Reggie Fils-Aimé on the Wii U Struggle

May 20, 2022

Reggie Fils-Aimé discussing the Wii U’s struggle to perform in his new memior “Disrupting the Game:

New versions of key software in the Mario Kart and Legend of Zelda franchises were not coming until 2014 or later. Coupled with the announcements that new Xbox and PlayStation consoles were launching during holiday 2013, Wii U sales struggled to gain momentum.

Once again, we were faced with a difficult situation that had to be addressed immediately. Wii U had launched with two versions: white with limited storage at $299 and black with four times the storage capacity at $349 including the game Nintendo Land, which we had featured during the 2012 E3 conference. We had hoped this game would be a system seller like Wii Sports, but it did not live up to our expectations. There was not enough volume to support the two different versions at retail, and the black bundle was outselling the white one dramatically, even with the higher price.

In the Americas, I took action to eliminate the white Wii U configuration and consolidate the volume on the black bundle. By summer 2013, we had taken the price of the black bundle down to $299. We also worked with NCL to create unique offerings for our market that would appeal to our players. These included black hardware with Zelda graphic elements and the game Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and a different special hardware bundle that included New Super Mario Bros. U and bonus content called New Super Luigi U.

Promotions offering unique hardware and different software bundles are typical in the video game industry. But having to resort to these tactics within one year of launch was unheard of. It was clear that there were not enough product and pricing tactics to keep Wii U alive for a traditional five-plus-year life cycle.

Businesses in trouble need immediate and decisive action. You don’t have the luxury of time as the situation worsens around you. Stay true to your principles and the key foundations of the business. Stabilize the situation, then prepare for the next wave of innovation to grow the business back.

That “next wave of innovation” was the Nintendo Switch — one of the best (and possibly the fastest) selling consoles of all time.

On a selfish note, it’s too bad Reggie didn’t mention a certain Wii U hail mary.