Sony and Microsoft's Sales Data Shows Just How Badly Nintendo's Wii U Has Failed

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Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY  ) Wii U had a 12-month head start on Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Xbox One and Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) PlayStation 4 -- time completely wasted, in light of new sales data that should be seen as troubling for Nintendo.

As of December 28, Sony has sold 4.2 million PlayStation 4 consoles, while Microsoft had sold 3.1 million Xbox Ones as of the end of 2013. In comparison, Nintendo's Wii U -- despite debuting in November 2012 -- has sold just 5.2 million (based on recent sales estimates). Unless something completely changes in the first quarter of 2014, Nintendo should miss its Wii U targets, as both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 easily surpass it in popularity.

Nintendo's 9 million target
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has held steady in forecasting 9 million Wii U sales by the end of March. That's certainly possible, but seems highly unlikely. When Nintendo last reported earnings, it said that it had sold 3.9 million Wii Us as of the end of September.

Recent estimates from third-party sources (via put current sales higher -- near 5.2 million. But with the holiday shopping season over, Nintendo would more or less need a miracle to move another 3.8 million units by the end of March.

Nintendo's management had been hopeful that the fourth quarter would turn out well for the Wii U -- the company pushed a bundle that included two free Super Mario games alongside the console, while at the same time releasing Super Mario 3D World in November. That game garnered nearly universal praise, making it onto many video game publications' best-of-2013 lists and being dubbed a "creative masterpiece" by The Guardian.

Nintendo's Wii U is holding back its game sales
But because so few gamers actually own a Wii U, very few bought the title. In the U.K., rival platforming title Knack actually outsold Super Mario 3D World in November, despite receiving lukewarm-to-poor reviews.

In contrast to Nintendo's title, Knack's numbers may have been boosted by demand for Sony's console -- with only a handful of available games, some gamers may have purchased Knack simply to give themselves something to play on their brand new PlayStation 4.

Microsoft's Xbox One hasn't sold as well as Sony's PlayStation 4, but given that it's $100 more expensive and launched a week later, differences in sales data should be expected. Compared to Nintendo's Wii U, however, the Xbox One is an overwhelming success -- Microsoft's $500 console is more than 60% more expensive than the Wii U, but in two months Microsoft sold almost as many consoles as Nintendo did in 11.

Nintendo's living room strategy is hurting its shareholders
Despite the failure of the Wii U, it isn't all doom and gloom for Nintendo's business. Its 3DS continues to sell quite well, with more than 40 million consoles now sold worldwide. Nintendo-made 3DS titles like Pokemon X/Y and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds dominate video game sales charts. But as Nintendo is selling its Wii U at a loss, most -- or all -- of the money generated by its handheld business could be subsidizing its ailing living room console. In October, Nintendo reported an operating loss of more than $200 million, blaming the Wii U for a disappointing quarter.

While I had previously believed Nintendo's strong slate of games would help it deliver a solid quarter when it next reports earnings, it's hard to like Nintendo when Sony and Microsoft are absolutely dominating the living room.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On January 08, 2014, at 9:33 PM, melegross wrote:

    Nintendo is in trouble all over. Even though total sales of the sDs may be 40 million, that lakes in comparison to the DS series sales. In their top two years, Nintendo sold slightly over 30 million DSs each of those two years.

    In contrast, the 3DS has sold 15 million last year, it's best year, but sales seems to be slowing down for that too.

    And as hardware sales shrink, so will their software sales

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 2:37 AM, Njancek wrote:

    No, I'm sorry, but "Failed" would be it not selling, or not putting out quality games.

    The only reason it isn't even selling that well is because articles like this, that tend to give the Wii U a bad name. Everyone has to point out the *bad* about the console, but fail to mention the *good* about it. I think most of you writers don't understand that sales don't mean everything. How many of those 5.2 million buyers are happy with their console, as opposed to however many bought an Xbone and ended up returning it? >.>

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 2:52 AM, ibeinyou wrote:

    Here's the problem... NO ONE WANTS TO PLAY POKEMON !!! Nintendo, STOP making Pokemon games and make something people want to play. It's that simple.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 3:17 AM, Efernal wrote:

    How many game Publishers have said they will not build games exclusively for the Wii U? Almost all of them at this point. Why build a game for the 3rd place console that has half the power of the other 2 consoles on the market? It really is a matter of numbers. PS4 and Xbox One will have so many units sold that it will give Publishers confidence that building a high end game will yield returns on their investment. However spending the money to lower the content to be played on a lesser machine that hasn't been a big seller to being with would be a loss for the company. Game Publishers will Opt for a PC port before they choose the Wii U. There are more PC's in homes than there is Wii U's. And PC games can have built in options so even lower end PC's can run the title. And if you that means they could do the same for Nintendo, Your wrong.

    I'll use my personal PC as an example. It's a custom built PC that is 6 years old and was built on an $800 budget. My PC has more power than the Wii U. And for less money than a Wii U cost I can upgrade my PC to make it even more of a viable option. Even cheap desktop computers from a box store and outperform a Wii U and it will be able to do more and will run in a less Corporate controlled environment. Another plus is you only need 2 apps. A web browser and a Internet game company app such as steam or Impulse aka Gamestop.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 4:51 AM, merkindanoobs wrote:

    Here is the problem, the Wii U is VERY underpowered and is basically just now catching up to the XBOX 360 and PS3. Those consoles while still having games produced for them are going to be taking a backseat in a year or two for the newer games that REQUIRE faster and better hardware. The Wii U is a GIMMICK, nothing more and nothing less. While owning one myself, along with a PS3, XBOX 360, XBOX One AND a PS4, the Wii U is just plain lackluster. With hardly any 3rd party support because Nintendo seems to think that people want to play with a 2 LB. controller in their hand, and inferior internal components, the system was set up to fail before it launched.

    With EA already bailing out totally on the console, and pretty soon many more developers will also, all that will leave is the kid games and maybe a Mario, Zelda, or Metroid game every so often. Those 3 franchises are some of the best in the industry, BUT it cannot support an entire console.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 6:08 AM, wizardaeon wrote:

    yet another daily article from motley fool trashing Nintendo. all of the haters jump on the bandwagon, IF YOU DONT LIKE NINTENDO DONT BUY IT BUT LEAVE THEM ALONE. Why constantly , intentionally try to make it worse with bad publicity???

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 6:52 AM, normgarry wrote:

    Not so easy to get senior citizens, physical therapists and overweight yentas to buy this time around is it?

    Shoulda waited till November to release it. Then no one woulda noticed how lame it was.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 7:26 AM, Cerberus82 wrote:

    The only way Nintendo will hit that mark is if they buy the consoles themselves and give them away!

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 7:41 AM, GrooveMachine wrote:

    Yet another trash Nintendo article. Has anyone who writes for the Fool actually played anything on a Wii U? I realize that Microsoft pays the bills for you guys, and its brass puts on a good front about being nice to the competition, but the propaganda and crap that you put out is really awful and not journalism.

    Anyone who wants to invest in a gaming company should NOT follow advice on the Motley Fool. I can't wait for a few months from now, when only the PS4 is really "selling" and MS has you put some spin on articles saying how great the Xbox is and how Nintendo is perpetually doomed... When they'll both have similar sales numbers.

    Granted it had a year head start, but the Wii U's numbers are still better than the Xbox, so not sure how your math says "3rd place". My God, you've been saying they're doomed for what, 5 years?

    You want financial advice? How about this: China lifts its game console ban and Nintendo stock jumps because of it. You know why? Because they've had a relationship with the Chinese gov for YEARS with the iQue devices. The Asian stock markets know this and are planning accordingly. Western market watchers? Nope, just point out Nintendo's failures and lets play another FPS clone. EA jumped ship? Yup, sure did. EA also lost, what, 6 of their top people in the last 2 weeks and are on the verge of being completely taken over by Disney? Also relevant to gaming finances, but conveniently NOT mentioned by the writers for the Fool. So tired of this form of bs journalism.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 9:09 AM, BG21 wrote:

    You guy Nintendo is not going so good right now you guys have to understand this, their is nothing wrong with his journalism he is just telling it how it is. Its his job to report the gaming news let him do this job because it would be dumb to not cover the sate Nintendo is in. What do you what people to stop talking about Nintendo that would not help them for doing a bad job. These articles should motivate Nintendo for doing a better job.

    I love the Wii U gamepad and I don't think the Wii U is under power, its not more powerful than the PS4 or Xbox one but is not its not underpowered. people saying than the Wii U is not powerfule than the PS3 or 360

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 9:19 AM, BG21 wrote:

    You guy Nintendo is not going so good right now you guys have to understand this, their is nothing wrong with his journalism he is just telling it how it is. Its his job to report the gaming news let him do this job because it would be dumb to not cover the sate Nintendo is in. What do you what people to stop talking about Nintendo that would not help them for doing a bad job. These articles should motivate Nintendo for doing a better job.

    I love the Wii U gamepad and I don't think the Wii U is under power, its not more powerful than the PS4 or Xbox one but is not its not underpowered. people saying than the Wii U is not powerful than the PS3 or 360 you should ignore them. And the Wii U game pad is not really gimmick people think it is. Like Nintendo said the gamepad will open up new ideas. Game play will not more forward with a traditional controller, if you want something new then sometime you will have to beak tradition.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 9:24 AM, TonyBalls wrote:

    You have to remember that is an investor site, not a gaming site. Nintendo makes make great games, and in my opinion the best, most resilient, gaming hardware manufacturer on the planet including the Wii U. They are just not as strong as the competition as far as sales go.

    The Wii U is a great console with a library that far exceeds anything on the xbone or PS3 . the problem is that the general public is just into "dudebro" online shooters now, not the best games. Still, I think the Wii U had a bright future, it is just being overshadowed by the massive sales from the Wii.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 9:28 AM, targeyone wrote:

    Putting this articles journalistic bias aside, all current consoles are in the infancy of their lifespan. It's too early to call success or failure for anyone.

    Motley Fool also made a big deal about Super Mario World 3D being beat in Japan sales during the first week by LIghtning Returns.

    But a month and a half later, Mario is still #5 in Japan's top twenty. Lightning Returns...isn't even on the list.

    Fools be foolin'.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 9:57 AM, jumamartin wrote:

    The real problem with the Wii U would be 3 fold articles like this that bash the system, the gaming community becoming a community primarily geared towards playing shooters and lack of 3rd party support. Sony and Microsoft would be out of the gaming industry completely if 3rd party developers made games for Nintendo and not for them. Their systems would never sale but Sony and Microsoft can't afford to let Nintendo have Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Star Foxx, Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, Wonderful 101, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Zombi U just to name a few and then give them NBA2K, Madden, Dark Souls, Final Fantasy, Castlevania etc and every other major 3rd party title. If 3rd party developers gave Nintendo the same love they gave Sony and Microsoft and then altered their games to include the functionality of the Gamepad...Nintendo would destroy the PS4 and XboxOne...Because other than graphics the gameplay is pretty much the same on the Xbox and PS4...but the Gamepad allows for so many creative ways to use it that it's insane for true developers to not jump on board and give us something new and differerent...Don't get me wrong I'm not bashing the PS4 and XboxOne as I plan to purchase the PS4 later this year but I'm saying that true gamers shouldn't listen to the hype...go out and play the system for yourself...and don't be afraid to get your butt kicked playing some of the games on the Wii U because they are some of the most challenging games out there...

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 10:29 AM, mikeybruises wrote:

    I think it is a bit unfair to post Nintendo's losses without posting the losses of the other platforms as well. It was projected that the Xbox 1 will lose 1 billion dollars this year on its console; mind you, that was if the could sell 4.2 million units by December. Referencing this article, they've only sold 3.1 million units. Secondly, the PS4 is losing $60 per console I also think it we should not forget that both Microsoft and Sony gaming divisions over the past decade have lost 3 Billion dollars and 4.7 Billion respectively, while in that time Nintendo only reported 1 year in which had a loss. I would like to further add, that it MS and Sony that have more to prove because of their past failures, not Nintendo.

    I also agree that with some of the other posters here that it is too early to call the Wii U a failure. I think the author's story does not reflect the current sales trend for the Wii U. Sales have improved, and that should be the story.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 11:17 AM, sac2rwm wrote:

    I have heard that Nintendo is going to die for forever. It's not going to happen. If it does, it will be a LONG/SLOW death. I think we can all agree on that. I think it's safe to say that Nintendo will be around for a long time regardless of the Wii U. Let's remember, this is a company that put out the N64 and then the Gamecube. That's at least 10 years of "less than successful" consoles. Wii U has only been out a little over a year.

    I'm not going to comment on XBO or PS4 and just because I make a complaint about Wii U, it does not mean that I believe XBO and PS4 are doing things right. Personally, I think XBO and PS4 are full of FPS that lack much innovation. Sure they have awesome graphics, but that's it.

    I think Nintendo has make some serious mistakes with the Wii U:

    First, the name sucks. And incorporating the name of the system into the name of game is worse. Wii Fit U is a bad name and is opening the door to a whole lot of "less than appropriate" variations.

    Second, is the console design. I looks like a Wii and has the name Wii attached. It's no wonder people think the Wii U is just a gamepad for the Wii.

    Third, eShop lacks content BIG TIME and the pricing sucks. Who wants to pay $5-$8 for 15-25 year old games? I just saw yesterday that they have a sega "retro" machine for $40 that comes with 80 games. That's $0.50 per game. Now that's what I'm talking about. Not to mention that most mobile games are $1. Most people would rather download a rom (not promoting that) or play a free flash version of the game. Prices need to be closer to $1 for NES and $2 for SNES. There are no N64 or Gamecube games as well. The virtual console had N64 gmaes. Why? Most of the games are Mario or Donkey Kong games that I don't care to purchase. Why are there no GBA advance games playable on the Wii U gamepad? Am I mistaken? Who wants to pay $10 per sport on Wii Sports Club to be able to compete online and bowl in HD? Not me.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 11:24 AM, laethyn wrote:

    Man oh man what is with the constant WiiU trash-talking?

    It's a solid system, has some of the most polished games on the market, is a good price, plays my massive library of Wii games, and plays some great NEW games like Assassin's Creed IV perfectly fine.

    They had a bump in sales after 3d World, they'll get another bump when Mario Kart8 launches, Super Smash Bros., if they launch a new Zelda title as well ...

    It's not a dead system, however much the ridiculous blogosphere wants it to be.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 11:34 AM, sac2rwm wrote:

    Now, I have stated some things that I feel are wrong with the Wii U. I want to write a bit about the good parts.

    First, it's backwards compatible with the Wii. Sure you have to open a whole seperate menu to emulate it, but it still works and XBO and PS4 can't do it. That means you automatically have an insane library of games. We play Brawl and Mario Kart all the time. Thus, all the games we are waiting to come out for the Wii U, we can play the previous version. Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart, Zelda, Metroid and SSBB just to name a few.

    Second, your old controllers still work! This was big for me. I have 4 boys and it's nice to not have to buy new controllers. Granted, some games require Wii Motion Plus, but most do not. That may change in the future.

    Third, the game ARE COMING. While it is true that I have been sad ever since Nintendo lost Squaresoft (now Square Enix) to Sony, Nintendo first and second party games are the best. This year we already know that we are getting SSB and MarioKart. These are two of my favorite IPs and I think others will agree. Although not my type of game, Bayonetta 2 is coming. And that X game looks awesome too. Eventually, other good games will emerge as well. I'd really like to see Square Enix give some love because I have not played a Final Fantasy game since IX and everyone said X was so awesome. Wii U could handle that game.

    Fourth, I really do like the game pad and think if people would give it a shot, they'd have fun with it. Imagine a game like Pokemon Snap where the TV shows the cart moving forward all the time, but you use the gamepad to look up, down and all around and using it to take pictures. At least a digital download if not a full game. How about using it as an X-ray scanner? Thermal detection device? Night vision? Magnify Glass? Didn't ZombieU do something like that? The TV showed one thing, but if you held up the Gamepad it was something else? Never played the game and we don't allow rated M games into our home.

    Ok, those are just a few.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 12:32 PM, nico07 wrote:

    It's funny how Motley is all over Nintendo's sales figures that are INTERNAL SALES PROJECTIONS. Seriously selling 5.2 million of anything is a big deal. And that is without their biggest games that are due out this year. Sony and Microsoft's numbers will slow down soon because they have their limited launch games and then NOTHING coming down the pipe for at least a few months. Microsoft has Titanfall in March, and PS4 has Thief soon, but aside from those it's months before Watchdogs in June and then several more months before anything else.

    I love then how these articles then try to articulate how failing to meet high internal sales projections equates to meaning the system is a pile of crap. I have a PS4 and Nintendo's Wii U has more compelling original content than either the PS4 or One.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 1:09 PM, Iseeclearly wrote:

    Yes Nintendo will sell good ps4 probably will do better, but Microsoft doesnt Look that spectacular in germany there were bulks of xbones no1 bought in christmas time.

    Microsoft is not looking that much better. I know u are paid to Talk Microsoft shares good but it doesnt work

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2014, at 1:43 PM, AllieFox wrote:

    I wonder if the Video Game Ban being lifted in China will help (or hurt) Nintendo and it's potential to reach Iwata's forecast of 9M consoles sold.

    After 13 years of no Mario, Zelda or Pokemon will 4 miliion Chinese gamers be willing to forego Sony and MicroSoft for Nintendo?

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2014, at 6:54 AM, Iseeclearly wrote:

    Aliefox 4 Million Gamers? You have 4 millions Alone in Shanghai, well chinese probably buy Sony and Nintendo. Xbox is more like a pc for the poor...

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2014, at 3:19 PM, Didact328 wrote:

    @ibeinyou Do you realize how well Pokemon games still sell? I also don't believe there have been any Pokemon titles released on the Wii-U, just the 3DS, which is also selling quite well.

  • Report this Comment On March 21, 2014, at 3:04 PM, keldeo432 wrote:

    just shut it. personaly pokemon is my favorite game and every other game system but the ds can suck it.

  • Report this Comment On March 21, 2014, at 3:08 PM, keldeo432 wrote:

    Yeah what Didact328 said.

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