The End of the Wii and What It Means for Nintendo

Looking back at a system ahead of its time

Children playing Wii video games.
BSIP/UIG via Getty Images
Children playing Wii video games.
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Nintendo will no longer manufacture the Wii, and the company may stop selling the system entirely. With the lack of commercial sizzle on the next generation – and backward compatible – Wii U, this could be a business decision that, partnered with a recent price cut, may encourage a further growth in sales. With the Xbox One and PS4 less than a month away, the pressure on Nintendo to increase their hardware lead is immense. The company moved roughly 3.5 million systems in the Wii U's first year, but only 160,000 in the last quarter.

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In comparison, the original Wii absolutely shattered sales figures. Over 67 million Wiis were sold in the system's lifespan, and unlike the competing Xbox 360 and PS3, the Wii was not a loss-leading venture – each Wii sold returned a healthy profit to Nintendo. But while the hardware was incredibly successful, the Wii's weak system specs made software success outside of Nintendo's own IPs (Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong) elusive. While motion controls looked to be the future of gaming – Microsoft and Sony were quick to release their own motion control gimmicks after the Wii penetrated the casual, non-gamer market – the execution on titles that required motion controls often left much to be desired ("I'm waving my hands – why is nothing happening").  A one-trick pony, beyond Wii Sports and a few other must-have titles, the Wii garnered few games worthy of a purchase, and that huge hardware base didn't mean diddly.

With the anticipation revolving around the PS4 and Xbox One, hardware sales on the Wii U aren't great. And the formerly reliable franchises may not be up to snuff. If Nintendo can't unload millions of its own games on a strong user base (a business plan they've followed since the GameCube), the company might be in for some serious financial trouble.

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With the huge success of the original Wii, you'd think one hardware flop couldn't spell the end to the most storied video game company ever. But bear in mind – this past hardware generation (the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360) has been eight years long. The Wii U can't compete with the PS4 and Xbox One for nearly a decade considering its poor early showing. But if Nintendo comes back in a few years with a brand new system. . . we may be seeing shades of Sega.

In 1994, Sega released the Saturn. In 1998 they released the Dreamcast – both systems had (and continue to have) a die-hard following. Unique games, innovative features. . . the Saturn and Dreamcast were each a bit ahead of their time, but suffered from botched launches and poor 3rd party software support.

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Sound familiar?

After the failure of the Dreamcast, Sega took its valuable IPs and software experience to other platforms. Now you can play Sonic on a Nintendo system, something that would seem impossible to a generation of kid who grew up on "Genesis does what Nintendon't!" So if you think you'll be long dead before seeing Mario collecting coins for Sony, remember – anything can happen.