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It's official: Nintendo ends all Wii U production

Sales for the Wii U have been falling for a while now, and Nintendo has finally announced it intends to end production of the system months before launching its follow-up, the Nintendo Switch. An announcement on the Wii U Japan site notes that production of the Wii U will be ending in that country — and if Nintendo is killing the hardware off in its most popular country, it isn’t going to keep the US version going for long either.

Nintendo confirmed the shutdown to Ars Technica and said the firm had already shipped all of the stock it intended to ship to American retailers for the 2016 holiday season. “We can confirm that as of today, all Wii U hardware that will be made available in the North American market for this fiscal year has already been shipped to our retail partners,” Nintendo of America said. “We encourage anyone who wants Wii U to communicate with their preferred retail outlet to monitor availability.”

Rumors that Nintendo would shut the Wii U down date back to March (when the company denied it) and surfaced again a few weeks ago (when the company denied it then, too). Corporate lying is, of course, nothing new — but it’s just a bit frustrating when everyone knows a product is going to be axed, and the corporation responsible for manufacturing it continues to claim otherwise.

I’ve seen people go both ways on whether or not the Wii U deserves to be remembered as anything. Sales-wise, it’s an utter failure — it didn’t even manage to reach GameCube figures, and it’s the worst-selling console Nintendo ever launched, unless you count the Virtual Boy [please don’t – Ed.]. That’s not to say there were no good Wii U games — Splatoon, Super Smash Bros, and Bayonetta 2 were some great highlights for the platform. The problem wasn’t even the Wii U’s lackluster, nearly nonexistent third-party content, since Nintendo consoles regularly suffer that problem.

The Wii U’s biggest problems were its gamepad and its timing. The gamepad seemed at least interesting, with its semi-remote play capabilities, but Nintendo had no idea how to take advantage of its capabilities or help developers do the same. Say what you will about the Wii’s motion controls, but at least a solid double-handful of games could make some use of them. Very few titles really took advantage of the Wii U’s gamepad, and even fewer used it to offer anything compelling or unique. The fact that Nintendo’s hardware was too underpowered to drive multiple gamepads was undoubtedly part of the problem, at least in multiplayer — designing good games that use asymmetric experiences is much more difficult than throwing 2-4 people into the same environment.

The other factor Nintendo critically failed to understand was how the market had changed between 2006 and 2012. In 2006, there were tens of millions of people that lacked HDTVs and there was interest in the simple, family-friendly motion controls that Nintendo demonstrated. By 2012, most people had HDTVs and the market knew the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were coming a year later. The Wii U’s graphics were a marked step up from the Wii and generally equaled the Xbox 360 and PS3, but didn’t really surpass either. There are great games out for the Wii U, but nothing that really became iconic or essential unless you were plugged into Nintendo’s ecosystem.

With the Wii U set to halt production, it’ll probably become scarce on the ground as a new system over the next few months — though you’ll still see some stock clearing and GameStop is likely to do brisk business in trade-ins.

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