Nintendo’s Wii U Outperforming the Original Wii, Only Because It Costs More

Nintendo Wii U Lego City

Nintendo’s Wii U has managed to outperform the launch of its original Wii, at least in terms of revenue, but only because it costs more.

In the U.S., Nintendo sold 460,000 Wii U devices in December and more than 890,000 since it launched in mid-November, according to NPD, which tracks monthly sales figures for the videogame industry.

As a result, Nintendo said it recorded $300 million in revenue, which is more than the $270 million that the original Wii made at the same point in its life cycle.

But the original Wii, which launched in 2006, cost only $250, and today’s Wii U is setting players back between $300 and $350 apiece. So, the only reason it was able to exceed prior sales is because it upped the price — not because it sold more units.

That didn’t stop Nintendo of America’s EVP of Sales & Marketing Scott Moffitt from singing the company’s praises: “While the Wii launch established new benchmarks in the United States, Wii U has surpassed its predecessor in perhaps the most important category: revenue generation.”

Moffitt, however, did not comment on profits.

The Wii U has two editions: The deluxe offering that costs $350 and the basic offering for $300. The deluxe edition sold out at retail this holiday, and both editions were difficult to find after the Nov. 18 launch. But it was nothing like the launch of the Wii, which experienced shortages for months. Nintendo did run into a few hiccups at launch with customers experiencing long waits for mandatory software updates. Additionally, some of the device’s most notable features, like its TVii service, did not launch until later in the month.

xbox_380Microsoft also reported strong revenue for the Xbox. The company holds the envious position of having the top-selling piece of hardware for the past 17 months straight. It sold 1.4 million units in December, or three times the number of Wii U’s sold. (When you add up all the hardware Nintendo sold, it totals more than 2.65 million units).

In all, Microsoft said, consumers spent more than $1.27 billion on the Xbox 360, including games, consoles and accessories.

Following the release of the NPD data, Sony did not immediately break out the PlayStation’s performance for the month of December.

Even so, the numbers are staggering, especially given the amount of pressure that smartphones and tablets are putting on the game console industry. But some impact can be seen. The amount of money being generated by mobile games and online gaming still has not been enough to offset the declines that the traditional console gaming market is seeing — at least that’s NPD Group’s position.

Historically, the research firm has monitored sales through purchases made at physical retail locations. In recent years, it has expanded its methodologies as more content is sold digitally over services like Valve’s Steam on the PC or as expansion packs inside of console games.

Overall, it reported for December that new physical retail sales of hardware, software and accessories totaled $3.2 billion, falling 22 percent year over year. It calculates that the physical channel accounts for nearly 50 percent of the total consumer spend on games.

When NPD considers revenue from other channels, such as used and rentals, and digital formats, like full games, micro-transactions, mobile apps and social gaming, its preliminary estimate is that consumer spending in December hit $4.1 billion in all. A final analysis of non-physical spending however, is expected to be released in February.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald