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The worst news yet for Wii U

Published Nov 29th, 2013 10:40AM EST
Super Mario 3D World Sales

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All year long the bad news about Wii U sales has been offset to some extent by the hope that the next big Mario title would turn around the console’s fortunes. As it happened, Nintendo crafted a fairly majestic new title in “Super Mario 3D World,” which has been garnering rave reviews in recent days. This makes it all the more disappointing that the game sold just 99,600 copies during its debut week in Japan. “Super Mario Galaxy” sold 256,000 units in its debut week, and “Super Mario Galaxy 2” shifted 337,000 units back in the day.

Of course, the installed base of Wii U is relatively weak, but the new Mario game boosted console sales from 16,000 a week ago to just 21,000 during its launch week. This 5,000 unit bump generated by what was expected to be the biggest Wii U game of the year is shockingly tepid. Particularly considering that the PlayStation 4 still won’t launch for several months in Japan.

It looks like Japanese consumers have started giving up on Wii U even before the new PlayStation arrives. This may be a fatal blow for Nintendo’s home console future; Wii U sales in North America and Europe are so weak that a big Wii U sales rebound in Nintendo’s home market is absolutely necessary to keep the console alive.

Of course, it is possible that a future Zelda title might revive Wii U — but the PS4 juggernaut is now starting to loom in the horizon. The relatively late launch date for Sony’s home console in Japan means that it will arrive with a formidable range of titles out of the gate. Of course, Nintendo is still triumphing in the portable console market — 3DS moved a fantastic 84,000 units in Japan in the latest week.

After launching mobile game company SpringToys tragically early in 2000, Tero Kuittinen spent eight years doing equity research at firms including Alliance Capital and Opstock. He is currently an analyst and VP of North American sales at mobile diagnostics and expense management Alekstra, and has contributed to, Forbes and Business 2.0 Magazine in addition to BGR.