November 27, 2012, 8:30 AM — Nintendo announced some sales figures yesterday and I've been trying to wrap my head around them and what they mean in terms of how well Nintendo's new gaming console, the Wii U, is doing.
In an interview with CNET Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said that the Wii U had sold 400,000 units in the US during its first week of availability.
So how does that compare to the Wii launch? I've been trying to find solid numbers. The Wii launched in North America on November 19th, 2006. A number I've seen tossed around a few places is 600,000 units for all of North America as on November 27th, 2006 (Joystiq, IGN). The BBC reported 600,000 units in the US, but that article is dated December 2nd, so covers roughly the first two weeks of launch.
Feeding all that data into my Statistics Blender of Optimism and I'm going to say that the Wii U is selling at just about the same pace as the Wii did. But the Wii was famous for being severely supply constrained which, one would assume, would hurt sales.
Fils-Aime says ""Wii U is essentially sold out of retail and we are doing our best to continually replenish stock" which, again, would suggest sales could have been higher if there was more supply. But then Nintendo's Scott Moffitt told GamesIndustry.biz "on opening week we will have more systems on hand for the Wii U than we did for the launch of Wii. And, second, our replenishments will be more frequent this holiday time than during the Wii launch."
So either Moffitt was wrong and there were only 400,000 units in the initial Wii U shipment, or Fils-Aime is wrong in saying the console is sold out. Anecdotally I'm hearing there are units on store shelves in some parts of the US but my visits to a few shops in the Raleigh, NC area failed to turn up a single Wii U waiting to be purchased.
Either way, the Wii U, in week 1 at least, seems to be keeping pace with the Wii launch which seems pretty good given its higher price. But what's really interesting to me are the other numbers Fils-Aime shared: 300,000 Wii systems were sold in the last week. 250,000 3DS units were sold, but also 275,000 of the older DS units.
The fact that the 'last generation' hardware is more or less keeping pace with the newer stuff suggests to me that consumers are worried about the high pricing of the latest gear. In this economy I suppose that's not rocket science, but it does lead one to wonder how well the Wii U will continue to sell once the early adopters all have one.
The hardware itself seems to be getting mixed reviews; I finally broke down and bought one but it hasn't arrived yet (in my case, a friend wound up with two via an ordering mix-up and I graciously offered to take the extra one off his hands). I think a certain amount of sales right now are going to hard core gamers who are both curious about every new system and just starved for something new to play with, given how old the PS3 and Xbox 360 are.
There's also a lot of discussion about whether the Wii U is the start of the next generation or a last gasp of the prior one. Eurogamer took a long look at Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on the Wii U and found that in terms of performance, it couldn't match the Xbox 360 version. Whether this is just a factor of a team's first experience building a game for the system, or if it reflects a longevity problem for the hardware, remains to be seen.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.