IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Dismal Wii U sales prompt pay cuts for Nintendo execs

wii u
Sales of the latest Nintendo systems as of the end of 2013.Nintendo

The Wii U has sold so poorly that Nintendo's president, Satoru Iwata, is voluntarily cutting his pay in half. Despite rave reviews of games like "Super Mario 3D World" and "Pikmin 3," the company's latest console sold fewer units in a year than either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 did in a few months.

That sales of the new console were bad everybody knew, but just how bad wasn't clear until Nintendo's financial report Tuesday. In fact, only around 2.8 million Wii U consoles were sold over the last year. Compare that with the Xbox and PlayStation 4, both of which sold more than that in the first month after their November release, and should be closing in on the 4 million mark now.

The disappointing sales numbers contributed to a loss of over $10 million during the latest quarter, and at a press conference, Iwata immediately announced a five-month period of half pay — as well as smaller cuts for the others on the company's board.

It's not the first time this has happened, either. In 2011, after poor sales of the 3DS handheld (it too was being outsold by its predecessor), Iwata and others took a similar pay cut.

How could Nintendo fail so badly after the massive success of the Wii, which had sold just over 100 million as of this week? A lack of quality launch games, for one thing: With no real next-gen entries in the "Mario," "Zelda" or "Metroid" franchises (among others), the Wii U debuted with only a few solid but hardly must-have games.

It didn't help that the name and marketing weren't very clear about whether the Wii U was just a controller for the original Wii, whether old Wii games and accessories would work, and so on.

Lastly, anticipation of the next consoles from Sony and Microsoft took hold of gamers in 2013, especially after an exciting E3, at which prices and exclusive games were revealed.

Nintendo isn't sunk just yet: The 3DS is still selling well (though also below expectations), and a few AAA games are on their way in 2014. But after coasting for years on the success of the Wii, Nintendo has hit the biggest bump since poor sales plagued the Gamecube back in 2001. It won't be easy to come back from that.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is