Nintendo’s Wii U isn’t just a tablet add-on for your old Nintendo Wii; it’s a full game console unto itself, with new games and HD graphics and online connectivity. Really!
Even if you already know that, the problem Nintendo’s facing is that the average person still doesn’t.
The Japanese game company has struggled to make its latest game console a hit, and that’s largely due to the misconception that it’s little more than an add-on for a massively popular console — the Wii — that came out in 2006. It doesn’t help that the launch of the Wii U in 2012 coincided with the rise of powerful, multi-use tablets from the likes of Apple and Samsung.
In actuality, the Wii U couldn’t be further from the Wii. Despite the differences in functionality and game libraries, the original Wii is literally 10 times more popular than Nintendo’s current game console. Look no further than Nintendo’s own reporting on the Wii U, awkwardly juxtaposed with that of the enormously popular Wii:
That’s from a report corporate social responsibility report that Nintendo published recently, which cites sales numbers that were accurate as of March 31, 2015.
While the Wii had three more years under its belt when the Wii U launched, the comparative sales numbers are dramatic, to say the least. The Wii sold over 115 million units, the most successful product ever created by Nintendo, while the Wii U has only sold around 10 million. It’s not even close to the pace the original Wii was on at the same time in its life.
Though much less expensive than a game console, Nintendo has managed a sales coup with its “Amiibo” toys. The $US12 figures look and feel nice, and are able to be used in a variety of Nintendo games simply by touching the figure to the Wii U gamepad. Using “near-field” technology, the toys imbue various games with either content (an in-game shirt unlocks for your character, for instance) or whole characters (in “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U,” the toys appear in-game as enemies that can be trained).
The toys are selling so well, in fact, that they’re besting sales of Nintendo’s game console. And that kind of says it all, doesn’t it? People are more excitedly buying Nintendo-themed toys more than they are Nintendo’s actual game console.
It’s a strange position to be in, and one that will only get stranger as time goes on. As Nintendo’s Amiibo sales continue to outpace demand, Nintendo’s next game console — codenamed the “NX” — is looming on the horizon. Meanwhile, flagship games are still said to be headed to Wii U from Nintendo’s internal development teams
At what point does Nintendo bite the bullet and move flagship titles like “The Legend of Zelda” to a new console over its current, failing one? History tells us “soon,” as that’s exactly what Nintendo did with “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.”
For now, however, Nintendo’s sticking with the Wii U.
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