February, 2013, marks the twenty-sixth straight month that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has led the pack in North American hardware sales, moving a cool 302,000 systems. It’s an especially impressive feat considering that Xbox 360, first released November 22, 2005, is the single oldest console on the market.
For the newest hardware available, Nintendo’s Wii U, February’s numbers are decidedly less encouraging.
No question about it – Nintendo has had to weather a tough couple of weeks. On March 6th, Ubisoft publicly endorsed the idea of a Wii U price cut. On March 9th, Michael Pachter decreed that Nintendo should exit the hardware business, and just yesterday, March 14th, Nintendo lost a 3DS patent infringement case that will cost the company $30.2 million in damages.
Estimates place Wii U’s February, 2013, sales near 64,000 units, a mere fraction of what competitors Microsoft and Sony (263,000 PlayStation 3s sold for the month) managed to achieve. The NPD Group claims that Wii U sales were up over January’s dire figures – reported to be roughly 57,000 units sold – by a weekly average of 40% (keeping in mind that January’s NPD report covered five weeks, February’s only four). Still, as Gamasutra reports, that 64,000 units, averaged out by week, is drastically lower than any single week of Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 sales in history. Overall hardware sales for the month declined by 36% versus February 2012.
Nintendo’s sales results for February may be disappointing, but they can hardly be considered surprising. In a month that saw Dead Space 3, Crysis 3 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance release for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Wii U received just one new full length game, Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2, and it was only available from Nintendo’s eShop.
Granted, the first Wii U game worth getting excited about since the system launched, LEGO City: Undercover, is due next week (on March 18th – look for Game Rant’s review soon), followed a day later by Need for Speed Most Wanted (which is said to be based on the visually superior PC version of the game, as opposed to its PS3 or Xbox 360 counterparts) and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, though it’s tough to imagine any of those games doing much to sell Wii U systems. After that, things dry up again until the April 16th release of NetherRealm Studios‘ DC Comics fighter, Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Yes, there are other games on the horizon. The Wonderful 101, Game & Wario, Wii Fit U and Pikmin 3 (along with a series of Pikmin animated shorts for 3DS) are all slated to arrive during the first half of 2013, and Nintendo claims to have other, unannounced games that could yet release this year. That said, only Pikmin 3 appears at all likely to drive hardware sales, and even that can hardly be considered a sure thing. Perhaps Nintendo’s recently revealed
Skylanders clone NFC game, Pokemon Rumble U, along with its attendant (and small) line of compatible toys, can help move some systems – if, in fact, it’s released in North America at all.
In the short term, prospective Wii U owners really have nothing to play but the waiting game, at least until Nintendo finally reveals some genuine heavy hitters. Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart and a new, 3D Mario game for Wii U are all set to be revealed at E3 2013 this June, though whether any of those games will make it to store shelves this year is an open question.
Neither time nor momentum are on Nintendo’s side. PlayStation 4 is coming this holiday season; probably Xbox 720, too. This is Nintendo’s chance to have the new hardware spotlight all to itself, and the company is squandering that chance by the day. Whatever it is – a surprise game, a price drop, a new feature – Nintendo needs to do something to get Wii U sales back on track, and it needs to do it soon.
Ranters, what do you think Nintendo should do to boost Wii U’s sales? Do you expect much of an increase in next month’s numbers? What game would make you buy a Wii U? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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