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Does Nintendo Have a Super Hit on Its Hands?

The Wii U. Photo credit: Nintendo.

This is a big week for each of the next-generation consoles. Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) kicked things off a few days ago by selling 1 million PlayStation 4 devices in the first 24 hours after launch. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) follows up on Friday, when the Xbox One hits store shelves around the world. But this week is arguably even more important for Nintendo (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY  ) , whose Wii U hasn't managed to break 4 million sales since launching a year ago.

There are plenty of reasons for that underperformance, but the one that stands out is the lack of a big first-party game to drive hardware sales. For better or worse, Nintendo is known for its exclusive software franchises. The original Wii wasn't a console that you bought just so you could play Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty: Black Ops, after all. You bought it for games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit, which Nintendo produced. That's why last summer, when the company announced that it had sold just 160,000 Wii U devices over the prior three months, it made sense that it blamed the lack of key first-party titles for the Wii U's disastrous quarter.

But Nintendo won't be able to play that card again after this weekend, as Super Mario 3D World launches on Friday. And as far as key first-party video game franchises go, it just doesn't get any bigger than Mario. Consider that of the nine top-selling titles on the original Wii, four starred that mustachioed plumber in red overalls. The same goes for the handheld 3DS: Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, and Super Mario Bros. 2 are the three best -selling games on that system to date.

Screenshot from Super Mario 3D World.
Photo credit: Nintendo.

The good news for Nintendo is that it could have a hit on its hands with the Wii U's Super Mario 3D World. Metacritic's reviews of the title so far have the average score sitting at a stellar 94, with a dozen critics giving the game a perfect score. The conclusion from gaming site IGN was typical of the glowing reviews that many others gave: IGN called Mario 3D "marvelous" on the way to giving it a score of 9.6, saying that it "proves that Nintendo still knows exactly how to tweak their Mario formula in fun ways."

So Nintendo looks like it delivered the goods with this title, but will that be enough to catapult the Wii U back into relevance this holiday? Probably not by itself. But I wouldn't count the console out, either. Sure, Nintendo isn't likely to move a million Wii U's this weekend just on account of one popular game. But plenty of people will buy the device for a title of this caliber. That, plus the console's lower price, should make it a competitive option against Sony and Microsoft heading into the holiday crush.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2013, at 10:49 AM, captAhab02 wrote:

    Well it already broke the number. The under 4 million number has already been broken before the game released. Please check the facts.

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2013, at 11:01 AM, captAhab02 wrote:

    Besides wii u also has 2 other games in the japanese charts. Dragon quest x and a drum game.

    Really i can find that out in 1 minute, do you guys actually ever research anything?

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2013, at 11:03 AM, TMFSigma wrote:

    Hey CaptAhab, I'm just going by Nintendo's latest official number which is current as of Sept. 30: They list 3.91 million in Wii U sales.

    They very likely passed that threshold in the last month or so, though.




  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2013, at 11:08 AM, captAhab02 wrote:

    Ok thx for the reply

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