Could Nintendo Wii U Sales Eventually Challenge Sony's PS4?

Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY  ) Wii U could be poised for a big comeback against Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) PS4, according to a recent survey from GameSpot GameTrax.

The Wii U is already racing ahead on strong sales of Mario Kart 8, which has sold 2.1 million units since the end of May. The kart-racing game is still the second best-selling game in the world, selling 96,000 units in the week ending on July 12. The Wii U, which launched a year before the PS4 and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Xbox One, has sold 6.6 million units sold worldwide. That puts it ahead of the Xbox One, which has sold 4.9 million units, but behind the PS4, which has sold 8.6 million units.

Source: Nintendo, Sony, author's edits.

GameSpot's survey, which polled 3,500 gamers for their opinions of the three consoles before and after E3 2014, revealed that sales of Nintendo's Wii U could significantly rise thanks to a positive shift in intent to purchase and higher interest in Nintendo's first-party titles.

More people now intend to purchase the Wii U
Following E3, 22% of surveyed gamers stated that they "probably (12%) or definitely (10%)" will purchase a Wii U. That's up from 16% combined prior to E3. The percentage of people who "definitely" would not purchase a Wii U fell from 45% to 37%.

By comparison, the percentage of gamers who would "probably or definitely" buy a PS4 rose from 48% to 49%. The percentage that would "probably or definitely" buy an Xbox One inched up from 16% to 17%. While those shifts don't seem dramatic, Nintendo's presentation of new Wii U games clearly helped it gain an edge against its rivals. That data also suggests that while the PS4 will maintain its lead, the Xbox One could be doomed to fall further behind the Wii U.

Nintendo dominates the first-party charts
In terms of exclusive first-party games, Nintendo rated the highest in terms of title awareness, purchase intent, and perceived quality.

Of the top 1- titles, Nintendo claimed six spots. The Legend of Zelda Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Wii U ranked first and second, while Hyrule Warriors, Star Fox, Bayonetta 2, and Xenoblade Chronicles X came in fourth to eighth place, in that order.

The Legend of Zelda Wii U. Source: Nintendo.

Sony's Uncharted 4 and The Order: 1886 came in third and eighth, respectively. Microsoft's Halo 5: Guardians and Halo: The Master Chief Collection came in ninth and tenth.

Nintendo's high rankings demonstrate how well its own games are holding up against Sony and Microsoft's titles despite the perceived "graphical gap" between the consoles. Since Nintendo doesn't have to split software sales with any other platform, strong sales of its exclusive games could easily boost sales of its Wii U consoles.

What does that mean for Sony and Microsoft?
The same can't be said about Sony or Microsoft's "stronger position" in third-party cross-platform titles. Ubisoft's (NASDAQOTH: UBSFF  ) Watch Dogs, for example, has sold 5.25 million units so far. However, that actually translates to 2.3 million copies on the PS4, 1 million copies on the PS3, 1 million copies on the Xbox One, 770,000 copies on the Xbox 360, and 160,000 copies on the PC.

Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ: EA  ) Titanfall -- which Microsoft thought would be the Xbox One's comeback title -- sold nearly 2 million copies for the Xbox One, but over a million more went to Xbox 360s and PCs instead. Simply put, cross-platform triple-A titles get fragmented across the market and don't always translate to higher PS4 or Xbox One sales.

Titanfall. Source: EA.

Meanwhile, third-party publishers keep releasing games for both seventh and eighth generation consoles, since making a game for 83 million PS3s is more lucrative than making one for 8.6 million PS4s.

While this business model is good for publishers, it throttles the technological growth of games and sales of eighth generation consoles. As a result, the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC platforms all blend together with the same non-exclusive third-party games.

In this kind of market, the Wii U stands out because it's the only console that plays Nintendo games. PC owners who haven't bought an eighth generation console might refrain from buying a PS4 or Xbox One because the same games are available on Steam. Yet they might buy Wii Us because games like Mario Kart 8 aren't available anywhere else.

The road ahead
In conclusion, a single survey doesn't guarantee Nintendo's success. The company still has to maintain a streak of blockbusters like Mario Kart 8 with Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2, and the new Legend of Zelda to truly gain ground against Sony. Securing more exclusive third-party titles (I previously suggested an acquisition of Square Enix) could also help Nintendo widen its defensive moat and profit from cross-platform software sales.

However, the survey is a solid confirmation of what many gamers and investors have felt after E3 -- Nintendo's Wii U is far from dead, and it could stage a fierce, delayed comeback and send Sony scrambling to maintain the PS4's lead.

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  • Report this Comment On July 24, 2014, at 1:59 PM, Facer5 wrote:

    I don't see why Sony should be concerned considering sales worldwide.

    You're forgetting the Wii U can't run many of the games that are starting to get released and will be released next year, and that third party developers won't spend the money needed to downgrade them for the console unless it stops being a Nintendo-only machine which won't happen if you consider Nintendo loyalist almost always only buy Nintendo software in large quantities.

    The Wii U is not a competitor to the other two consoles. It is but a compliment, a secondary machine for Nintendo-only games.

  • Report this Comment On July 25, 2014, at 11:17 AM, drd7of14 wrote:

    I hope the author does realize that both MS and SONY/PS aren't going to just sit back for the next year relying on 3rd Party content. They have exclusives too (SONY more so). So...While Mario Kart has had success, more so than inFamous and Titanfall, it's also an established franchise that is popular for all ages, and is cheaper. The problem is, it's not cheap for what it can do. Parents will just go for the one that is cheaper, the kids will be happy with Mario Kart/Zelda/Smash Bros., but that isn't the end all, be all of the consumers.

    They need to really captivate why their unit should be preferred over the more powerful competitors. The truth is, it isn't. It isn't preferred. It is a secondary console. Either one is likely to get an Xbox One and Wii U, or PS4 and Wii U. The order matters not. They could get a Wii U first, but it is the secondary console. Exclusives are why I buy consoles, which mostly has me sticking to PlayStation and Nintendo, but I have to justify the cost over power and support.

    The Nintendo Wii U, for it's current price, and what support it will be lacking in the future, is not worth the current price point, even if Mario Kart 8 is fun. No problem. I will play Mario Kart 64 and have a blast as well. I can wait, cause it's not anything special that needs my money right now. It's not exactly original by any means. Innovative, yes, fun, yes, worth at least $250, ye---Oh wait! No! It's not. Plus any actually good controllers...Okay tangent over. The point is, this isn't a trend, it's a spike. This is the first real reason to purchase a Wii U.

    One could argue the same "real" reason to buy a PS4 or an Xbox One has not happened yet. That "real" reason lies in exclusives/3rd party games that are to be released this Fall into the following year, and all of them are NOT coming to the Wii U. Smash Bros. is good. But not that good.

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