The Wii U is, undoubtedly, the biggest and most important gaming release of 2012. The successor to one of the most popular video game consoles of all time – one that ushered in thousands upon thousands of new people into the medium – the Wii U is an industry force on a massive scale. Though it might not have the immediate flash of the latest Halo or Call of Duty title, the proof is there that it will be the face of video games for a number of years to come.
Not only is the Wii U the latest home system from the only major hardware-producing company dedicated exclusively to making video games, but it is also the first Nintendo home system to launch with a major Mario title since the N64 in 1996. Along with a number of exclusives, the console is launching with a variety of ports (including Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Batman: Arkham City) all specially tailored to the new GamePad controls, giving the Wii U the second largest launch lineup in history.
Once Nintendo finally revealed the console’s release date, SKUs, and price, system pre-orders were sold out in less than two days, ensuring purchase-driving newspaper headlines of “Wii U Sold Out Everywhere” will appear soon after the Wii U’s Nov. 18 launch.
Yet despite all this, many stores around the United States have decided not to hold Wii U midnight releases for Nintendo’s ardent fans, breaking the strong tradition of exciting midnight launches for new home consoles in favor of locking up the stores like normal. Why?
Well, like most rotten things in the corporate world, one only has to follow the stench of money to find the root of the problem. Nintendo announced late October that their new console would be sold at a financial loss, meaning that the company may not see much (if any) immediate return on their investment. Though they should make up for the lost profit through the sale of retail games, downloadable exclusives, DLC, and peripherals, Nintendo is currently trying to watch their wallet.
However, this current financial situation puts a slight chink in the Wii U’s launch. For those unaware, while companies like GameStop and Best Buy certainly have the capital to pay for the expenses of a midnight launch, they are often able to use the launch as a bargaining chip to get more money out of the publisher. This is how small or less popular games are able to get midnight releases: because they are subsidized.
And, since Nintendo won’t be paying to launch a system at midnight that they’re already selling at a loss, it seems that most major video game and electronics outlets have decided to close-up shop on time and make fans come in the next day to pick up their new console. While some stores will still be joining alongside Nintendo World in New York in celebrating the Wii U’s launch at midnight, the trend seems to be in favor of the opposite.
But wait, that still doesn’t explain why they wouldn’t do at least some kind of a midnight launch, because even if they didn’t throw a grand gala or anything, it would still be financially worth it. The fact that the pre-orders sold out within two days implies that most of the people who got their console reserved are the type of gamer who would be willing to stand in line late at night to get the system. They are the type of person who is incredibly excited for the Wii U or, at the very least, are dedicated gamers as a whole. You know, the kind that will set aside plenty of money just so they can send it Nintendo’s way.
A midnight launch is the perfect time to try and sell more Nintendo products to those gamers. While they are filled to the brim with excitement waiting amongst friends and fellow gamers, possibly playing on a demo booth or speculating about how good the games will be, why not try and push some of the less popular launch games, controllers, or peripherals? Though you probably wouldn’t sell too many strategy guides or copies of Just Dance 4, it shouldn’t be too hard to push the Wii U’s pro controller or try and sell more copies of ZombieU and Tank! Tank! Tank!.
And, at the very least, the stores would still get through their inventory in a quick and orderly fashion, allowing employees more time the next day to try and push the system and its games to those who either missed the pre-order window, are shopping for their children, or who don’t even really know about the Wii U yet.
I speculate that the reason many stores aren’t doing a midnight launch for the Wii U is two fold. To start, the whole situation shows a blatant bias against Nintendo. GameStop would never pass up the opportunity to do a midnight launch for a new Microsoft system, especially after the success of the Halo 4 launch. If this were a new Xbox, you can bet they’d be all over it. However, it’s not, and because Nintendo’s image is less “FPS-brown, let’s frag noobs over the Internet” and more “it’s-a me, Mario,” the people who work at GameStop, Best Buy, and the like simply aren’t as interested.
A second speculation, however, reveals an even worse plan. By refusing to launch the Wii U at midnight, GameStop has officially increased how much their “midnight launch” bargaining chip is worth. By refusing Nintendo, they may have ensured a massive payout from Sony and Microsoft by the time their new systems are released.
And, worst of all, this is simply another day in the world of the greedy, seedy corporate-and-enterprise-controlled video games industry.
Images Used under Fair Use for the Purpose of Commentary