Whatever timid performance the Wii U was pulling off this holiday, it appears to be doing even worse now. Per NPD’s five-week reporting timeline for January 2013, the Wii U sold 55,000 units against the Xbox 360’s 281,000 units. These look sad on paper, but then you have to factor in that the Wii U is new hardware that typically continues to sell out through the New Year, but Wii U consoles can still be found in every store on demand. Worse still, compared to the four week period after the Wii launched in January 2007, the Wii U pales further with a paltry 46,000 units compared to 348,000 Wiis. This spells gloom and doom and in any other environment, the Wii U would have some room to grow. Unfortunately, Microsoft and Sony have other plans.
The Dreamcast comparisons are pretty easy to make in the face of Nintendo’s wavering sales. Sega launched that console in 1999 when it could not possibly handle new loss-leading hardware, and was crushed a year later when the PlayStation 2 launched. Having lost its footing in the portable space with the 3DS against not only new competition like Android and iOS, but also lofty expectations from its previous handhelds, when “good enough” was good enough, and losing their footing in home consoles, Nintendo appears to be in a state of weakness. With Ubisoft’s recent delay of Rayman Legends to September – the console’s only major title in the first half of this year – it looks like the Wii U is going to have a long, lonely march before new consoles arrive. Sony has an event on February 20th, which is rumored to be the unveiling of the PlayStation 4, do you think people are going to want to snap up a confusing facsimile of last generation’s hardware or dive in for the latest and greatest hardware. That’s not mentioning Microsoft at all.
Does the Wii U have a chance at this point? A device Nintendo designed to recapture hardcore gamers, but it’s too complex for the casual gamers that bought the Wii.
What was Nintendo thinking?