Well it wasn’t supposed to be this way. I’m speaking, of course, about the hard times that have come upon the Nintendo Wii U and PlayStation Vita. In the last generation of home gaming consoles, Nintendo had a historically significant and enormous hit in the Nintendo Wii. Even though sales dwindled toward the end of its lifecycle, Nintendo thought that some of the Wii’s popularity would carry over for its follow up console, the Wii U. In Sony’s world, PSP was considered one of the most successful handheld gaming devices to date, and yet, its successor, the PlayStation Vita, which boasted console quality graphics and technological superiority over its competition, the 3DS, was supposed to fly off the shelves. As of right now, neither of these machines, the PS Vita or Wii U, has been a success. Still, there are a lot of great things to be said about both of these two struggling consoles, and there is a lot that they can learn from each other.
What makes the Vita particularly special is its place in within the PlayStation family. Not only is it a stand-alone handheld gaming device, but it also serves as a support device for the PS3 and PS4. On a game like Borderlands 2, for example, you can start a level at home on the PS3 and finish later when you’re on-the-go, on the Vita. By leveraging the popularity of the PS3 and PS4, it also increases the value of the Vita knowing that the experience of some console games can be enjoyed elsewhere—besides home. This is an area in which Nintendo could greatly improve. Given the popularity of the 3DS, it is beyond me why Nintendo has not sought to establish a cohesive environment between the 3DS and Wii U. Now granted, Nintendo has Miiverse, which can be accessed on a Wii U console and a 3DS. In the past year, Nintendo has established a shared balance system, where your balance of funds is attached to your Nintendo ID. This feels like a step in the right direction, but it would be great if I didn’t have to buy a virtual console game, like Super Mario Brothers, twice. Personally, I think that we can see the implementation of that system very soon.
The biggest misconception about the PS Vita is that it doesn’t have any games. The truth is, it has a myriad of great games, but many of these titles aren’t in the form of recognizable franchises, comparable to Pokémon or Super Mario. I’m not saying that the PlayStation brand needs its own ‘Mario”—not putting all its chips into one franchise has always been a strong attribute of the PlayStation brand. Still, the Vita simply doesn’t have a consistent influx of games that are identifiable to a public which isn’t privy to a less recognizable game like Persona 4: Golden, for example. When it comes to first party exclusives, Nintendo is, in many ways, unrivaled. Nintendo’s philosophy has been to use well recognized brands to entice customers to buy a Nintendo console. After that, the consumer is then introduced to other titles that, although they are great games, have less exposure to the common public. When the Vita was released in late 2011 (Japan) and early 2012 (North America), it was done so alongside Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which is the Vita’s highest selling game to date. To put it in perspective, 9 of the 10 top selling Wii U games were developed by Nintendo. On the other hand, only 13 of the top 50 highest selling Vita games are developed by Sony and its subsidiary developers. Sony could definitely be showing the Vita more 1st party love.
Now here’s where I do a complete 180 on what I just said. Seriously, there is a glaring hole in the Wii U and it comes in the form of 3rd party support. Now this isn’t a new trend. Nintendo hasn’t had significant support from outside developers since the early days of GameCube. But here’s an interesting statistic about the Wii U: the attach rate for the Wii U is 5 games to every 1 console. That’s very impressive for a 2 year old console with lacking 3rd party support. It shows us that Wii U owners are hungry for games and Nintendo is doing as much a disservice to its customers as it is to those who haven’t purchase the console yet. As the market for video games becomes more driven by western developers and games geared towards western audiences, it’s about time that Nintendo broadened its philosophy. I will give credit to Nintendo for bringing more indie games to the eShop and getting Platinum games to develop 2 exclusive games for the Wii U, but there is still so much more to be done. I think Nintendo knows this and I hope to see them bring in more developers to this great console.
The most painful thing to watch in this industry is seeing an exceptional console or game not catch on. If you’re a loyal Nintendo or Sony fan, or you own one of these consoles—have faith. These two companies are not oblivious to their predicament and it would be foolish to count out the Wii U and PS Vita, right now. These are not bad consoles, but they are far from realizing their full potential. Maybe by looking at each other’s successes and failures, Sony and Nintendo can right the ship for these 2 extraordinary consoles. And if they succeed in doing so, it’ll be a great gift to gamers everywhere.