It certainly seemed like the Wii U hit its stride in 2014 — and now, Nintendo has released the sales figures to prove it. The console rounded off the year with the biggest month of sales in its history, taking full advantage of the all-important holiday season.
Nintendo reports a 29 percent increase in total hardware sales in 2014 over the previous year, as well as a 75 percent increase in software sales. Much like the 3DS at the beginning of its lifespan, it's clear that the Wii U has surpassed its early struggles to find an audience and become something of a powerhouse thanks to its exclusive titles.
The arrival of some major franchises on the console has done plenty for the cause. Mario Kart 8, released in May, has sold some 1.7 million copies across its digital and retail releases, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U has sold 1.3 million copies — both games were also highly praised across the board by critics alongside Bayonetta 2 which is earned Game of the Year nods from many media outlets.
It's a recurring theme with Nintendo consoles; a dry spell early in the console's life, followed by an influx of high quality titles in well-established franchises. It might be enough to irk early adopters, but it seems like a solid enough strategy in terms of cornering a section of the marketplace — Nintendo is angling the Wii U as a sort of 'connoisseur' gaming console.
However, it's not just highly praised games that are contributing to the Wii U's coming of age. Nintendo's Amiibo figures line might be dismissed as a simple attempt to cash in on the same market as the hugely popular Skylanders and Disney Infinity toy accessories, but its results can't be denied. Nintendo estimates to have sold more than 3 million Amiibo figures in 2014, and they'd likely have sold more if they could have predicted the product's popularity.
With a strong 2014 behind them, now's the time to start looking ahead to 2015 — and the Nintendo Direct broadcast from earlier this week did just that. We heard plenty more about future plans for Amiibo figures, as well as confirmation of some big titles for the coming months like Mario Party 10 for the Wii U and a new Fire Emblem for the 3DS. The next Star Fox game - coming to Wii U - will be playable at E3 this summer.
Having performed so well last year, now it's time for Nintendo to make sure that they can maintain their audience as they build towards their next inevitable home console release (which they confirmed they are working on). The twilight years of the Wii saw a sharp drop-off in big releases and, consequently, sales. That's the next task for the Japanese giant — the next year could be crucial in the overall lifespan of the Wii U.