else:-) therefore motley fool does not understand nothing about gaming gamer and Nintendo fans....wait and see how many people will want to get both versions ...if not the Wii U version at least...because for a multiplle player HD on tv in a living room is the real way to go....the 3ds version will only be the appetizer for the wii u version

  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2014, at 2:43 PM, RedHawkM wrote:

    Bwahahahaha. This is my first time even coming to this website, and it will probably be the last.

    First of all, yes Nintendo is struggling with the Wii U. No, they are not in a financial crisis. They're still sitting on the mountain of cash they made with the Wii and the DS. Also, the 3DS is doing very well, not quite as much as the DS but still very good. It was the best selling game console last year. That said, Nintendo did lose money last year. If they don't find a way to improve Wii U sales, they could end up in a financial crisis. But they aren't in one right now.

    Secondly, this is old news. They didn't just "blow their chance" of making the Wii U profitable, they announced Super Smash Bros as a Wii U and 3DS game way back at last year's E3. Furthermore, there looks to be enough differentiation between the versions to avoid excessive cannibalization. Different features, different stages. There's also going to be something like a 6 month gap between releases; people who buy the 3DS version will be ready for more when the Wii U version comes around. Personally I only own a 3DS, but I'm tempted to get a Wii U so I can buy both games. Nintendo is striking a pretty good balance to promote sales for both versions.

    Oh and xThomas, if you think calling you an idiot is unkind, then you should try not to be an idiot. Because that's what you are being.

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