Wii U sales jumped 200 percent in the U.S. in the month after Nintendo cut the struggling console's price tag by $50. But with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One about to hit market, is that enough to keep Nintendo in the game?
Sales of the Wii U video game console jumped more than 200 percent in the U.S. in September compared to August's figures, Nintendo and the market research firm NPD announced Thursday. The sharp increase in console sales followed a $50 price cut for the Wii U, which brought the console down to $299.99 starting Sept. 20.
The jump in sales is good news for the Japanese gaming giant, which has struggled to replicate its runaway success with the original Wii console ever since it released the Wii U last November. With the specter of increased competition from Sony and Microsoft looming as both of those close rivals prepare to launch their next-generation consoles — the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One — next month, however, game industry analysts are still doubtful about the Wii U's commercial prospects.
"Their sales remain pretty weak, so although the price cut helped, it isn’t enough of a turnaround to instill confidence that sales will rebound," Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, told NBC News in an emailed statement following the NPD report.
A 200 percent increase might sound like a good thing, after all, but it's still only an increase from next to nothing — which is where the Wii U was wallowing for most of the slow summer months of 2013. Nintendo reported in its first-quarter earnings statement that the Wii U had only sold 160,000 units globally between April 1 and June 30. The summer is usually a slow time for the game industry, but the Wii U was even outstripped by its own predecessor, the original Wii, which sold 210,000 units over the same period.
Nintendo has owned up to many of the mistakes it made with the launch of the Wii U. President and CEO Satoru Iwata told CNBC in June that "we are to blame" for poor Wii U sales, promising that the company would deliver on more high quality games that Nintendo fans felt were lacking from the console's original release.
Along with the price drop, the Wii U's new crop of iconic first-party games has proven a key factor in the console's recent rebound. The console's U.K. sales jumped 685 percent in early October after Nintendo released a limited-edition Wii U to go along with the HD release of the immensely popular "Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker."
Too little, too late?
The company is also rolling out a number of other high-profile games for the Wii U in time for the holiday season such as the new "Super Mario 3D World." Nintendo fans are still waiting on any news about new installments in other beloved franchises such as Zelda or Metroid, however, which Nintendo still hasn't given them. Pachter therefore worries that whatever Nintendo tries to do now, it won't be enough to coax gamers away from the PS4 or Xbox One, both of which are launching with a number of high-profile titles from first and third-party studios alike.
"The Wii U was two years too late for what it is, and is already outdated," Pachter said. "I don’t know why they didn’t have content for the launch — they probably should have held up the console launch until they had content."
Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered technology and games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at: Yannick.LeJacq@nbcuni.com.
First published October 18 2013, 10:45 AM