The Slow Painful Death of the Nintendo Wii

The Wii Came in Like a Lion, and Went Out Like a Lamb Chop

Wii Console and Wii Remote (black)

When the new Wii U was announced in 2011, we all knew the Wii was done for. Even before the Wii U was announced third-party support had already dwindled to the point where the Wii was looking like a dying man in the hospital, his breathing heavy, the machines monotonously beeping to indicate that yes, he’s still alive, for now. Nintendo acted like a dutiful parent, saying they would continue to support the console for years to come, but it was clear they were ready to pull the plug.

2011 Early Warning: Third Parties Abandon the Wii Games

We saw the writing on the wall in that summer, when game publishers came to New York to show off their upcoming holiday wares and the Wii was virtually absent. Some companies like Capcom pretended that the Wii no longer existed, while others tossed a game or two its way. Activision put out a couple of Wii games, as did Electronic Arts. Sega put out one, along with Atari and other small and mid-sized publishers. Ubisoft was the only third party publisher that released more than a couple of Wii games (at least four).

The Wii was clearly dying, and while publishers might send the patient a cheap bouquet with “get well” cynically written on the card, they saw no point in a hospital visit.

We were perplexed. After all, 2010 was the best year ever for the Wii. After years of pumping out cheap mini-game collections, publishers finally seemed to be putting some real effort into the console, with such major titles as, Call of Duty Black Ops, Sonic Colors, GoldenEye 007, Donkey Kong Country Returns and so much more. Some of these games were quite successful, so it seemed that finally, publishers were starting to make what Wii gamers have long been asking for; good games.

Instead, the Wii received less in 2011 in terms of quantity, quality, and PR push. Publishers didn’t want to entirely ignore the huge market of Wii owners, but their hearts were clearly elsewhere.

Nintendo only published three titles for the 2011 holiday season, but at least the quality was considerably higher and they were all exclusives. 

2012: A Slight Rally Before the End

Things were looking grim for 2012, but like a dying pet who starts playing the day he is to be put to sleep, the Wii briefly perked up. No, it wasn't a big year, but it did include two of the Wii's all-time great games,  Xenoblade Chronicles, and The Last Story.

2013: Dead Wii Walking

There was one final big game for the Wii in 2013, Pandora's Tower, which was the last of three games a lobbying group had pressured Nintendo into releasing. Outside of that, Nintendo put all its energy into its other consoles, leaving the Wii to subsist on casual-focussed multiplatform games.

Some consoles, like the PlayStation 2, have enough momentum to keep going even when their successor arrives, but the Wii was so weakened by years of third-party neglect and shovelware that the momentum was gone. Nintendo turned its back on what had once been a money-making golden child and walked away. 

The Wii, a console whose incredible sales were only matched by its critical antipathy, was done.