Recent developments have brought into question whether EA will be supporting the Nintendo Wii U in a reliable manner going forward. At the Q3 financial call last week CEO John Riccitiello made sure to avoid lumping the relatively new console in with the company’s definition of the next generation of gaming.
Ours is an industry where a lot of devices come in and represent themselves as the next generation, or the next generation after that. In many ways we would argue that the what we’re describing as “gen 4″ is yet to come. It’s that that we’re excited about, and that’s what we’re investing in.
So maybe then it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that besides Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which will hit stores nearly five months after it already appeared on the Xbox 360 and PS3, EA has no games officially announced on their release schedule for the system. While there are certain to be other EA games in the pipeline what stands out is the lack of Tiger Woods 14 and now, apparently, even Madden NFL 25 (14).
The Tiger franchise was a very strong seller on the Wii until his off-the-course transgressions were exposed. That didn’t mesh with the family-friendly consumer base and sales plummeted after that. Madden is curious because the exclusive license deal has required release on every major system. That is why, despite no traction, the company kept churning out Wii titles and even stuck with the PS2 and PSP longer than anyone else. It’s unclear how EA could get around that clause with the Wii U. It’s possible that the language in the agreement changed when the NFL and EA agreed to extend the license for this extra year upcoming. Regardless they didn’t just leave the Wii U (and Vita) out as platforms the games will be releasing on by accident so maybe something else is happening behind the scenes. That the Wii U still does not have a method for publishers to make money on DLC is another factor that is coming into play right now.
The sports games that launched with the Wii U were all decent – considering they were ported over that was anticipated though some technical hangups appeared as well – and utilized the tablet controller to varying degrees of success (check out the reviews of Madden NFL 13, FIFA 13, and NBA 2K13). They moved very few copies at retail which could be attributed in varying degree to a small user base, the Gamecube and especially Wii degrading the credibility of sports titles on those systems therefore affecting the perception of Nintendo in that space, and the lack of reason for anyone to purchase them if they already owned them on another console and especially when at a higher price.
In all likelihood the Wii U will be treated as last generation going forward. That was anticipated by many long ago and means it’ll receive few resources and eventually be phased out alongside the 360 and PS3. That it seems to be happening already makes it look as though EA has already determined there is no incentive for them to invest in products for the Wii U. The potential rewards for doing so simply aren’t there compared to the development costs even with the need only to port over from the other HD consoles. That will be disappointing for those who own the system but from a business standpoint it would be hard to disagree with their decision making as they focus instead of the next Xbox and PS4 which are expected out late this year.