When Nintendo announced the Wii U in 2011, EA immediately came off as its strongest advocate. Riccitiello talked of an "unprecedented partnership", and EA execs constantly talked up the console in the months that followed, sharing their excitement with the world, saying the Wii U was real next-gen and not transitional. There were reports that EA was helping Nintendo with its online infrastructure. Then came rumors that the Wii U would use EA's Origin as its online platform. That of course didn't materialize, and incidentally neither did that unprecedented partnership.
One year later, at E3 2012, EA had nothing noteworthy to show for the Wii U. When the console launch finally arrived, EA's offerings were limited to a port of a march 2012 game and scaled down versions of its sports franchises, and none of its big hitters for early 2013 (Crysis 3, Dead Space 3) will grace Nintendo's console. Not only that, EA doesn't have anything else announced for the Wii U, as far as I remember, other than Need for Speed, another port of an old game. On top of all that, EA has now taken to badmouthing
the Wii U, which is very unusual (and not very smart, really) for a publisher.
It could be argued that the console's "disappointing" launch is what scared off EA, but that doesn't really hold water. For one, EA would have begun working on Wii U titles long before it came out. Secondly, the Wii U is not a failure by any stretch of the imagination, except perhaps that of investors and analysts, who use the word "failure" to describe any product that doesn't outsell its predecessor, even if said predecessor was the biggest thing ever. The Wii U posted stronger launch numbers than both PS3 and 360, and nobody considers those 2 failures now.
Despite the conventional wisdom that a console needs to garner a strong momentum at launch to succeed, that's often not how it works in practice. The DS and 3DS both had an underwhelming first year, yet today the DS is a massive success, and the 3DS is well on its way to becoming another. The PS3 had a terrible launch, thanks largely to its $600 price tag, yet it has now outsold the 360 despite launching a year later. My point is that the story of the Wii U is still being written, and as it stands now it's neither the next mega hit nor a failure.
So what prompted EA's U-turn? We'll likely never know. We don't even know if the Origin rumor was true, but it's interesting to speculate. I don't know if that's the real reason EA changed its mind, but given how quickly and drastically it happened, I can think of no other reason. What do you guys think?
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