A few months before the PlayStation 4 storms into Japan, Nintendo has staged a last-ditch attempt to revive the fortunes of its Wii U consoles just before holiday shopping begins. And it’s not working.
The New Super Mario Bros. U game has received some ecstatic reviews and is widely viewed as a sign that Nintendo is still close to the peak of its creative powers when it comes to game design. But sales of the game tumbled to below 13,000 units during the week of November 4th, while Wii U unit sales dropped to below 18,000 units. The new Super Mario game has topped 600,000 in total sales in Japan since its launch, which is tolerable.
But this was the Hail Mary pass that should have been a monster smash to give the Wii U a new lease on life. Instead, the newest Mario console game has faded into a mid-range hit, which is clearly unable to spark new interest in Wii U hardware. Nintendo is now in a real bind heading into December. It has already launched Wii Party U and New Super Mario Bros. U without creating any real traction for the Wii U.
The PS4 will not launch in Japan until February, so anticipation for its imminent debut is not what ails Wii U. It rather looks like Japan is continuing its migration towards portable consoles. Nintendo’s 3DS is riding the wave of two massive blockbusters: The new Pokemon and Monster Hunter games have each hit 3 million units in Japanese sales, dwarfing the sales of the once-powerful Mario console franchise. The sales of the 3DS portable console in different versions top 80,000 per week. Even Sony’s star-crossed PS Vita is managing to shift 21,000 units per week.
With the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles dominating North America this Christmas and with the Wii U continuing to languish in Japan even without direct new competition, Nintendo is slowly sliding towards the status of a portable-only game vendor.
CORRECTION: The New Super Mario Bros. U cited in this article was actually launched last year and is rebounding in sales ahead of the new Super Mario 3D World game. We’ll see in a couple of weeks what impact the new Super Mario game will have on Wii U in Japan but for now it’s far too early to draw any conclusions on the Wii U’s potential revival based solely on sales of a year-old game.