Nintendo Wii U sales disappoint, prognosis mixed
Recent unofficial sales figures for Nintendo's newest game console, the Wii U, continue to be less than impressive, which could be a cause of concern for the game maker, according to gaming analysts.
Wii U sales in February experienced a nice bump up to about 80,000 units, a 40 percent increase over the previous month, when an estimated 55,000 units were sold.
Nintendo hasn't released official sales figures for those months, and the February numbers are based on a bootleg NPD report that's landed in the hands of several gaming websites.
"We did not release Wii sales figures," NPD spokesperson David Riley said in an email. "As to whether or not it’s accurate, I cannot say," he added.
Lack of fresh content?
Despite its technological prowess, Wii U sales have been suffering from a soft market for gaming consoles and a lag in the ecosystem's big name content makers to get fresh product to market, according to Scott Steinberg, a video game industry consultant and principle in TechSavvyGlobal.com.
"The market is soft toward dedicated consoles," he said in an interview. "People are playing games in many new ways, such as on tablets and smartphones."
He added that many of Nintendo's top franchises haven't made their entrance on the Wii U stage yet.
"As developers come to grips with the Wii U's capabilities and can create next-generation experiences, you'll start to see a lot more excitement around the console," he observed.
However, he conceded, "It's not the heyday of the console business."
Casual gaming market trend
Another trend working against the Wii U is the splintering of the casual gaming market, according to Jia Wu, director of research for connected home devices with Strategy Analytics in Boston.
Unlike competitors' consoles, which are aimed at hardcore gamers, the Wii platform is aimed at casual gamers, those who play games occasionally or in a family setting, Wu explained.
"With the proliferation of devices, the casual games market is very well-served," he said in an interview.
"Before those devices were popular," Wu said. "Wii was one of the few options for casual gamers, so Wii benefited from lack of competition."
Additionally, the Wii U is not as dramatic a departure from its predecessor, the original Wii, which was a standout.
"When the Wii came out, there was nothing comparable to it," he said.
While the Wii U's dual screen support is the best in the market, Wu said, it's not a killer app, as gesture control was in the original Wii.
If sales of the Wii U continue to lag, it will be a cause of concern for Nintendo, especially with competitors Microsoft and Sony preparing their next-generation consoles, according to Brett L. Sappington, director of research for Parks Associates in Dallas, Texas.
"The fact that that hasn't happened," he continued, "really bodes poorly for them come the holiday season."
"Sony and Microsoft will line up blockbuster titles when their new consoles come out to drive sales," he predicted. "That's going to be trouble for Nintendo if it doesn't have some big titles that stir the gamer imagination."