According to Matt Scott, founder and CEO of family games-focused publisher Little Orbit, we shouldn't count Nintendo's Wii U out of the race just yet; despite poor marketing on Nintendo's part dragging sales down, the company can still regain the race by opening up communication with consumers more, he told Polygon.
"The Wii U is an interesting platform: I think it's challenged, no question," Scott said. "Every publisher is caught between the audience that's out there, and the content they want to put out there. You're always looking for where the audience is playing games."
A lot of it has to do with age, Scott said. The Wii U is still thought of us a "kid's console," likely due to the family-focused nature of Nintendo's first-party content and presentation, over other hardware like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. When the Wii U launched in November 2012, the lineup of available day-one content sent no clear message about Nintendo's target audience. The hardware launched with just two first-party titles, New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land, and offered a smattering of third-party titles spanning genres including ZombiU, Scribblenauts Unlimited and Assassin's Creed 3.
"One of the challenges with Wii U started at the very beginning with Nintendo because they couldn't target a demographic," he explained. "They had a zombie game and this and that at launch, and with the Wii it was clearly family-oriented off-demographic. They had content that said, this is what the Wii's all about.
"With the Wii U, it had two major problems," he added. "One is that they didn't lock the demographic down, they had just a bunch of everything. And two, I believe that they mismarketed it. By calling it the Wii U, everybody thought it was an accessory for the Wii, they thought it was a tablet for the Wii.
"It's hard to un-ring that bell now since they've been out for almost two years."
"Why not call it the Wii 2? I just think there was consumer confusion and it's hard to un-ring that bell now since they've been out for almost two years."
Little Orbit remains committed to publishing games to Wii U, like the How to Train Your Dragon 2 game and various titles based on the Adventure Time and Winx properties, because they feel children are more interested in the platform. The GamePad controller mimics mobile tablets, another platform that children are being exposed to more and more.
"I think it's got a unique play pattern with the tablet," Scott said. "I think kids and adults like the feel of the tablet and that play pattern. There are some really exciting asymmetrical things you can do where you've got one guy controlling the field and a bunch of people playing next to him with Wii Remotes, and it's compelling. It's different."
"I think the Wii U should have been the Wii 2," he reiterated. "I think the consumers that see that, that adopted it — that's who we're making games for."
In order to pull up Wii U sales, Scott doesn't think Nintendo necessarily needs to listen to anyone, be it investors or its audience. Nor should we discount them just yet, despite the console being two years old and the industry fast approaching year one of the next generation console cycle. Nintendo has always done what it does very well, Scott asserted, and opening up communication with its audience — being clearer about what the Wii U is and what it's capable of, and pushing first-party games from series that have done well — could help bolster the hardware.
"Never underestimate Nintendo, right?" he said. "We've learned that over and over. Everybody saw GameCube and went oh, this isn't working, and then it blew us all away. I tend to take a fairly straight view of Nintendo, I think they have a methodology to the ideas they are implementing. I don't think they are implementing them fast enough, but there are some compelling play patterns between digital products and interaction.
"Just communicate what you want to do," he added. "They make great first-party games and design experiences that we all love and that are fun to play, so just tell us what you're going to do and I think that's the core problem."