August 01, 2013, 6:00 AM —
This week saw more bad news for fans of the Nintendo Wii U. The company released its financials for April-June yesterday and revealed that it sold just 160,000 Wii Us, worldwide, in that period. Lifetime sales of the console are currently at 3.61 million. During the quarter it also sold 210,000 units of the original Wii (and 1.4 million 3DS handhelds). It's not a great sign when your last generation console is outperforming your new product.
Common wisdom is to never bet against Nintendo and certainly the company is doing fine (the 3DS is selling very nicely) but I don't know if they'll be able to 'save' the Wii U at this point, unless they cut the price.
Consider that the Nintendo Wii U Deluxe is $350 (and really that's the SKU you want to get) while the PS4 will launch this holiday at $400. The Playstation 4 is truly a 'next gen' console while the Wii U floats somewhere between last gen and next gen. That's going to be a tough battle for Nintendo. True, the Wii U has that unique tablet controller but I'm not sure it's really resonating with consumers. For the most part I hear people saying they like it because they can play their games 'off TV' but if that's your goal the 3DS is cheaper and has a much more robust library.
Worse, sales are so bad that getting 3rd party support is going to continue to be a problem. I also suspect savvy consumers are going to be really hesitant to buy into an ecosystem that appears to be failing. Heck I own a Wii U and I'm loathe to buy any more games for it because I'm on the cusp of shoving it in the closet to free up shelf space in my entertainment center. I'm not sure I want to invest more of my gaming dollars in what appears to be a dying system.
But maybe it is always darkest before the dawn. On Sunday Pikman 3 launches, and early reviews are quite positive. This is the first big Nintendo launch for the Wii U in quite some time, and it could be that it's the title gamers have been waiting for. Or at least, the first title in a string of first party games that will launch between now and the holidays. It'll be followed by Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country, Rayman Legends (not first party and no longer a Wii U exclusive, but still strongly associated with the console), The Wonderful 101, a new Scribblenauts game, a remake of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker plus a reasonable selection of cross-platform 3rd party titles including Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, Watchdogs and Disney Infinity.
With that line-up and a $50 price cut (making the Wii U Deluxe a full $100 cheaper than the PS4) I think Nintendo could start to turn things around. Unfortunately the company seems to think first party games alone will solve its problems. In its report it attributes slow Wii U sales as being "...mainly due to the release of few key first-party titles this quarter to strongly drive the hardware sales." Publicly, at least, they're not considering dropping the price.
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