Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH:NTDOY) living room video game console, the Wii U, has largely been a flop. Sales fell far short of Nintendo's estimates last fiscal year, and despite the upcoming release of Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. (two of its more popular franchises), it doesn't expect to sell many Wii Us in 2014.
Yet, if there was any hope that the Wii U could recover, it may have finally been put to rest. Although Nintendo plans to continue to develop games for its console, third-party developers, including Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), have all but abandoned it.
Ubisoft drops its Wii U support
Ubisoft, a major third-party developer, doesn't plan to showcase any games for Nintendo's console at next month's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). By tradition, the trade show is used as a venue to showcase upcoming titles -- if Ubisoft doesn't plan to demonstrate any Wii U games at E3, then it's likely that it doesn't plan to release any new games for the Wii U, at least not in the foreseeable future.
This is a notable blow to Nintendo's console, as Ubisoft has been (until now) among its staunchest supporters. Ubisoft is one of the only major third-party publishers to release a Wii U-exclusive game (Zombie U) -- almost all other third-party publishers that have released games for the system have done so on a cross-platform basis.
Mocking Nintendo's console
Electronic Arts is a far larger company than Ubisoft; unfortunately for Nintendo, it abandoned the Wii U long ago.
Electronic Arts' popular Madden NFL franchise, for example, hasn't seen a Wii U release since 2012. Last year's iteration skipped Nintendo's console, as will the upcoming Madden 15. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, in contrast, will still see releases even though both consoles are nearly a decade old.
Neglecting to port its popular games to the Wii U is one thing, but Electronic Arts has gone so far as to mock the console, actively taking to social media to poke fun at Nintendo's machine in a series of tweets that the company later apologized for.
Electronic Arts may be just one publisher, but it is a massive one. Interestingly, its decision not to support Sega's Dreamcast (the Japanese gaming giant's last console before its decision to exit the hardware business) is widely regarded as instrumental to the console's failure.
A box for Nintendo games
With little third-party support, Nintendo's Wii U is rapidly becoming a box good for nothing other than playing Nintendo-made games. Admittedly, Nintendo's in-house game developers are top-notch (Mario Galaxy was recently named the best game of the last generation by IGN) but limited in their output.
Gamers receive a few quality titles a year, and the most popular games may not make their way to the console at all. Third-party publishers are responsible for most of the best-selling video game franchises, including Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and the aforementioned Madden.
At $300, that makes the Wii U a hard sell for all but the most die-hard Nintendo fans. Already surpassed in total sales by the seven-month-old PlayStation 4, it seems it won't be long until Nintendo's ill-fated console is overtaken by the Xbox One, making it the worst-selling console of the current generation, and if trends hold, Nintendo's worst-selling console of all time.