NES controller and game cartridge

Nintendo is one of the biggest brands in gaming. The company saved video games by reviving the failing home console market with the creation of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and since then it has been a household name. Nintendo has a long and varied history, and while most of its devices proved to be smash hits, there have also been plenty of misses. This is to be expected given the company’s innovative nature; it allows Nintendo to learn from its mistakes and make adjustments going forward.

One of these dire times came after the release of the Wii U. With the phenomenal popularity of the Wii console, Nintendo eventually needed to find a way to outdo it. The company’s next console release, however, fell drastically short. The Wii U was one of the company’s worst-performing consoles, next to the Virtual Boy, as reported by Nintendo. This was due to a number of reasons, including choices Nintendo made that did not pan out in its favor.

How the Wii U failed

Wii U console

The Wii U was released in 2012, six years after the Wii hit the market. However, while the Wii became Nintendo’s best-selling console of the time, the Wii U did not enjoy such success. A lot of this came down to a poor marketing strategy with little that made the console stand out from its predecessor. The new gamepad controller was among the best features of the Wii U, but many consumers mistakenly believed it was simply an add-on for the Wii, as global president Satoru Iwata explained in a financial results briefing for the company.

The Wii U also had issues because of its lack of first-party launch titles. Out of the 23 titles the Wii U launched with, only 4 were made by Nintendo, with only one, "New Super Mario Bros. U," being part of a popular Nintendo franchise. Further first-party titles took too long to release, causing interest in the Wii U to wane quickly. These low sales continued until the Wii U was discontinued in 2017, giving Nintendo time to think about its next steps.

The Wii U failure changed Nintendo

People playing Nintendo switch

Once the Wii U’s run was over, Nintendo had committed to the creation of a new console: the Nintendo Switch. This gaming system took the Wii U’s gamepad controller and completely revamped it. It became the main component of the system, giving the Switch the functionality of both a handheld and a TV console. Nintendo also learned from its marketing mistakes this time around and made it clear that the Switch was a brand-new device. The company also had plenty of enticing launch games ready to go, such as "Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," "Mario Kart 8," and "Splatoon 2."

Although the Wii U was a failure for the company, the Switch that rose out of its ashes quickly became the best-selling console in all of Nintendo history and the fifth best-selling console of all time. The Wii U allowed the company to take a step back and change its game plan, ushering in one of the most successful periods for Nintendo in history.