Will 3DS and Pokemon Distract Families Away From Wii U This Holiday Season?

Last week I saw two children walking with their mother through the games section of a local Best Buy.  Each kid couldn’t have been older than eight years old.  One of the kids notices New Super Mario Bros. U and shouts in excitement, “Mario Bros!” The mother responds back, “You already have ‘that game’ for 3DS.  You don’t need two machines to play it.  One is enough.”

New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Mario Bros. 2 are two separate titles, but I doubt most non-gaming parents care about what the differences are.  In that parent’s mind, the kid already has a machine to play Mario, and she sees no need for another machine just to play more Mario.

Small children aren’t the ones with disposable income because it’s the parents (or guardians) who make all of the spending decisions in the household.  In addition, not every small child is born with gamer parents who understand the importance of needing the newest, most expensive, or most powerful machine to play video games.

Many believe that 3DS and Wii U can co-exist in harmony and target the same family market without one product cannibalizing the sales of another product.  Whether 3DS and Wii U can co-exist in harmony depends on whether families believe Wii U serves a unique purpose that 3DS XL can’t provide.

It appears to me that the 3DS XL can become seen as the ‘main’ Nintendo console whereas the Wii U becomes a side product.  We may see a situation where an increasing demand for 3DS decreases demand for Wii U.

This holiday season, parents deciding on which Nintendo product to buy for their 7-year-old child will probably narrow it down to two options:

3DS XL + Pokémon X/Y  for $250


Wii U + Super Mario 3D World for over $400

This holiday season, Pokémon X/Y will be the hottest 3DS game while Super Mario 3D World will be the hottest Wii U game. It’s reasonable to speculate that Nintendo will give a decent advertising budget to the 3DS’s first traditional Pokémon RPG.  Not only is it 3DS’s first traditional Pokémon game, but it is also the first fully 3D Pokémon game in the traditional series.  Pokémon has always proven to be strong system seller for Nintendo portables, and I don’t believe this situation will be any different.

Outside of Super Mario 3D World, I don’t see anything on Wii U’s 2013 holiday release list that is bigger than the first 3DS (and first fully 3D) Pokemon.

Each parent who buys 3DS XL + Pokémon X/Y  this holiday season is one less parent putting a Wii U + Super Mario 3D World under the Christmas tree.  At $200, buying a 3DS XL is not a small investment and that doesn’t include the $40 purchase of Pokemon X or Y.

The October release of Pokémon X/Y doesn’t give Nintendo’s Wii U releases much room to breathe. Pokémon’s sales momentum from October might spill over into November and distract kids away from Wii U releases like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.  Another example is “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” which is a brand new Zelda game for 3DS that could potentially distract attention away from “The Wind Waker HD”, an enhanced HD port of a previously released game.

The mother shopping this holiday season for her 7-year-old will notice that she can easily buy Mario Kart for the 3DS, but she has to wait until next year for Wii U to get Mario Kart.  She can’t wait until 2014 when her son is expecting Santa Claus to deliver Nintendo goodies this year.  Wii U is getting “Wii Party U” this holiday season, but why should kids/parents care when “Mario Party” is coming out this year for 3DS?

When a parent looks at 3DS, the parent will see the following:

  • 3D Mario?  Check.
  • 2D Mario? Check.
  • Donkey Kong Country? Check.
  • Pokémon? Check.
  • Zelda? Check.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog? Check.
  • Mario Kart/Tennis/Golf? Check.
  • Mario Party? Check.
  • Paper Mario/Mario & Luigi? Check.
  • Scribblenauts? Check.
  • Animal Crossing? Check.
  • Smash Bros? Check. (For 2014)
  • Nintendogs? Check.
  • Games that appeal to young girls (Style Savvy Trendsetters)? Check.
  • Games based on licensed kids shows (Regular Show, Adventure Time)? Check.
  • 3DS is fully portable which keeps small children busy on long car/plane/train trips.
  • 3DS XL is $100-$150 cheaper than the Wii U?
  • SOLD!!  I found my kid’s Mario machine!

Most non-gaming parents are NOT thinking: “Okay, Wii U is a console and 3DS is a handheld — My kid needs both of them to play every single Nintendo game that Nintendo offers”.

No, the parent is thinking “Which one should I buy as the main Nintendo playing machine for my kid?”  And guess which Nintendo device the parent buys?  The parent buys a 3DS — 1) It has Nintendo’s most popular franchises.  2) It’s portable for long trips (kids hate long trips).   3)  It’s significantly cheaper than Wii U.

Convincing parents that their kids need TWO expensive Nintendo machines just to play Mario is easier said than done. Today’s non-gaming parents do not sit there and think, “Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a Wii port and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a brand new sequel.”

No, non-gaming parents are thinking:  “I don’t know what the differences are between the 3DS Donkey Kong and Wii U Donkey Kong.  I’m not going to bother researching or getting educated on the differences between two Donkey Kong games.  They are both Donkey Kong Country so I doubt my 7 year old son will know the difference either.  3DS XL is cheaper (and portable for long trips) so that can be Little Billy’s Donkey Kong machine.”

Parents did not identify Wii as “just another Nintendo machine”.  The Wii established the identity of being the “Wii Sports/Wii Fit” machine – an identity that went beyond Nintendo’s traditional IPs. Therefore, parents were okay with buying their children both a Nintendo DS and a Wii.  The Wii U and the 3DS have NOT taken on an identity that is much larger than just Nintendo’s franchises, and this is why both platforms will be viewed simply as “Nintendo machines”.

GameCube and Game Boy Advance are examples of when a Nintendo console and a Nintendo handheld fight over the same audience.  Compare the 81 million units sold worldwide for Game Boy Advance to the 21.7 million units sold for GameCube.  GameCube’s identity never went beyond being a traditional Nintendo box, and the millions who bought GBA as their main Nintendo playing device didn’t need a second Nintendo playing device (GameCube).


3DS substitutes copy

The current 3DS library makes Wii U’s software lineup seem somewhat redundant even if they aren’t entirely identical.  Creating 3DS versions for major Wii U titles is giving consumers less incentive to buy the Wii U.  Also, why would you expect parents to research the differences between Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) and Super Mario 3D World (Wii U) when these are the same parents who won’t take five minutes to research how Wii U is a new console (and not some Wii accessory)?

This holiday season, Nintendo has two choices on how to market Wii U:

  • PLAN A: Emphasize focus on the GamePad’s unique capabilities/features
  • PLAN B: Emphasize focus on Nintendo IPs

If Nintendo shifts their marketing away from Wii U’s GamePad, all they have left are two Mario machines (3DS and Wii U) with similar software competing against each other.  Because 3DS and Wii U are in direct competition, the 3DS will cannibalize the family/kids market that Wii U is trying to attract.

This holiday season is Wii U’s re-launch and I find it troublesome that 3DS, not smartphones or PlayStations, could be Wii U’s biggest competitor.  Could 3DS titles like “Pokemon X/Y” and the new Zelda 3DS distract attention away from Wii U titles like “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” and “The Wind Waker HD”?

I guess we’ll have to find out this holiday season.

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17 Comments to Will 3DS and Pokemon Distract Families Away From Wii U This Holiday Season?
    • Jack
    • Lots of interesting points in this piece. Without a doubt, the 3DS is going to be *the* console to own this fall / holiday. However, I do think it’s a little odd that your story leading into the ultimatum of 3DS XL vs Wii U stemmed from a family that is outside of that ultimatum. Like every year, a lot of middle & upper middle class parents will be looking for that high wow-factor Christmas present for their kids, and a lot of them already bought their kids 3DS / 3DS XLs last year. And what about family size? Buying even two 3DS XLs and two copies of Pokemon X/Y is more expensive than one Wii U with one Super Mario 3D World.

      Parents may also not understand why their kids need a Wii U and a 3DS, but when Nintendo starts putting out commercials with Cat Mario and Cat Princess Peach, kids are going to be *begging* for them.

      But hey, if I had one kid without a 3DS or Wii U, it’s hands-down going to be a 3DS first. There is simply no debate.

    • SB
    • It’s Nintendo’s fault for creating derivatives like 3D World and New Super Mario Bros. It is also their fault for having a way, way better library right now on the 3DS than the WII-U. People will have to wait before WII-U centric titles like Pikmin, Bayonetta, Wonderful 101, and Mario Kart 8 take off. Things like Xenoblade’s sequel will take even longer. Right now there is no reason to own a Wii-U beyond only the few games I stated; Nintendo needs to cut the IPs in half, designating some for the handheld market (like, say, a new 3D platforming Metroid) and others for big scale release (like a new Star Fox in HD.) The sooner they actually stop splitting hairs with their IPs, the better.

    • Axl_abe
    • Its funny, I had these same thoughts during E3. “This is not what I want [right now]. Ive played these games already on my 3DS, give us something new, something different.” 3 2D platformers within a year is a bit overkill too.

      Was expecting that hyped Retro reveil, now im forced to tell myself “Retro is using DK to learn how to develop for the wiiU. Hopefully the next project will be what we want.”

      And Im excited we’re getting another DK, I just think the timing is wrong [for right now].

    • Stealth
    • I think this is a wee bit of an over reaction. Its been this situation countless years. One system has the better library, just how it goes.

      What about the kids that have 3ds’s?

    • Vinny
    • Great article!
      But there’s one point missing here… A kid who has a sibling!
      Most of the time the article is about the perspective of a parent who has only one kid.
      But when there’s another kid (or even a cousin who comes to visit very often) the whole thing changes. In this case local multiplayer in Wii U makes much more sense.
      I have 2 kids and when one of them is playing DS or PSP the other one is just waiting and sometimes they start fight over it.
      With a console like Wii or Wii U it’s very unlikely to happen (although not entirely impossible).

    • Luther
    • What they need, I believe, is to market the U as the better 3DS. They need to give this console an identity that distinguishes it from the 3DS in terms of perceived quality, leading consumers to understand that though the 3DS is the first step to Nintendo, the Wii U is the next and the better one.

      It is in that contrast that they should really showcase the graphics of the Wii U and take this opportunity to assess the “next-gen” myth that is haunting it: else why a Wind Waker HD if not for the graphics. Showcase it through Nintendo offerings as something the 3DS can’t do, and as something they can’t find on other consoles (first-party games).

  1. Guek
    • Guek
    • I just wanna say that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the Villager’s sadistic smile…oh and great article, Emily :-)

    • TERRY
    • dont think so, 3ds is riding its sales peak momentum. classic analogy of software sells hardware. 3ds just has a strong lineup right now and its really got into gear in the marketplace, everyone knows what to expect from it. so of course right now it may appear the dominant nintendo platform. However once wii u gets its games in glorious hd and nintendo builds its identity within the market the fans will flock to it also. wii u is not an expensive system and the price is low enough for someone to casually pick it up on impulse ,once the games start coming.

    • Aiddon
    • Although…this has ALWAYS been a possibility with Nintendo’s systems ever since the Gameboy was made. And that possibility has never come due to Nintendo being very calculated in releases. I’m not seeing much reason to worry

    • RandomPerson
    • You have an interesting idea here Emily, but I must respectfully disagree with your opinion.

      For one, some of those games are entirely different from each other that they shouldn’t even be compared (aka Luigi’s Mansion and NSMBU with Luigi). Another thing is that usually, even though some of those games are the same, it’s usually the Wii U version that is better (such as Lego City).

      Now that being said, the Wii U has some great games of it’s own coming out (like Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101) and I believe those will help sell some systems until Smash Bros Wii U and Mario Kart 8 come out.

      That’s my opinion, take it for what it is.

    • Hunter
    • There is an aspect that is clouding Nintendo’s judgement you missed. They count the cross platform games in the line up where gamers don’t. So in Nintendo’s mind well Watchdogs and AC4 and Splinter Cell are all coming to our platform so the release slate looks pretty good. Problem is if that household already owns a PS3 or 360 it does not count. For me those titles do, I use off TV play a lot to get to play through more games than I used to so I will be picking up the cross platform stuff on the U. So the problem is Nintendo does not see the split between the literal release slate of X titles coming out for the U and the actual consumer perceived release slate of only a few titles which can’t be experienced either on a competitor’s machine or the 3DS.

    • JanelleSpruill
    • Awesome issues here. I am very satisfied to peer your post. Thank you so much and I’m having a look forward to touch you. Will you please drop me a e-mail?

    • Jayson
    • Thiis may bbe because of the fact that Apple wants to go cable-free.
      This site discusses various topics on the updates
      and features of the upcoming phone that are under speculation.
      Go ahead and take little fingter oof the left hand and put this atop the space between the forefinger on your right hand along with the middle finger.

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