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Ubisoft, EA cite low hardware sales as cause of flagging third-party Wii U support

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Ubisoft and Electronic Arts stoppered support for Nintendo’s Wii U, delaying games and skipping the system for important releases, due to the console’s poor sales and small install base, as executives from both publishers admit in recent interviews.

Ubisoft delayed the launch of Rayman Legends on Wii U to coincide with the release of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions so that the game would reach a wider audience. Similarly, EA plans to hold off on Wii U development until the console is in more homes. These shifting plans are all the more troubling for Nintendo when you consider the fact that both companies stood proudly in support of the Wii U when the console was revealed at E3 2012.

“Look, the only thing they can do to fix it is to sell more boxes,” EA Labels President Frank Gibeau tells Joystiq. “We’re a rational company, we go where the audience is. We publish games where we think we can make a great game and hit a big audience, and make money.”

“Nintendo is a good partner and never count ’em out and all that,” he added. “Right now we’re focused on PS4 and Xbox One and from our perspective we’ll look at the Wii U, we’ll continue to observe it. If it becomes a viable platform from an audience standpoint, we’ll jump back in.”

Meanwhile the developers behind Rayman Legends may not have been happy about the delay, but Ubisoft says it’s now a better game.

“What happened was that we saw the Wii U was not going to sell enough of those games,” Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told GamesBeat. “The game is going to be fantastic, and we didn’t want those creators to wind up in a position where even after making a fantastic game, they didn’t sell well enough. We decided that we had to come out on enough machines that players can try it out on any one that they have, and give more time to both improve the game on the Wii U and create versions for the other consoles.”

“They’ve expanded the possibilities of the game,” he added. “It’s much bigger content-wise. We have new bosses in key levels and so on. The experience is much more complete. I think it will be one of the best games we’ve ever done.”

Nintendo acknowledges the uncertainty among the third-parties, but it continues to express confidence in the power of its first-party lineup. The hope is that a strong offering of in-house titles will improve consoles sales, and that will in turn bring back other publishers.

“We’re confident that once some of these games come out that we have planned between now and the holiday and into 2014, that it will help drive the install base and when that happens the platforms will look more enticing to third parties,” Nintendo of America head of corporate communications Charlie Scibetta told Joystiq in an E3 interview. 

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