UPDATE 03/23/2016: Nintendo has since denied these reports.
According to a recent report from Japan’s Nekkei that was picked up by Polygon , Nintendo will be ending production of its current console, the Wii U sometime later in 2016. The Wii U has been a disappointing home console for Nintendo, only managing to sell about 12 million systems since its release in November 2012. Compared to the Wii, which sold an astonishing 101 million systems, the sales of the Wii U and its short four-year lifespan show how Nintendo has fallen behind in the home console market. Previous consoles such as the Wii and the GameCube both ended production well into the lifetimes of their successors.
Sales of Wii U hardware and games have reflected poorly on Nintendo’s profits over the last few years, with repeated reports of large losses coming over the years despite a fantastic performance from the company’s handheld system, the Nintendo 3DS. In spite of several highly successful titles such as the fourth Super Smash Bros, Mario Maker, and Bayonetta 2, the Wii U has lagged behind its competition, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.
The Wii U is now one of Nintendo’s least successful consoles. However, it suffered from an identity crisis with consumers, with the console’s name being too similar to the Wii. (Many thought the system was just a tablet accessory for the Wii.) While the touchscreen was an interesting experiment, it did not become the massive fad that motion controls were that made the Wii an international phenomenon. The Wii U was Nintendo’s first HD console, but it was also underpowered compared to the competition. Early third party support from AAA publishers for the Wii U dried up by 2014, with EA famously stating publicly that they had no interest in releasing titles for the Wii U back in 2013. The Wii U was therefore not built well to be a party console like the Wii, and not suited for AAA cutting edge gaming like the PS4 and Xbox One could promise.
This announcement seems to indicate that Nintendo’s energies are focused on their next home console. That system has yet to be officially unveiled and has been codenamed the “Nintendo NX”. Most information about the NX is largely speculation or rumor, and it does not yet have a solid release date.
Even so, whatever the NX turns out to be, that is where Nintendo’s future lies, not with the Wii U. In all likelihood, the NX will be announced either at E3 this year or around it, with the company hoping to energize the fanbase for what will logically be a holiday release.
Planned Wii U releases such as Star Fox Zero will most likely not be affected. The Wii U will certainly continue to see support for a very long time as well. But this does put the (as of yet unnamed) Legend of Zelda title for the Wii U in an interesting position. At this point whether it will be released on the Wii U at all is now very much up in the air. The new Zelda could be repackaged as a launch title for the NX, to drum up interest in what Nintendo hopes will be a return to success with home consoles.