For the first time in a long time Nintendo’s Wii U is finally gaining some traction in the eighth console war. Though Sony is still holding a commanding lead, the notoriously struggling Wii U has seen a major boost in sales as of late and at the time of this article the Wii U has surpassed the Xbox One’s sales by roughly 1.76 million units according to our friends at VG Chartz.
This is no small part thanks to the release of Mario Kart 8 the Wii U’s fastest-selling game.
The game was released May 30 to near unanimous praise and had a “significant impact” on Wii U sales, according to Nintendo themselves. GameSpot reported that Mario Kart 8 increased Wii U sales in the UK by 600%, and that it became the fastest selling game on Wii U so far. VG Chartz lists it as the Wii U’s fourth highest selling game overall.
The release of the Mario Kart 8 bundle, and Nintendo’s offer of a free game download with any purchase of Mario Kart 8 were an attractive incentive for any Nintendo fan on the fence about buying the console. Including some of the best $60 Wii U titles available like Windwaker HD and Pikmin 3 was a bold move by Nintendo considering how new some of those games still are. In the end Ninty’s generosity worked like a charm for both the company and it’s fans. Nintendo was finally able to move a healthy number of consoles and Wii U owners both old and new were rewarded with reasons to sink hours into Wii U exclusives.
Coupled with the good faith Nintendo earned at E3 this year with their fun, fresh, and game-focused digital event and the steady stream of high profile Nintendo games on the horizon, it’s clear Nintendo is hoping the Wii U can manage the same phoenix-like recovery its handheld brother, the 3DS, is currently enjoying.
Nintendo’s stellar first-party offerings, an incredible backlog of retro classics, and an ever-expanding indie library give newcomers tons to dig into right from the start. With the always-amazing Smash Bros. coming this holiday seasom and the promise of a new (open world!) Legend of Zelda by next year, gamers have a lot of reasons to be excited about Wii U.
Not to mention Nintendo has a potential goldmine on their hands in the way of the company’s upcoming NFC-based Amiibo platform. If the figures have even half of the success of competitors like Skylanders or Disney Infinity it’ll be another much needed win for Nintendo’s image (and their bankroll) while also being a likely console-seller particularly for the younger crowd that Nintendo had a lot of success marketing to during the last console generation.
In an interview with IGN at E3 2014 I believe Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime summed up the Wii U’s problems perfectly.
“What I would say is that we have been slower than we wanted to be in bringing the key games into the marketplace that leveraged the full functionality of the system…With these games we’re showcasing at this E3 that are all coming in the next couple of months…all of these key games coming in the near term. We think it’s this pace of product launch that we need to really drive momentum for Wii U.”
That’s the bottom-line. No matter how attractive your console may be at the end of the day, games move consoles. Now that the Wii U is carving out a nice niche for itself among the competition with Nintendo’s unique brand of gaming excellence the console has a real second chance at success.
I still see the Wii U as a system with a lot of potential for growth. Frankly, Nintendo took a risk by launching the Wii U a full year ahead of its competition without the software needed to support it, and the console has struggled to find its footing ever since. It’s an unfortunate reality Nintendo has been forced to deal with over the last year, but if the recent sales increase is any indicator of Wii U’s future it may already be on the path to recovery.