Nintendo Wii U: Have tablets killed Nintendos flagship console?

The Nintendo Wii console appears to be in trouble after Nintendo released highly disappointing first quarter results. During Q1 of their 2013/14 financial year the company sold just 160,000 units of their flagship console.

The sales mark an all time low for the Japanese company, despite the net income figures looking healthier than last year. The declining global sales, especially at a time when we’re on the verge of seeing two new super-consoles launch, the Microsoft Xbox One and the Sony Playstation 4, are an obvious point of concern for Nintendo.

The 160,000 sales came between April and June (inclusive), and take the consoles overall sales sin ce launch to 3.6 million sales. Considering the original Nintendo Wii console sold 210,000 units during the same period, the 50,000 fewer sales of the Wii U show an obvious lack of consumer appetite for the flagship model in Nintendo’s range.

The Wii U is not he only struggling Nintendo games console. The largely criticised 3DS fared slightly better, managing 1.4 million sales during the same three-month period. However the recently launched and significantly improved 3DS XL contributed 990,000 of those sales.

This all left Nintendo with net sales of 81.5 billion Yen, or roughly £548.3 million. This represents a flatline from 2012, when net sales were 84.8 billion Yen. Net revenue fared better, rising 17.2 billion Yen to 8.6 Billion Yen in 2013. The company is still losing money, with a 4.6 billion Yen operating income loss.

So where does all of this leave the future of the Nintendo Wii U? The company maintain that the release of first party gaming titles will decide this, with an apparent volume to be released in 2014.  

From the outside though, its hard to see a positive resolution for the Wii U. The console is less popular than the original and its popularity is hardly likely to rise when all of the fanfare really kicks off around the two new flagships coming this year from Microsoft and Sony. The growing popularity of app games on tablets and smart phones seems to have hurt the Wii U most.

Tablet games, like the Wii U, emphasise playability and social gaming over graphics. With 20 million tablets now owned in the UK alone, the accessibility of that device as a 21st century low-spec gaming console is a key factor. Many of Nintendo’s traditional market seem to be asking themselves why they would bother with a Wii U, when they already have a similarly capable device?

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