The Wii U hasn’t been doing particularly well in the market. According to NPD, over in the US the Wii U only sold roughly 57,000 units in January, and February wasn’t much better. Last month, Nintendo’s latest console only sold an estimated 64,000 units. Considering that the Wii U launched just a few months ago, these incredibly low numbers are cause for worry.
The Xbox 360, a seven-year-old console, sold over 300,000 units last month in the US. The brand new Wii U just can’t compete with the aging PS3 and Xbox 360. It’s not simply because of tech specs – clock speed and RAM don’t sell consoles. It’s all about the games.
Traditionally, people buy Nintendo consoles for first-party games. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Star Fox sell consoles, but so far, there hasn’t been much in the way of big Nintendo releases on the Wii U. Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U were decent launch titles, but it’s going to take a lot more than those games to make the Wii U a viable platform. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting to see what is in store from most of Nintendo’s biggest franchises.
When the Wii U launched with Assassin’s Creed III, Mass Effect 3, and Call of Duty: Black Ops II, speculation started brewing that the Wii U would serve as a way for the game industry to ship a ton of ports until the next-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft launched. Mostly anything that ran on current-gen hardware could be slapped onto the Wii U, and sold to a slightly different audience. Strangely, that concept seems to have stalled out in a big way.
We’re not even seeing some major new games ship with Wii U support. There are numerous upcoming games being billed as “closers” for this generation, and they aren’t coming to the Wii U. Grand Theft Auto V and Saints Row 4 are big names that will sell countless copies, but the Wii U is being left out in the cold. Once games start shipping on the Xbox 720 and PS4 using next-gen game engines, any hope of cheap and easy ports to the Wii U will be lost.
Lacklustre first and third-party support are killing sales of the Wii U. As the newest console, it should be dominating sales and mindshare at this point. Instead, my Wii U has been serving as an expensive web browser for my bedroom television for the past three months.
If Nintendo doesn’t come out swinging at the Game Developers Conference and E3 this year, we might be looking at the end of home consoles for Nintendo. Handheld gaming still does very well for Nintendo – especially in Japan. If the Wii U continues to flounder, it’s plausible that we could see a handheld-only Nintendo in the next few years. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, though.