Why is the Wii U seeing such poor sales?

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Nintendo recently published its first quarter sales for this financial year – and while they are still predicting a small overall profit, Wii U sales don’t look as though they will be helping and made for incredibly dire reading.

Only 160 000 units shipped worldwide during the financial year’s first 3 months and within that a mere 10 000 consoles sold across the whole of Europe (the USA fared a little better with 60 000 and, predictably, Japan made up the lion’s share of sales with the remaining 90 000).

This got me thinking – with all of Nintendo’s experience and innovation in the games industry – why is the Wii U seeing such p*ss poor sales?
As I see it, Nintendo’s Wii U woes can be broken down into 3 categories, the 3 ‘Ms’ if you will…

1) Misunderstood: People don’t understand Nintendo’s latest home console. Some believe it to be an extra screen or peripheral for the Wii. Some are unsure of what it is at all and – thanks to fairly dire advertising, in the UK at least, some are unaware that it even exists.
It’s kind of understandable too. Nintendo opened the door for a ton of new gamers with the Wii and DS, which was great – but these aren’t all people who follow the game industry developments as closely as the rest of us. On top of that, Nintendo do have something of a track record of re-inventing their own wheel. If you think back to the days of the Game Boy Advance (GBA), it was followed up by the GBA SP, then the GBA Micro – all of which the exact same console, playing the exact same games. The differences were in the look and shape (and the addition of a backlight in the SP). Same again with the DS, followed swiftly by the DSi, then DSi XL – same console, different shape! It’s hardly unreasonable for people to assume that the Wii U is simply the same Wii console, already collecting dust under their TV, but now with smoother edges and a bigger pad.

2) Mistimed: Even if consumers are aware of the Wii U being a brand spanking new console from powerhouse Nintendo, this might not actually help very much. We are very much at the end of the current generation of consoles, people have been looking to the digital horizon for months hoping to catch a glimpse of what companies would release. As usual, Nintendo jumped first. They unveiled the Wii U, they claimed it was a console that would bring true HD graphics and would cater for hardcore gamers as well as the huge casual gamer masses that they’d brought into the picture with the Wii. The problem was, what the gaming industry saw was a console that was basically on par with the soon-to-be-last-generation of consoles. Yes, we could finally play Batman: Arkham City on a Nintendo console and in a totally new way in 2013, but it was a game that most people had finished 2 years earlier.

3) Mario: Now this is perhaps the most controversial of the 3 Ms – and no, I’m not blaming the Italian Plumber for all of Nintendo’s difficulties, not exactly. I am focusing on what Mario is coming to represent. A lack of innovation.

Resting on their laurels? -Is it time for this guy to move over?
Resting on their laurels? -Is it time for this guy to move over?

What? Nintendo? Lacking innovation!??! Is he mad? Well, no, I’m not mad. When it comes to console development, opening doors to the games industry with innovation is what Nintendo does best (or did best) – and initially we had a slew of games that used these new play methods wonderfully. The DS had Nintendogs that used touch screen and voice control. The Wii had Wii Sports which got everyone off their couches swinging Wii-motes so enthusiastically that TVs, mirrors and small children were damaged in the process. Amazing!
Then we had Mario. A whole new generation introduced to Mario – and how they loved him! And how Nintendo reverted to form and prioritised their first party titles over everything else. Now we have another situation where all the big games for Nintendo Wii U seem to be either Nintendo developed sequels of Nintendo franchises or just straight up Mario games. Super Mario Bros U, New Super Luigi U, Nintendo’s Pikmin 3 – and the new releases we’re all waiting for? Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Bros Wii U (featuring… Mario), Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (pop quiz, what game did Mario first appear in?)…
For all the grief the Call of Duty franchise is given for re-hashing the same idea each year, they still have nothing on Nintendo. Even the big upcoming Zelda release is just a re-hashing of the GameCube classic, Windwaker. Yes, it was awesome – but that was years ago! Come on Nintendo, it’s time to innovate with your games! Gives us something new! Then maybe – just MAYBE, we’ll shell out for the Wii U?

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