The news that Assassin's Creed Rogue is not coming to the Wii U is difficult for me to process. Assassin's Creed III and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag both released on Nintendo's current home console, even if Black Flag's DLC was nowhere to be found. While Assassin's Creed Unity is for more powerful platforms like the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, the Wii U certainly has the chops to handle Rogue. It could possibly have hosted the best version of the game.
In an interview with GameInformer, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said that Assassin's Creed is skipping the console this year because Wii U owners don't have enough interest in the title.
"It's very simple," Guillemot says. "What we see is that Nintendo customers don't buy Assassin's Creed. Last year, we sold in very small numbers."
That statement is largely borne out in Ubisoft's earnings releases. The Wii U accounted for 2 percent of the fourth quarter sales and 3 percent of sales for the full year ended on March 31, 2014. For the first quarter of this fiscal year, the Wii U accounted for zero percent of Ubisoft's sales. And of those sales, Just Dance is picking up most of the slack, which is why Ubisoft will continue to bring the series to Nintendo platforms.
"What we see is that they are very interested in Just Dance, very interested by other kinds of games," Guillemot said. "So what we are trying to do is to focus more on the types of games they are interested in."
Watch Dogs for Wii U still hasn't touched down, but Guillemot said that it's still coming and will be the "only mature game" Ubisoft will publish on the Wii U. Ubisoft has decided that the experiment with mature games on the Wii U is over. That means we probably shouldn't expect further Assassin's Creed or Watch Dogs sequels on the platform, unless the latter has some amazing sales numbers. A release months after other platforms assures that probably won't be the case.
Third parties with mature-rated titles have largely left the Wii U behind. Activision, EA, and now Ubisoft are finding that Wii U owners aren't buying enough of their titles to justify the releases. That could be related to a few different issues. The Wii U may not have the install base to move that many mature-rated titles - the Wii U's lifetime sales were at 6.68 million as of June 30, 2014 - and that install base may truthfully be predisposed to family-friendly titles.
A larger problem is that the Wii U just isn't treated like the other platforms. If you're a big Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, or Need for Speed fans, you receive a lesser experience by supporting those game on the Wii U. Something is always wrong, even if the port is technically strong: either DLC is missing, it's prohibitively expensive compared to what you could buy on other platforms, or it's simply months after competing releases. The Wii U being treated this way is part of the Wii's legacy as a system that could survive without third-party support, but it's crippling the current system.
On the bright side, the future of mature-rated titles on the Wii U isn't completely bereft. Wii U owners won't be getting a Rise of the Tomb Raider, Diablo III, Evolve, or Batman: Arkham Knight anytime soon and some other mature titles planned for Wii U, like Human Element and Sacrilegium, have seemingly been cancelled. But owners can look forward to Bayonetta 2, Devil's Third, and Xenoblade Chronicles X, meaning there's still some hope, at least on the Japanese side of development.
Between that, Nintendo's own titles, and a host of indie games, there might be enough to keep the Nintendo faithful satisfied, but other enthusiasts may look to an additional platform like PC, PS4, or Xbox One to augment their gaming experience. And that remains a very hard place for Nintendo to survive in the home console market.