We’ve all heard the “doom and gloom” proclamations time and time again. With analysts calling the Wii U launch disappointing, the masses are ready to declare the system a flop before it’s even started. Nintendo still holds that the system’s launch was a success, and at over two million Wii U units sold in its first two months, a faster rate of sale than either the PS3 or the Xbox 360 at their respective launches, that’s a valid viewpoint.
Either way you look at it, there’s no denying that the Wii U is not getting off to the same kind of fast start that the Wii did, and its software sales are only half that of the Wii and the GameCube. Nintendo’s President says there’s no point in comparing Wii and Wii U sales, and certainly the two systems are a different beast, but that doesn’t mean the Wii U has to be less successful. If Nintendo found a way to make the Wii the hot item on the market that everyone needed, why haven’t they been able to do the same for the Wii U yet? Hit the jump to see how the Wii U didn’t steal Christmas.
Prior to the Wii U’s launch, I asked the question, “Where does the Wii U fit in the next generation?” In an era where there’s already three established first party video game companies, with other pieces of hardware like OUYA, GameStick, and Shield looking to enter the race, the market is becoming oversaturated with products, and it’s more important now than ever for companies to find their place in the market. Why should a customer buy a Wii U instead of a Sony or Microsoft product?
The Wii’s value was immediately apparent, and it made it an easy sell. It was simple, cheap, and fun, and it appealed to a larger variety of people than just the typical “gamer” crowd. The Wii U is a very different console, and as such, it’s a very different kind of sell. Nintendo can’t just throw it back out there with the same strategy, because they’re not going for entirely the same audience. As such, I concluded my previous article by saying that the Wii U’s place in the market has to be the best overall value. As the next generation goes into full swing, the Wii U may not be the most powerful console, the cheapest console, or the console with the most non-gaming functions, but it needs to be the best combination of the three.
The fact that the Wii U had a strong initial sales surge followed by declining numbers throughout the holidays suggests that there is interest in the system, but that it’s primarily limited to hardcore Nintendo fans and dedicated gamers looking for the next big thing. The fact that the Wii U failed to maintain its initial sales pace means that the majority of people who bought the Wii U at launch made up their minds that they were going to buy it a long time ago. That’s all well and good, but it means Nintendo didn’t do a good enough of job of making the Wii U something you can walk into the store, take a look at, and decide it would make a good Christmas present.
In terms of picking out a console that’s going to meet the whole family’s needs, the Wii U didn’t present itself as a good value. If you wanted to pick up a Wii U with one “hardcore” title and one “casual” title, the lowest amount you’re going to be paying is $410. The Deluxe Bundle nets you a Wii U console and Nintendo Land for $350, while adding on an additional title, such as ZombiU, is an additional $60. Compare that to the Xbox 360, and it’s no wonder Microsoft dominated the holiday sales in America.
An Xbox 360 bundled with was just $150. Add Halo 4 to the mix at $60, and pleasing the whole family costs a whopping $200 less on the Xbox 360 than it does on the Wii U. That’s enough to buy a Kinect (a control gimmick that offers alternate ways to play, like the Wii U GamePad, but also comes bundled with a game) and additional game. So for the same $410 that families would pay to get a Wii U and GamePad with a casual game and a hardcore game, they could get an Xbox 360 with Kinect and four total games. For parents looking to please the whole family on a budget, the Wii U wasn’t the best option this Christmas.
Budget is a major factor, especially in terms of luring in casual gamers, but content is always a major factor as well. The number one reason most people buy the hardware is to play the software. While the Wii U certainly had an impressive launch lineup, it wasn’t enough to set it apart as a “must buy” item.
The majority of its highest rated titles, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Assassin’s Creed III, were already available on other consoles. Just having the “best version” of a game isn’t enough to make most people buy a new console if they can get the game on a console they already known. Nintendo’s big exclusives were limited to Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, and ZombiU. These are all quality titles, but Nintendo may have overestimated their selling power.
Nintendo Land, despite being the perfect party game, is not a game that inspires much interest on name alone. In a way, Nintendo Land’s reception sums up the Wii U’s reception in general. Few people are interested in it by hearing about, but once you’ve played it you understand what makes it worthwhile. Nintendo Land is a fantastically fun game for a boring afternoon or a party with friends, but it’s not something that’s going to motivate people to buy a console.
New Super Mario Bros. U was a no-brainer as a launch title. What sells better than Mario? Apparently a lot of things this Christmas. This isn’t a knock against the game itself. The game was fantastic, and arguably the best of the “New” series, but it doesn’t have the selling power of its predecessor on the Wii, because it doesn’t feel new anymore. When New Super Mario Bros. Wii launched, it was the first time we’d seen a 2D Mario on a home console since the Super Nintendo days. Given that the Wii had established a casual fanbase that included a lot of older gamers, New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s sales were fueled largely by nostalgia. The Wii U follow-up is certain to sell well over time, but a large percentage of the people who bought the game for Wii have had their Mario fix, and they don’t need to buy an expensive new console to play Mario again. They’re content with their Wii.
Nintendo’s other big offering this holiday season was ZombiU. Standing alone as the Wii U’s shining example of a mature and hardcore exclusive title, ZombiU made extensive use of the Wii U GamePad and showed a different side of Nintendo. Unfortunately, the game’s reception was mixed, netting it a fairly humble average review score of 77/100. ZombiU is a true example of a pure survival/horror game in an era where survival/horror is a dying genre. This doesn’t make it a bad game, but it makes it a tough sell. Franchises like Resident Evil realized that, whether or not it angers their established fanbase, adding in more action elements and reducing the survival element is the best way to sell a zombie-shooter. ZombiU is everything a survival/horror game should be, but it only appeals to a very small target audience.
The Wii U is a fun and unique console that has a good amount to offer right off the bat, and has the potential to be something special in the market. Once they’ve gotten their hands on it, most people understand exactly what makes it a good buy, but there’s just not enough motivating factors right now to convince the average consumer that it’s worth the buy.
Until the Wii U can start to offer more exclusive content with a wider range of appeal, its sales are going to be largely limited to dedicated Nintendo fans and hardcore gamers who just can’t resist picking up the newest hardware. The Wii U’s sales figures were more than respectable this holiday season, but Nintendo has to do a lot more to keep that rolling into the new year. Right now, the Wii U is an interesting new system with potential, but what it needs to be is the system that gives your family the most bang for their buck.