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Editorial: No, the Wii U Did Not Have a Bad Launch


Jordan Haygood

The Wii U had what is best described as a really confusing launch. After the console“s initial announcement at E3 2011 following some pretty accurate rumors, there was quite a bit of hype about it, and gamers were anxious to know the specifications, release date, and price point... for a while. For months and months we heard very little about the Wii U aside from what we already knew, and it got to the point where people began bad-mouthing the console and the company, even going as far as to make baseless claims about how Nintendo was too afraid to release their new console“s specs because they were unimpressive.

 

This, of course, was not the case. Once we all got the info we wanted, it became obvious (for those who understand what the specs mean) that Nintendo“s next-gen console was indeed more than a match for any of the current-gen consoles. There was certainly room for excitement in seeing games like Mario and Zelda in HD, but more importantly, the console“s GamePad spoke waves to people looking for new ways to play games. All this excitement showed ever-so-plainly when stores were immediately flooded with pre-orders, and the console was pretty much sold-out right away.

 

That didn“t stop the bad-mouthing, though, and people then started to predict the console“s failure, saying that the console wasn“t worth the price for either of the two models. And after what seemed to be a lackluster launch involving retailers all over the U.S. still carrying plenty of Wii U“s and most other consoles outselling it over Christmas break, it appeared that these guys were right, and that the Wii U had a terrible, horrible, no good very bad launch. Recent sales statistics say otherwise, however…

 

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Reggie sits down to discuss sales figures with Nintendo's higher-ups

 

The NPD Group has recently finished their December report, showing sales figures for the Wii U between its launch on November 18th through December 29th, and Nintendo of America has deemed it necessary to show us exactly what they are. Why? Because these statistics are actually a lot better than most people are aware, and we need to know that. In the first six weeks of the console“s launch, it managed to sell 890,000 units in the U.S. alone. Coupled with Japan“s 636,000 units sold, it“s doing really well so far. So then, why does it seem to be doing the complete opposite? Why does the Wii U seem to be doing poorly?

 

The answer is plain and simple: we like to compare it to how the Wii did at its launch and how the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are doing nowadays. As we all know, the Wii was a hit. Nobody had seen anything like it for home consoles, and it was a widely popular novelty ridden with potential. People wanted to get their hands on one, which caused it to sell a whopping 600,000 units in the U.S. in only one week. In comparison, the Wii U sold 400,000 in that same timeframe. So when compared with its cheaper, more casual predecessor, the Wii U didn“t do quite as swimmingly here in the U.S.

 

However, Nintendo has pointed out an area where the Wii U trumps its predecessor: generated revenue. In the console“s first six weeks, approximately $300 million has been generated in revenue, whereas the Wii“s first six weeks generated $270 million. This is obviously due to the Wii U“s higher price point, but it still shows that the Wii U is actually doing better than the Wii by Nintendo“s standards. Japan certainly has a more impressive revenue difference, since the Wii sold 544,034 units after its first three weeks while its successor sold 557,901. For those who don“t like math, that means the Wii U actually did better in its first three weeks than the Wii did.

 

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Luigi collects the revenue generated by the Wii U

 

So now we“ve compared the Wii U with its predecessor, but how does its launch stack up against the PS3 and 360? To answer that, let“s take a look at the actual U.S. sales figures of the three consoles after the first four weeks of each of their launches:

  • Wii U: 849,068
  • PS3: 378,603
  • 360: 477,303

When you compare how these three consoles are doing at the moment, it“s easy to think the Wii U isn“t doing so hot, but as you can clearly see, it has actually done really well. Especially when you take into account the fact that we currently live in tougher economic times than we did back then. Looking at the European sales during the first three weeks, however, shows a different result:

  • Wii U: 340,310
  • PS3: 691,843
  • 360: 403,037

From what I understand, Nintendo hasn“t made much of an effort at all to make their new console all that visible to the U.K. You think the advertising in the U.S. is bad, people over there aren“t even aware that there“s a thing called “Wii U†unless they managed to see one of the very few TV spots about it. Japan does make up for those low figures, however. Here are the Japanese sales figures during the three consoles“ first two weeks after launch:

  • Wii U: 437,390
  • PS3: 130,335
  • 360: 65,430

Pretty good, don“t you think? So how about we tally up the sales of all four of these consoles (Wii included this time) and compare how they did in the first four weeks of their respective launches:

  • Wii U: 1,817,166
  • Wii: 2,071,242
  • PS3: 524,687
  • 360: 948,162

Obviously, these figures are off by a little due to the fact that they weren“t launched worldwide at the same time, but you get the picture. The Wii U hasn“t had a bad start by any means, and almost reached the Wii“s level of sales in terms of launch while surpassing it in generated revenue. It“s not easy to beat the explosive launch that the Wii had, but the Wii U has actually gotten pretty darn close. And since Nintendo has shown us that the Wii U is currently generating more money at launch than the Wii did at its own launch, this new console is nowhere near the disappointment people are thinking it is.

 

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Nintendo skeptic Video Game Analyst Michael Pachter after we told him the news

 

The fact of the matter is that all home consoles typically have a slow start. Or at least, what seems to be a slow start when looking at the consoles that are already out and about. But if you do some simple research, you can see that history has always repeated itself; the PS2 sold more than the PS3 during its launch, the DS sold more than the 3DS during its launch (until the 3DS turned the tides), and so on. Though seeing how Nintendo is the first company through the gates of the eighth generation of home consoles, and therefore the only one around, I can understand how people may overlook this and make comparisons a little too hastily.

 

When you compare the console“s launch with the launches of last generation“s home consoles, however, you can see that the Wii U's launch is actually right on target. Of course, it“s way too soon to predict its success later on; we'll need to give the Wii U another year or so before we find out for sure. Nonetheless, the whole point of this analysis is to tell you one simple fact: the launch of the Nintendo Wii U was actually fairly good, not bad.

 

Sources: IGN, Nintendo Life, The Motley Fool

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