Is the Wii U having some trouble getting off the ground?
Research firm NPD Group yesterday announced U.S. game sales for December. And although the research firm won't reveal hardware unit sales on its own, Microsoft reported that for the 24th month in a row, it has held the No. 1 spot in the U.S. in console sales, with 1.4 million units sold. Nintendo, meanwhile, announced that its Wii U mustered 460,000 unit sales.
Historically, new consoles have generated massive demand, allowing them to beat out older competitors in unit sales. However, that's not proving to be the case this time around. The Wii U -- despite being readily available both online and in many retail stores in December -- couldn't match a console that's been on store shelves for several years.
Nintendo has been somewhat subdued in its assessment of Wii U sales. Earlier this week, Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata characterized Wii U sales are "not bad," adding that he believes the console is "selling steadily."
NPD compared the Wii U's sales figures in December with those of its wildly popular predecessor, the Wii. According to the research firm, "sales of the Wii U were lower on a unit basis when compared to the original Wii in December 2006." That's perhaps saying something major, considering the Wii was hard to come by in December 2006 due to massive demand, and the Wii U is readily available.
Still, Nintendo was armed with an answer to the doubters. The company said yesterday in an e-mailed statement to CNET that in just 41 days on the market, Wii U sales have hit 890,000 unit sales. Moreover, Nintendo said that Wii U hardware sales have exceeded $300 million in the U.S. -- up from the $270 million the Wii generated at the same point in its lifecycle.
"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," Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales and marketing, said yesterday in the statement. "The demand for the Deluxe SKU, which was essentially sold out at retail this holiday, and the strong attach rate of New Super Mario Bros. U, shows that we have the value and the games to drive momentum in 2013."
While revenue might be up, it is likely a direct result of the Wii U being more expensive than its predecessor. The Wii U Basic set is available for $299. A Deluxe set featuring extra gear, like a copy of game Nintendo Land, goes for $349. The Wii, meanwhile, shipped in the U.S. in 2006 for $249. So, each Wii U sale is generating an additional $50 to $100 for Nintendo compared with the Wii.
Speaking of the Wii, it actually had a better November than its successor. According to Nintendo, the original console tallied 475,000 unit sales during the month.
Despite the Wii's staying power, it was hard to find much to be happy about in the gaming industry last month. Total game industry sales hit $3.2 billion, a 22 percent decline compared with December 2011. Software sales, meanwhile, fell 27 percent to $1.6 billion year over year. Overall hardware sales were down 20 percent to land at $1.1 billion.
December's top-selling game was Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The Xbox 360 version was the most popular.