Nintendo is known for innovating; for creating hardware and peripherals that explore and expand gaming’s horizons. They’ve helped push handheld gaming, motion controls, and are responsible for reviving home gaming consoles in the North American market. Their big swings and odd devices continue to inspire and bring smiles to gamers, but sometimes they strike out and the risks they take don’t pay off. There’s been a number of their home systems, handhelds and add-ons that didn’t succeed. What’s Nintendo’s biggest hardware failure?
There are a number of pieces of Nintendo hardware that come to mind, and some of the clear top contenders include the Wii U and the Virtual Boy. But there are some other pieces of hardware to consider as at least honorable mentions. There’s also the question of what constitutes a failure, and whether a peripheral or add-on that wasn’t widely adopted is as big of a failure as a handheld or console device. As gaming has aged, and the audience has grown, the expectations for sales numbers have increased and what might have been a success in terms of units sold in the past could be seen as a failure in the present. With all that said, this question is, of course, without a clear metric and thus up to interpretation and debate.
It’s hard not to include or argue for the Virtual Boy to be one of the top failures for Nintendo hardware. The Virtual Boy released in 1995 in Japan and North America and because its sales were so poor, it never enjoyed a release in Europe or other markets. The device suffered from a number of problems. Due to concerns surrounding radiation and other health issues, the design and marketing made the device both uncomfortable and undesirable. Rumors that using it was unpleasant, caused headaches, eye-strain, and more combined with the reality that it did require hunching over, used 6 batteries or an additional purchase for a wall-plug, sank the ship pretty early on. Ultimately the Virtual Boy sold less than 800,000 units, a far cry from the projected sales.
A more recent Nintendo whiff, the Wii U, is having its 10th anniversary this fall. The Nintendo website shows that the Wii U sold 13.56 million units of hardware while the Nintendo Switch, as of the time of this writing, has sold 114.33 million units. That’s over 100 million more Switches sold. The Wii U just never quite caught on. Some have alleged that the branding including the word Wii wasn’t helpful, as consumers didn’t fully understand it was a new console, or thought they already had a Wii so why buy a new one. Whatever it was, the system didn’t live long because less than four years after the Wii U launch, the Nintendo Switch was released, and obviously it has way outperformed its predecessor.
While the Virtual Boy and the Wii U may be top contenders, there are other pieces of technology that Nintendo developed that didn’t reach mainstream success. Those include the e-Reader add-on for the Game Boy Advance, and the 64DD, an add-on for the Nintendo 64. Arguments could be made for these, and other such flops, but I personally believe that the Virtual Boy has to be seen as Nintendo’s biggest failure.
What about you? Do you think the Wii U is Nintendo’s worst performing piece of hardware? Or something a little more obscure? Let us know in the comments below or share your thoughts on the Boss Rush Discord.