I happened to make a rare voyage into the world of brick-n-mortar retailing earlier this week and was surprised to find a good number of Nintendo’s newest console, the Wii-U, stacked up in the middle of the floor. Yep, even the coveted black "Deluxe Set”. Checking around town, both virtually and physically, revealed the same situation: Plenty of Wii-U consoles for anyone looking for one. I even returned to a local Best Buy store a couple times to confirm that I simply had not happened upon them during a restocking. Sure enough, the same stack of consoles still dominated the aisle in front of the registers. It appeared to be a box or two short of where it was during my previous visit, but there were ample supplies.
The Wii-U launch has appeared rather mishandled to me. Nintendo really hasn’t done a very good job in demoing the system during it’s year long publicity ramp-up. Even at launch, casual conversation revealed that many people still didn’t know that the Wii-U was an entirely new machine as opposed to a tablet add-on for the original Wii console. One of the system’s most interesting features, TVii, that promised to consolidate your cable and digital viewing worlds into a single browsing experience, has been delayed until next year. There have been stories of long update times and shoddy launch software, but these are par for the course in the launch of any new device, particularly Internet connected ones.
Could the younger and more casual audience Nintendo typically captures have moved on to other platforms, such as the XBox 360 or even tablets, or is this the first sign of a greater trend away from dedicated set-top boxes for gaming needs? Is there still a place for $300+ consoles requiring $60 pieces of software in a world where your phone or social network can deliver a ‘good enough’ gaming experiences for less than $5 or even free? Perhaps people have just finally gotten over the '’Must have now!’ mentality of early adopters and elected to wait for the inevitable price drop in six months. Maybe Nintendo has simply lost it’s touch when it comes to inspiring fans.
Regardless, you have to feel sorry for the guy who bought a Wii-U console for $750 on eBay.