With all of the excitement (and consternation) that has been bubbling up since Nintendo’s big Switch presentation on January 12th, it’s hard not to think about the current state of the Wii U and its future. In a recent interview, Reggie Fils-Aime enlightened us a little on Nintendo’s system transition plan, which will end first party development support with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
This does not mean that other companies can’t continue to develop and publish Wii U games, but Nintendo is moving on. The console was already receiving limited support from third parties, so this will likely mark the veritable end of new Wii U releases outside of a few titles trickling out on the eShop.
When a console manufacturer releases a new console, there are different ways they manage the transition, sometimes supporting the elder system for years (see the NES to SNES) and sometimes pretending the old console disappeared well before the new one is released (see XBOX to XBOX 360). Certainly, the Wii U’s relatively small sales of just over 13 million systems are encouraging Nintendo to focus on games for their new console, but system sales numbers don’t appear to be the deciding factor for Nintendo ending development support. When the Wii U launched, Nintendo had also stopped supporting the Wii with new releases, the only exception being the oddball North American release of a two year old Japanese game, Pandora’s Tower.
In the interview, Fils-Aime assured the loyal Wii U community that online services are not being abandoned any time soon. Sunsetting the online services—mainly supporting Splatoon and Mario Kart 8—will not come until, “quite some time into the future.” The Wii maintained its online services for nearly two years after the Wii U launched, and you could still find a quick match in Mario Kart Wii right up until the end.
The remainder of Fils-Aime’s interview discussed some of the lessons learned by the company with how it managed the Wii U. The primary lesson was that there was never solid messaging about what the console actually was. Fils-Aime is confident that the Switch being touted as “a home console you can take with you” will avoid any confusion about the system’s core concept.
Does this surprise you that Nintendo is ceasing development for the Wii U? Is there good reason for third parties and indies to keep publishing games to the eShop?