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Expect Pikmin 3 to be Awesome, But Don’t Expect it to Drive Wii U Sales

For most Wii U fans, it seems like Pikmin 3 is the big game they’re looking forward to within the foreseeable future. And it should be – Nintendo’s take on the real-time strategy genre is a pretty suitable fit for their audience, who crave a bit more than just the same old stuff. It’s a great franchise all-around, really: simple, easy-to-understand, and strongly focused game mechanics, sporting a world rich with things to investigate and a wide variety of monsters to harvest and oozing with Nintendo-style charm.

I’m sure the game will be excellent, and a great addition to Wii U owners’ libraries. But let’s get one thing straight: Pikmin will not sell Wii U systems.

How do I know Pikmin won’t sell Wii U? Because Pikmin didn’t sell GameCube, when it was a launch window title. No, that title went exclusively to Super Smash Bros. Melee, the sole driving force for the platform within its first year or so on sale. Even after it was discontinued, one out of every three GameCube owners had a copy of Melee. That’s easily in the top 10 for best Nintendo attach rates in history, in good company alongside Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, Wii Sports, Mario Kart Wii, and Wii Sports Resort.

pikmin-1What about Pikmin? Only one in 21 GameCube owners picked it up. Not particularly impressive. The game did go on to garner over a million sales, but it’s hardly console-driving material. If anything, it gained acceptance as one of the standout games on GameCube… among Melee fans who already owned the system.

From what I can tell, it seems that Pikmin 3 is poised to repeat this performance. Nintendo’s put a bit more distance between Pikmin and the Wii U launch, perhaps to better gauge the brand’s system selling potential – perhaps its release proximity to Melee made the GameCube launch situation a fluke? – but it looks and sounds like Pikmin 3 will be “a major release for current Wii U owners” instead of “a major release to create new Wii U owners.”

If there’s anything we learned last-gen, it’s that even on Wii, when Nintendo releases software that takes on GameCube-like values, they get GameCube-like results. As an example, Twilight Princess did very well as a return to a “cooler” Ocarina of Time-style form, but when Nintendo went back to a “unique art style” and new setting with Skyward Sword, sales dipped right back to The Wind Waker levels (which admittedly aren’t that low, just low relatively speaking). So far, Pikmin 3 looks like another “GameCube-like” game.

pikmin-3-crab-hqI don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think Wii U needs games like that – games that will add some diversity to people’s collections once they already own the platform. But there seems to be this idea going around that Pikmin 3 will bring Wii U out of its hardware sales slump, and I just can’t agree with that. It might see a quick burst, but not the long-tail “evergreen” sales growth Nintendo is really looking for.

It’s still going to be one heck of a game, though. Why else would I write up such a beaming preview?