The Wii U Has Nothing To Offer A Sports Fan. Does It Even Matter Now?

If it wasn't obvious at its launch in November, then this past week should have made it clear: The Wii U is functionally irrelevant to sports video games, and there is no reason for any sports fan to buy the console. The only question now is how much that will really matter to the fate of the machine.

Several intemperate, since-deleted tweets from an EA Sports software architect on Friday, slamming the Wii U as "crap," and Nintendo as a console-maker with a self-centered, stone-age approach, may cause that guy a lot of trouble internally. I doubt he loses his job for it. Words are but the skin of thoughts, and he's worked with EA Sports for a very long time. For termination to be on the table, he'd have to be jeopardizing some productive and profitable working relationship with such candid and unauthorised remarks. If EA's own official and authorised statements preceding the outburst are any indication, then none exists. Alienating the Nintendo constituency, however sensitive it may be, is meaningless if you're not even making games for it to buy.

And Electronic Arts isn't. The world's largest maker and seller of sports video games straight up told Kotaku on Thursday it has not a thing in development for the Wii U. Then, to Eurogamer on Friday, an official company statement blamed the "disappointing" sales performance of FIFA 13 on the Wii U as the reason the series wouldn't make another version for the console. Madden was confirmed out a couple of weeks before that. Elsewhere, NBA 2K14 remains "TBA" for its release in October, with WWE 2K14 specifically named for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 only.

Despite the Wii's stepchild status in the core-gaming discussion for the past eight years, it still had a more meaningful presence in the sports genre in any year than its high-definition successor does in its debut, especially in the sports where its motion controller was naturally suited. Yes, EA Sports embarrassed itself with outsourced, de-rigeur ports of its team sports franchises like Madden -- not to mention last year's scandalously retreaded FIFA 13, in some ways worse than what MLB 2K13 attempted to pass off. Still, Tiger Woods PGA Tour's Wii version was, through 2011, the critical winner against all other platforms; Grand Slam Tennis -- remember that old thing? -- had a solid Wii-only release in 2011 before it thudded on the core consoles in 2012. Today, if you want to play golf or tennis on the Wii U -- not an unreasonable expectation given the Wii brand's whitebread family reputation -- you have to do it with a used copy of Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort.

Even ice hockey, in 2010, was once a hot topic on the Wii. Three years ago, 2K Sports scrapped its NHL 2K series but stuck with its Wii edition because, despite being a standard-definition port of a team simulation, it still sold well with Canadian mums. That year, EA Sports decided to horn in on the turf with NHL Slapshot, featuring a mini-hockey stick peripheral that I still love fooling with. At E3 2010, I asked a 2K Sports representative why they didn't try the same thing, given the explosion of cheap plastic peripherals on that console. "Oh, we tried," he groaned. Nintendo just didn't dig their pitch. Along came EA Sports though, with clout and cash, and they got approval. Anecdotally, it speaks to the arbitrary success and failure awaiting third-party publishers, going back generations, on platforms built by Nintendo, for Nintendo.

Does any of this really matter? Nintendo may have done just fine, going back to the DS, with a platform suited only to one developer -- itself. But even if cartoony sports offerings like EA's embarrassing All-Play series, or token "core" games like The Conduit, Red Steel or Madworld, were sales losers -- as the EA Sports tweeter obstreperously, and correctly, reminded us -- their presence nominally bootstrapped the Wii to a high-definition hardware generation in which it did not belong.

Now, two days before Microsoft unveils its next console, with EA and EA Sports removing its Nintendo commitment -- and 2K Sports sure to follow -- the Wii U does not even have that. If the Wii U wasn't faced with being a technological backwater after two years, it's looking at being a niche platform in its first. Sure, Sega -- and God, after Aliens: Colonial Marines, what a desperate operation that must be right now -- locked arms with Nintendo for three exclusive Sonic the Hedgehog titles on Wii U. That means a treacly minigame collection like Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is the only licensed sports title, for the foreseeable future, on the Wii U.

I wish it did not come to this. Despite the tone of my remarks above, the only two pieces of gaming hardware I have bought, with my own money, on their day of release are the Wii U and the 3DS -- and I recently upgraded to a 3DS XL. As I have written, if the Wii U GamePad was properly used, it could be a godsend in the sports genre -- as a yardage book in Tiger Woods PGA Tour; as a recruiting notebook in NCAA Football; as a whiteboard on the sideline in NBA 2K14. Menu sludge is a plague to sports unlike any other genre, and Lord knows how it could help streamline storylines and matchmaking in WWE's career modes.

Maybe this would work if Nintendo was the only, or the clearly dominant console maker, and games were developed for it and then ported to other hardware with the unique features stripped out. Those days are gone forever. Console publishing today is like a series of high-class parties on the same night. Sure, you can have a strict dress code. The B-list guests will be there if they they can wear the same outfit from another event. The A-list will be there if it's worth being seen.

Stick Jockey is Kotaku's column on sports video games. It appears Sundays.

To contact the author of this post, write to [email protected] or find him on Twitter @owengood.


Comments

    "and 2K Sports sure to follow" really, can you supply some evidence that 2K Sports will no longer be appearing on the WiiU? or is this just something you pulled out of your ass?

    Has it occurred to anyone that maybe people who buy Nintendo products buy them for the 1st party titles and not for the next Madden or Fifa game, sure it's nice to have the option to play them but it is not a deal breaker, it's more of an after thought.

    I don't know anyone who said when the WiiU launched "cool a new Nintendo console, i can't wait to play the next Madden or Fifa game" no people who buy the WiiU want to play Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong and all the other 1st party exclusives and third party titles are an after thought.

    So stop with the hating and negative press please.

    Last edited 20/05/13 8:34 pm

      They're quick to mate they always are. But I see not one single piece of infomation on the fact that Ubisoft have stated that they like the Wii U, and will be releasing their new titles on it. Or that independant developers like it and are developing for it.

      Some people (id wager a large portion) can only afford one console so no sports titles is a deal breaker.

      As a big Nintendo fan who was going to buy one first at launch and then in about March, a lot of the bad press has been well deserved.

      The console is going to be completely redundant by the time a great first party game shows up, and even then as a fan I'll wish I was playing a new zelda or whatever on a more powerful machine. They make the best games on the planet but I'm sick of playing them on shit hardware.

      Wii sales numbers:

      Mario appears at 2nd so yes people want Mario.
      Zelda appears at 14th
      Metroid is 43rd
      Donkey Kong is 16th.

      The drop in numbers from 10 down is pretty significant too.
      So no. People don't particularly buy the system for those games as a whole. They want Wii Fit/Sports/Play/Party. For better or worse.

      That said an EA sport game doesn't appear until 37 so they don't want that either.

        I agree the numbers aren't that good, but the Wii was marketed as a jump up and down exercise dancing machine which is why Nintendo found a vast new user base and also this would have turned off a lot of people as well, people who did not like the idea of waving your arm around to play a game.

        Now the jump up and down exercise dance machine is gone and the WiiU is there instead so people who wanted to just sit down and play Mario or Zelda can do that so hopefully they will come back when those games come out.

        I know the WiiU isn't going to sell anywhere near the amount that the Wii did and i know a lot of people who loved the Wii because of the jump up and down exercise dancing games will not have any interest in the WiiU because they cannot get the same experience they had with the Wii.

        But out of the 99.84 Million Wii's sold to date you would think that some of these people would want to check out the new system, some of them are waiting for games they want to come out before they buy the system and a lot of them don't know it's a new system due to the poor marketing that Nintendo has done for it thus far.

        The jump in sales is coming, just look at the data for the Wii console sales one year after it launched, at Christmas time it had a 53% increase in sales, which was a big increase in sales and what game was released for the console In November 2007 (just one month before the boost in sales) Super Mario Galaxy.

        If Nintendo aims to release the next 3D Mario this Christmas (in time we will know) you can expect a jump in sales, people are waiting for the games they want to come out and i can see that there is only a minority of the already small user base that care about EA's games.

        Last edited 20/05/13 11:00 pm

          The wii's jump in sales was due to inventory. It took them a year to keet demand. I don't think we'll see a jump like that again.

      http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-05-14-wwe-2k14-release-date-punched-up

      I know it might only be incidental, but since Take Two Interactive now own the right to the WWE license, and the game is being developed under their 2K sport brand, the fact that the game is not coming to the Wii U does give some credibility to the rumour that 2K may be choosing not to support the Wii U with sports titles.

      Now this may change over time, same with EA, but right now I feel that developers are apprehensive in relation to developing for the Wii U, which given the fact the console is effectively flatlining in sales globally, Nintendo needs all the help it can get.

      As for your proclamation, that Nintendo can survive on first party titles alone. . . while it's possible, it is a really bad business strategy. The last time Nintendo did this was for the Gamecube. . . Which didn't do so well. . . not in the same level as the Dreamcast, but it was still quite bad.

      What Nintendo needs right now is games, yes there will be a new Mario and Smash Bros this year, and a HD remake of a Zelda title too, but then what. . . Nintendo are notorious for making sure their games are absolutely perfect before they release them, even if that mean they delay the release a few times (see: Pikmin 3) what got them by during the last generation was that 3rd party developers were releasing games during the numerous periods where Nintendo didn't have anything major on the horizon, even if some of them were inferior ports of titles on the other consoles there was always something being released that would draw the consumers eye. If they don't have that in this generation, I could easily see a situation akin to the days of the Gamecube, where the Wii U section in the local gamestore is a pitiful one shelf display tucked away in the back of the store out of sight.

        Thanks for digging that up for me, but that is still only one game and they have made no official announcement as to there intention so we may see more from them or maybe not.

        And i agree that developers are apprehensive about developing for the WiiU at the moment and sales are not going so good at the moment.

        "What Nintendo needs right now is games, yes there will be a new Mario and Smash Bros this year, and a HD remake of a Zelda title too, but then what. . ."

        Why would you need to know what they are going to develop after those games, what bearing does it have on the WiiU at this point in time? We know whats coming out in the near future and as time goes by Nintendo will let us know what is happening next.

        No console launch is perfect (remember RROD and PS3 has no games and even the DS and 3DS launch) they were all bad.

        It takes time for a console to build its user base and i just think people are being a bit to impatient and they just need to chill out and these shitty articles need to go away.

          It's okay, I just wanted to show you that there was some credence to the rumour 2K might be thinking of pulling support for the Wii U, not something Kotaku simply 'pulled out of their ass.' It should be noted however that the last WWE title: WWE '13 did not appear on the Wii U either, so the decision not to release 2K14 could be a left over decision from THQ. . . I guess we'll find out for sure when next year's edition, made entirely under 2K's control comes out.

          Why would you need to know what they are going to develop after those games, what bearing does it have on the WiiU at this point in time? We know whats coming out in the near future and as time goes by Nintendo will let us know what is happening next.

          Let's take a look at some figures from Wii titles of 3 of Nintendo's biggest franchises: Mario, Zelda and Metroid.

          Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was released in 2007, the next Metroid title released by Nintendo (barring Metroid Prime trilogy, a collection of all three Metroid Prime titles) was Metroid: Other M, released in 2010, a three year gap.

          Super Mario Galaxy was released in 2007, the next 3D Mario title was Super Mario Galaxy 2, a game running on a modified version of the original games engine, which was released 3 years later in 2010. New Super Mario Bros Wii was released in the meantime (late 2009) it in and of itself was a console sequel to a handheld title released in 2006.

          Zelda: Twilight Princess was released as a launch title for the Wii back in 2006, the next Zelda title to appear on the platform was Zelda: Skyward Sword, a swansong for the very same system released in 2011, 5 years later.

          The point I'm trying to make here is if a console doesn't have 3rd party support, what happens in the period after those games are released, the lowest amount of time between installments was 3 years. The reason the Wii was able to do so well was during periods where Nintendo wasn't releasing titles, the 3rd party's were releasing games, so there was always something new to play while you were waiting for Nintendo to make sure their major titles were perfect. This is a luxury I cannot see the Wii U having at the moment, if 3rd party's aren't going to play ball, are Nintendo just going to expect us to play the game for 3 years while waiting for a new one?

          Last edited 21/05/13 4:02 pm

            I agree that it is a concern that third party developers/publishers may decide not to support the WiiU and that it would be difficult for Nintendo to go it alone, but Nintendo is a bit different this time, they now have Nintendo Direct and can release information any time they want to including information about upcoming third party games (see the deal with SEGA) and i am pretty sure they are actively looking for third party's to develop games for the WiiU so we should hear more as the year goes on.

            As for 2K have a look at this http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2012/08/2k_games_gamers_need_time_to_see_the_beauty_of_wii_u

            Basically what they are saying is they are very careful and selective of what games goes on each console, so WWE might never make it to the WiiU but they will see what is selling on the system and make games that they know will sell, eg, Wii had heaps of mini game compilations, so they made Carnival Games, EA is probably doing the same thing, they know that only certain games will sell on the WiiU and they can't go porting every game they make, so they are most likely trying to figure out how to support the console so they can make some decent money.

              Nintendo Directs can only go so far, the general gist of what people I spoke with regarding the last Nintendo Direct was that it was easily the worst one Nintendo had ever produced. With the exception of the Sega/Nintendo partnership and subsequent announcement of 2 title the vast majority of people already knew were in production (especially the Mario and Sonic Olympic Games title you know Nintendo and Sega are going to milk until the end of time) Nothing they announced during the direct was exactly new, they just showed footage of titles we already knew they were working on such as Game and Wario and Pikmin 3.

              I know that Nintendo are likely holding off their big guns (3D Mario, Zelda, Smash Bros) until the Direct during E3, a lot of people I spoke to believed the latest Direct to be unnecessary, and was most likely designed as a way to try to get some hype away from Microsoft's Xbox reveal tomorrow morning, much like Sony's recent PS4 teaser. And much like Sony's recent teaser, the tactic didn't work.

              As for the article you linked, while it does give praise to Nintendo and the Wii U, it does need to be noted the date of which this article was released: 03 Aug 2012. This means the article was released before the Wii U went on sale, before the console was coolly received by the gaming public, before it missed various sales targets and before EA decided it would be more fun to act like a complete dick to Nintendo rather than help them. Time can change people's opinions, hell EA is a prime example of that: back during E3 2011, A spokesperson for EA went on stage during Nintendo's conference and said:

              What Nintendo's new console delivers speaks directly to the players of EA Sports and EA Games. Nintendo's new console will produce brilliant high-definition graphics and new gameplay opportunities. We look forward to seeing great EA content on this new platform."

              I wanted to emphasise the EA Sports part, because as most people would be aware it was a person from EA Sports division saying a few years later:

              "The Wii U is crap. Less powerful than an Xbox 360. Poor online/store. Weird tablet, Nintendo are walking dead at this point. They should have gotten out of the hardware business and made its Mario and Legend of Zelda franchises exclusives on either the PlayStation 4 or next Xbox. Instead, they make this awful console, It is an utterly intentional decision to focus our resources on markets which actually matter.

              While obviously the tweets were less than professional, the fact we haven't heard that this guy has been fired, and the fact that EA seem to keep emphasising that 'they a strong partnership and an active agreement with Nintendo to develop games for the WiiU. . . So far, we have not announced any new titles for Wii U this year, but that does not preclude more games in the future.' This shows that time can change perception of anything, EA thought the system would sell gangbusters for their sports franchises, after launch EA finds only 42 people were playing their latest Madden title on Wii U.

              The case can be argued for Activision, while they haven't confirmed all platforms the upcoming Call of Duty: Ghosts is going to appear on, it does need to be noted that Activision would probably be aware of how abysmally the 'definitive version' of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sold on the Wii U, to this day the title has only sold around 180,000 copies globally, a pittance compared to the 12 and 10 million copies the 360 and PS3 version sold respectively, even though Activision would have expected the numbers to be lower than the established console counterparts, I would believe they had to think the Wii U version would have sold better than the PS Vita version.

              At the end of the day Nintendo are in a very bad place right now with the Wii U. When the first game I played to completion on the system is a near 20 year old rom of a game released on the Super Nintendo, that I bought for less than a Freddo Frog. . . Your system need help

              /wall of text

              Last edited 21/05/13 7:21 pm

                "Nintendo Directs can only go so far, the general gist of what people I spoke with regarding the last Nintendo Direct was that it was easily the worst one Nintendo had ever produced. With the exception of the Sega/Nintendo partnership and subsequent announcement of 2 title the vast majority of people already knew were in production (especially the Mario and Sonic Olympic Games title you know Nintendo and Sega are going to milk until the end of time) Nothing they announced during the direct was exactly new, they just showed footage of titles we already knew they were working on such as Game and Wario and Pikmin 3.

                I know that Nintendo are likely holding off their big guns (3D Mario, Zelda, Smash Bros) until the Direct during E3, a lot of people I spoke to believed the latest Direct to be unnecessary, and was most likely designed as a way to try to get some hype away from Microsoft's Xbox reveal tomorrow morning, much like Sony's recent PS4 teaser. And much like Sony's recent teaser, the tactic didn't work."

                Know one get's things right 100% of the time, to think they could would be foolish, they had something new to announce (partnership with SEGA) and they did that, now we know about it, as for the Milking of Mario and Sonic Olympic Games how is that and different from Halo, God of War, Assassins Creed, Call of Duty, Zelda, Mario etc, etc, in case you haven't noticed game company's are in the business of reusing the same IP's with slight variations to sell to customers from year to year, at least with the Mario and Sonic Olympic there will be one every four years, unlike Call of Duty or Assassins Creed which we will see a new installment every year.

                And yes i agree Nintendo is most likely holding off some big announcements till E3 and yes the latest direct was probably aimed at take some of the spotlight away from the Nextbox reveal... what seems to be the problem with that? would Microsoft not do the same in their position?

                As for 2K i linked that article not because of the praise for the WiiU, but more to show how 2K goes about putting it's games on consoles, they have a strategy and they follow it, they don't just randomly port things to consoles and hope for the best, they will find were the fit in regards of the WiiU and hopefully make some good money.

                Now EA.... At E3 2011 EA signed a partnership contract with Nintendo to create a certain amount of games for the Wii and WiiU systems, with the release of Mass Effect 3, Need for Speed Most Wanted and Fifa, EA's contract was fulfilled and they are under no obligation to make any more games for the WiiU.

                Now after the contract was made between EA and Nintendo back at E3 2011, EA was helping Nintendo with the online infrastructure for the WiiU apparently as both company's were working on the online infrastructure they had a falling out and that is why EA is so bitter at Nintendo, case in point Fifa 2013 WiiU is really Fifa 2012 on PS3 and 360, coincidentally Fifa was the last game EA had to make to fulfill there contract to Nintendo.

                If EA are going to be putting that kind of effort into making games for the WiiU, Nintendo is much better off without them and so are the consumers of the WiiU.

                Also http://www.examiner.com/article/assassin-s-creed-4-developer-still-believes-the-nintendo-wii-u

                  Okay to start, I understand no-one gets everything right 100% of the time. My point was that the recent Nintendo Direct didn't exactly do anything wrong, it simply disappointed people. What I meant by the latest Direct taking spotlight away from the Nextbox announcement was the latest Direct, much like the recent teaser from Sony, were supposed to take away some of the spotlight from Microsoft's New Xbox reveal conference tonight (or tomorrow morning if you want to be pedantic) that's where I feel the recent Direct failed.

                  In regards to whether there be anything wrong with Nintendo trying to take some of the hype away from the new Xbox reveal, there's nothing wrong with that, that wasn't my argument, my argument was if that was their intentions, then they failed. As for whether Microsoft would do the same if the positions were reversed, did Microsoft do so when Sony was preparing for their big reveal show? Regardless the answer to that is irrelevant, It looks as though Nintendo tried to do so to Microsoft and if that is the case, they failed.

                  Technical note: The whole Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games point wasn't actually part of my argument, I had it in brackets because I know that the franchise, much like many other franchises like Halo, Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, Mario etc are all going to be rehashed until the sun explodes. Also a new Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games comes out every 2 years, one for the Summer Olympic Games and one for the Winter Olympic Games.

                  As for EA and the whole partnership thing, I am well aware of that, that's why i said in my previous post 'EA decided it would be more fun to act like a complete dick to Nintendo rather than help them.' I am aware EA helped Nintendo with their online infrastructure, and how they suggested to them that they should merge the Nintendo Network into Origin, (and how badly that decision would hinder any game publisher other than EA publishing games on the Wii U) Nintendo backed out and now EA is giving them the shaft out of what many people assume is spite. You could probably chalk up the FIFA 2013 fiasco to EA being spiteful as well.

                  As for Ubisoft, I'm not really surprised. . . Ubisoft has been one of the Wii U's biggest advocates since before the console was even released, and if the worst case scenario does come to pass, they'll probably be up there with Sega as the last 3rd Party Developer to support the system. Then again Rayman Legends was supposed to be a Wii U exclusive. . .

    All I hear is EA bleating that their half-arsed port of a year old game didn't sell well so the Wii U is crap. True the Wii U hasn't got the install base that will shift a huge amount of titles but still the potential is there.

    EA just seem like a company who want to churn out the same game year after year without attempting to make each version of the game a unique experience. Now because the Wii U might have required their game designers to actually think.... no can't have that can we EA.

    "The Wii U Has Nothing To Offer A Sports Fan. Does It Even Matter Now?"

    No. Sports games have never mattered.

    EA give Nintendo a half hearted copy of a game and expect Nintendo fans to flock and buy it? Hell if Pro Evo had the FIFA license then EA would be in a lot of trouble.
    I pirated Fifa13. And glad i did because it was buggy, it erased saves, crashed, and the AI was awful and suffering the same issues it did in 2005. Deleted it shortly after.

    Their arrogance as a company will eventually be their undoing.

    well, doesn't make a difference to me as I have never paid for a sports game in my life.

    Seriously, it's sport. Like, go outside and play it instead of sitting on your couch pretending.

      And why not go drive a car instead of a racing game? Or head to the shooting range instead of playing a shooter. Or do a jigsaw puzzle instead of playing Tetris.

      Every video game you ever play in any genre on any platform is you sitting on your couch pretending. Just because you don't like sports games as a genre doesn't mean they're any less valid than any other kind of game.

        I know, I know, it was a contentious comment when I posted it.

        I can imagine loving something so much that when you get home, you want to play something like it on the tele.

        Good point braaaains.

    This is just sour grapes from EA, and Kotaku continuing their run of negativity on the Wii U while failing to publish the good eg. The fact Ubisoft publicaly supporting it more thdn once. Now I challenge Kotaku to publish the same bad press if the next xbox and ps struggle, or to publish good press wheb the Wii U takes off.

      Ubisoft talks the console up, but then they delay Rayman Origins because they have no faith in their ability to sell games on the machine.

    Blah, blah, blah.
    If EA actually cared about sales of their sports franchises on the Wii U, they wouldn't have given us FIFA 12 with half-assed gamepad functionality. Not to mention they copy pasted previous games on the Wii (and Vita).

    We've all said it; Wii U will pick up when 1st party titles show up and the PS4 and Next Xbox will go though the same turbulence.

      With I hope the same yellow journalism that we have seen on the "End of Nintendo" that is getting published now.

    Didn't care about sports games last generation, except for NBA Jam probably due to the nostalgia. I think I may have had one on my n64 back in the day as well.

    Super excited for Pikmin3 though!

    The fact remains that the PS4 and nextbox will offer little incentive to the majority of people to upgrade for probably at least a year or two after they launch. I say this with a plethora of games still being released on the older consoles through the first couple of years of these 'next gen' consoles. By not in including backwards compatibility the install base for these new consoles will be very low.

    Couple that with ever increasing costs of game development for higher spec machines and publishers may soon wonder why they abandoned the WiiU where risk/profit equations start to look good.

    That said, I like sports games, love Nintendo 1st party titles.....and only want one console. So if the WiiU does fail I will be disappointed.

    Yep. American sports games, about American sports. Super relevant internationally. I dunno sports games are lamer than WoW.

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