No Wii U games managed to chart on the NPD’s list of the top 10 best-selling games of December 2012, and that’s not necessarily surprising given that the months-old system doesn’t have an installed base anywhere close to the size of its current crop of 6 to 7 year old competitors. What is surprising is how badly Wii U software is selling when you compare it to the launches of Nintendo’s previous two systems, the Wii and the Gamecube.
According to sales data compiled by retail analyst group Cowen & Company, while Wii U hardware sales were reasonably healthy, sales of software on the system are 48% below sales of the original Wii’s launch titles and shockingly, 50% worse than the Gamecube’s. Nintendo has already previously admitted that Wii U systems are being sold at a loss, and if software sales for the system are as weak as analysts are saying they are, there’s a chance that the Wii U’s launch wasn’t as profitable as it initially looked. Nintendo has yet to release actual sales numbers for most of their Wii U launch titles, but they have said that New Super Mario Bros. U sold at least 580,000 units in the two months that it’s been out.
Again, while I’m not surprised that Wii U software hasn’t been selling out, hearing that games for the system are selling so much worse than the Wii and Gamecube’s launch titles is indeed worrisome. While the Wii U admittedly doesn’t have the strongest software line-up, I never expected it to perform this badly, and I thought that at least New Super Mario Bros. U would be enough to at least give the Wii U software sales on par with the Gamecube (which is still Nintendo’s least popular home console, at least in terms of sales.) Of course, the Wii had the benefit of launching with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and the Gamecube was lucky enough to get Smash Bros. Melee soon after launch, and both of those titles arguably have more appeal to the hardcore, early adopters who are most likely to buy a system at launch.
It’s also worth noting that both the NPD and Cowen & Company’s sales data doesn’t take into account digital sales, so their analysis doesn’t take into account users who bought downloadable versions of the Wii U’s launch titles. Still, I think even if you were to take those numbers into consideration, it wouldn’t change the fact that the Wii U has definitely experienced a rockier start than Nintendo would’ve liked.