Nintendo suffers 90% drop in third-party support

Chris Stead 29 July 2016

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Telling figures that show the dire reality of third-party support for the Wii U.

After its share price jumped 83% following the release of mobile sensation Pokémon Go, you’d be forgiven for thinking it would be all smiles over at Nintendo, but the company just released some figures that show how terrible its console market relevance truly is at present. It’s particularly pertinent news given that its next console (currently codenamed NX) is out in only eight months.

The figures relate to the number of games available on the format in the USA, which very closely resembles the Australian market in terms of content. It compares the Wii U with previous consoles, split into retail releases of titles from first-parties and third-parties (so not including digital indie games). Here’s what it shows:

ConsoleYear of releaseYears on saleFirst-party gamesFirst-party games/yearThird-party gamesThird-party games/yearConsole sales (millions)
NES1983772105908461.91
SNES1990652966711149.1
N641996553112444932.93
GameCube20015481050410121.74
Wii200665591206201101.18
Wii U2012439101183013.27

Nintendo reached a console high with the release of the Wii. which sold in such numbers that it pulled in double the amount of third-party releases than any other Nintendo console. The comparison with the Wii U is stark. In fact, it’s a drop of 90%, showing just how out of favour the console is with developers. And it makes sense, when you look at the maths, since this is what a third-party developer sees:

INVESTMENT AND TIME TO PORT GAME TO WII U x INSTALL BASE OF CONSOLE = A LOSS

(Or if not a loss, at least far less of a profit than what could be achieved with that time on other consoles.)

Amplifying this base equation is the effort required when porting to the Wii U demands utilising the gamepad controller’s gimmicky second screen, and downgrading the processor requirements so it can function on the weaker architecture. Even if you take into account the extra two years of life the Wii enjoyed, you’re still talking an 85% drop.

It’s a harsh reality check for investors and shows just how much work Nintendo needs to do with the NX to prove its worth to third-party developers. Especially as the release of first-party games has been consistent throughout the console generations, as that would suggest it’s not exclusives, but depth of library, that consumers find most important.

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