As the first new console released since 2006, the Wii U carries a number of expectations, not the least being that it will prove to be a major sales success. The system got off to a solid start in North America, selling more than 400,000 units during its launch week, though Microsoft’s aging Xbox 360 absolutely cleaned Wii U’s figurative clock over the all-important Black Friday shopping extravaganza, outselling Nintendo’s new console by nearly a 2:1 margin. If predictions about December 2012 console sales figures prove accurate, the same thing is about to be said all over again.

In advance of the Wii U’s launch, Nintendo promised that the system would be easier to come by in its early days than was the case with the original Wii, which remained in short supply for years. That has certainly proven to be true, though perhaps not in the manner that Nintendo intended. GameStop, for example, sold significantly fewer Wii U consoles over the holiday shopping season than expected, leaving plenty of stock sitting on store shelves. Clearly, Wii U is not the instant success that Wii was, but according to Nintendo, it’s not an abject failure, either.

Without committing to any concrete sales figures, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, speaking to Reuters, characterizes the hardware’s holiday sales as “not bad.”

“At the end of the Christmas season, it wasn’t as though stores in the U.S. had no Wii U left in stock, as it was when Wii was first sold in that popular boom. But sales are not bad, and I feel it’s selling steadily.”

“It was the first time Nintendo released two models of the game console at the same time … and I believe there was a challenge with balancing this. Specifically, inventory levels for the premium, deluxe package was unbalanced as many people wanted that version and couldn’t find it.”

The NPD Group is set to release console sales figures for December 2012 on Thursday, January 10, but Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter estimates that Nintendo sold between 600,000 and 675,000 Wii U systems in North America over the course of the month, compared to as many as 1,700,000 Xbox 360s and 950,000 PlayStation 3s. Again, that’s with a comparatively unconstrained supply of Wii U systems. Meanwhile, Nintendo reportedly sold 638,339 Wii Us in Japan from December 8th (the system’s launch date) to December 30th.

Wii U Deluxe Set

All together, that puts combined North American and Japanese sales of the system at (very roughly) 1,700,000. The question now is whether Nintendo will be able to reach its stated goal of selling 5.5 million Wii Us by March 31st, the end of its fiscal year. Granted, European sales are sure to help (they’ve yet to be announced), but there is an awful lot of ground to make up between now and then, and with Pikmin 3 delayed to the second quarter, no obvious system-selling games waiting to come to the rescue. Yes, Rayman Legends looks fantastic, but if New Super Mario Bros. U couldn’t drive Wii U sales, Rayman doesn’t stand much of a chance, either.

Then there is the matter of third-party support. Just today, we reported that Crysis 3 won’t be coming to Wii U. Neither will DmC Devil May Cry, or Dead Space 3, or Tomb Raider, or BioShock Infinite – none of the big third-party, multiplatform games releasing in the first quarter of this year are bound for Wii U. Sales may not be “bad” right now, but it’s tough to imagine them accelerating over the next three months.

If you were in the market for a new console right now, would Wii U be at the top of the list? Let us know in the comments below.

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Source: Reuters, CVG