Nintendo is no stranger to pushing the limits when it comes to video game console design. Over the years, it's consistently avoided the industry norm by pushing the boundaries of how controllers are designed. With its new gaming console, the Wii U, Nintendo, once again, pushed the limits by introducing a new style of gaming that involves two screens. But, Nintendo's insistence on avoiding the dual-analog controller design that many passionate gamers prefer may lead to the demise of the Wii U.
The Nintendo Wii U sales were substantially lower than many expected in the weeks leading up to Christmas. While the Nintendo 3DS was able to sell 433,000 units in Japan in the week leading up to Christmas, the Wii U sold a measly 122,000 units. Nintendo 3DS sales were up roughly 23 percent while Wii U sales dropped about 6 percent in the week prior to Christmas.
"To put Wii U performance in context, the old PSP portable console sold 58,000 units in Japan during the same week. It is not an encouraging sign that the more than half-decade old PSP (which was displaced by the PlayStation Vita a year ago) managed to sell nearly half as many units as the brand new Wii U during the holidays," reports Tero Kuittinen of BGR. Kuittinen adds that the PS Vita has also been selling dramatically below expectations, which doesn't bode well for Nintendo.
The Wii U is the most powerful gaming system Nintendo has ever created, which makes the weak sales statistics even more shocking. It's the very first console from the company to feature full 1080p HD graphics and a processor powerful enough to compete with top-tier systems such as the Xbox 360 and PS3. The Wii U's hardware is widely considered the best on the market, but its processing power hasn't been enough to propel the gaming console to commercial success.
Although Nintendo launched a massive advertising campaign for its new system, the company couldn't avoid bad press leading up to the launch of the Wii U. Among many setbacks, one of the most highly touted features of the Wii U -- the consoles ability to perform several web-based functions -- only becomes available after users download a 5GB firmware update that often took hours to download and occasionally bricked systems.
"Personally I think that users should be able to use all the functions of a console video game machine as soon as they open the box," Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told IGN. "So I feel very sorry for the fact that purchasers of Wii U have to experience a network update which takes such a long time, and that there are the services which were not available at the hardware's launch."
In addition to several facing firmware issues, the Nintendo Wii U was widely criticized for having very few compelling titles during its launch. Donkey Kong, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby and several others of the company's most popular franchises were not released during the launch week of the console. "[The] Wii U still feels very much like a work-in-progress. You'll really notice this when you switch apps or boot into or out of a game: The transition takes something like 10 seconds, and the visuals are utterly bare-bones -- uncharacteristically ugly for a Nintendo system," writes 1UP editor Jeremy Parish in his review of the system.
Whether Wii U sales are able to rebound from a lousy holiday shopping season remains to be seen. Certainly, the most popular gaming franchises from the company may help, but whether they can be shipped in enough time to save the system remains to be seen.