Editorial: Nintendo sit down, we need to talk about your Wii obsession

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Over the past few weeks between press releases that Wii production is shutting down in both Japan and Europe and Iwata’s financial call to investors stating he realizes the reasons why the Wii U is failing, you’d think Nintendo is finally on the right direction to correcting the year-long problem of Wii U failure. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. As quintessential 80s comedian Gallagher puts it, I’m mad as hell right now.

Yesterday Nintendo announced that the Wii Mini would be sold in the United States this holiday season. The bundle features a slimmed down 2006 Wii with a Wii Remote Plus and a nunchuk, along with Mario Kart Wii for a smooth $99. In terms of business, this bundle looks good on paper. It’s super cheap, it carries the Nintendo name, features one of the most lauded Wii games released to date, and the holiday season is coming up so Nintendo wants to make sure it can grab some cash between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 releases. It makes business sense, but in terms of consumer relations this is the stupidest thing Nintendo has ever done.

We already have strong evidence that consumers are completely confused by the Wii and the Wii U. That seems strange to us as people who follow the gaming industry, but to Grandma and Grandpa, that new Wii machine on Tommy’s Christmas list just became a really confusing shopping experience. Consumers are always out to get the best deal. Even well meaning grandparents or parents. That’s why blatant knock offs of Disney movies exist. Companies prey on parents who aren’t well informed, hoping they’ll buy their product instead of the “official” Disney release. Of course the kid is disappointed when he or she receives their gift and the parent feels cheated.

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These knock off movies have existed since the dawn of the home video market and to its credit, Disney often does its best to go after these imitators to prevent scams like this from taking consumer money. The problem here is Nintendo is essentially knocking off itself. When grandma and grandpa walk into Target with Tommy’s Christmas list and see “Wii U” listed, they’re going to look at the shelves upon shelves of video games they’ve never played, point at the red Wii Mini and say, “Oh there it is, and it’s only $100!”

This invariably leads to a disappointing Christmas where Tommy either has to live with his Wii Mini with Mario Kart, or his parents get to deal with the hassle of an exchange and then forking over an extra $200 to get the real thing Tommy wanted to play Skylanders Swap Force on. It’s a bad consumer experience all the way around the board and Nintendo is fostering it by bringing the Wii to the United States this holiday season.

Nintendo, we’ve got a problem and you need to take it out back like Old Yeller.

Fixing What’s Broken

This release is going to further drive a wedge between Wii and Wii U. The naming convention is confusing, consumers lack understanding about the Wii U because there hasn’t been enough advertising, and yet Nintendo will not correct any of these problems. If you think this problem is prevalent among the elderly or 40+ plus population, you’d be wrong. Any time friends come over and want to play games, I have to spend about 5 minutes explaining that no, the Wii U isn’t the GamePad attached to the Wii. It’s a new console.

Nintendo didn’t have this problem with the launch of the Nintendo 3DS because a new feature was clearly explained in the name. Consumers look between the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo 3DS and they can immediately deduce that the Nintendo 3DS has a 3D feature. It’s obvious there’s a difference between the two of them. This distinction was not made with the naming of the Wii and the Wii U and to make matters worse, the UDraw tablet is still sitting on store shelves, serving to confuse already confused consumers.

To start, Nintendo should reconsider the release of the Wii Mini in the American market. The Wii is already outselling the Wii U, which seems to have scared Nintendo investors. I can’t see how bringing yet another Wii SKU to market will fix that. Instead, Nintendo should be focusing all out on advertising the Wii U, the differences it has from the Wii, and why it deserves a place under consumer’s TV’s this holiday season.