As you may have heard, the Wii U had a terrible month in January. Nintendo’s new HD system only sold roughly 55k units during a five-week tracking period by the NPD. There are many reasons for this, some that are Nintendo’s fault and some that are out of their control.
Nintendo needs to act fast. Whether they need a major move like when they cut the 3DS’s price in the summer of 2011 or not I don’t know. Its easy to react too dramatically, especially when the console hasn’t even seen its second big wave of new releases.
Here are our suggestions for what Nintendo should do to alleviate this issue and turn around their first HD system’s fate in the US.
More Hardware Bundles
In just a few days a brand new Wii U system bundle will debut for $389. It will include Nintendo Land, Zombi U and a Pro controller. That’s only $40 more than the standard Wii U Deluxe SKU that doesn’t come with Zombi U or the extra controller.
Nintendo has the right idea with this but they need to step it up with even more of these system bundles. Europe is getting a Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate bundle next month and North America should too. A similar package to this Zombi U bundle should be made for New Super Mario Bros U and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. If Sony and Microsoft can get in on the fun of having a Call of Duty related SKU every year why not Nintendo?
A $299 Wii U Basic Set with New Super Mario Bros U included and possibly one plain Wii remote might give sales a small boost.
Release Wii Fit U immediately
It remains to be seen if Wii Fit U will have the same impact as the original game but its possibly the heaviest hitter Nintendo has at retail in the near future. Sure, Mario Kart and 3D Mario sell systems but those are coming this holiday season at the very earliest.
Change the title to Wii Fit 2, sell a balance board bundle with the new game for $60-$80 (instead of the $100 the original was priced at) and sell the software on its own for those who already own the board at $20. Even if Wii Fit U is 1/3rd of the success that the original game was it will move a lot of Wii U systems with casual gamers.
Release other first-party games that were previously ‘launch window’
Game & Wario, Pikmin 3 and Wonderful 101 all slipped out of their ‘launch window’ release dates. Game & Wario seems like an ideal candidate for April while Pikmin 3 is sorely needed to convince those last few die-hard Nintendo fans who have a soft spot for Captain Olimar. These titles may not move systems as well as Wii Fit or Mario, but giving them official release dates as soon as possible will give potential buyers something extra to entice them.
Trailers for 3D Mario and Mario Kart U
Since the next 3D Mario and Mario Kart U will be playable at E3 it isn’t hard to assume that they are in pretty good shape. If Nintendo will have them playable at E3 in June its safe to say they’re probably more than 50% finished, if not more so.
While neither game is a lock for 2013, trailers that reveal their unique features would help push a few consumers to make an early purchase in anticipation for their eventual release. Nintendo should release these trailers, possibly with mini-Nintendo Directs for each game as soon as possible but I couldn’t see either happening any early than April.
Drop the Basic Set, and make the Deluxe Set $299
This move may be harder for Nintendo to do until the half point of the year. We all now that they sell the Wii U at a loss but it hasn’t been 100% confirmed that they sell both SKUs at a loss. Even if they do sell the Deluxe at a loss, dropping it to $299 wouldn’t be that much more of a burden. I can’t imagine Nintendo is losing more than $10-$20 per unit.
If you’ve looked into retailers over the past few months you’ve probably noticed that the Basic Set isn’t selling nearly as well as the Deluxe Set. Consumers know the $349 SKU is the better deal, and lowering that SKU to $299 may help Nintendo in the long run even if it leads to immediate losses.
Cut down the costs of the Wii U Game Pad because its too damn expensive
I’m really surprised Nintendo would launch a console with such an expensive controller. The Wii U Game Pad on its own costs nearly $170 in Japan. Some estimates have pegged the Game Pad at costing north of $100 for Nintendo to make.
Obviously the Game Pad is the biggest factor in the console’s price. Nintendo could cut costs by changing the Wii U Game Pad. They could release a mini-Game Pad that sports a smaller screen around 4.5-5 inches. They could also downgrade the screen resolution on the controller. I’m not sure if that is technically possible but they need to explore all options available.
The Game Pad shouldn’t cost Nintendo anywhere near $100 to produce on its own. Nintendo needs to get the Game Pad’s cost as close to a normal controller’s traditional retail price ($50-$60) as they can. This will give them more wiggle room in terms of dropping the consoles price if sales continue to be disappointing.
New Marketing Push
I don’t know anyone who has seen a Wii U commercial on TV since early December. Nintendo of America has really dropped the ball with marketing. The existing marketing is confusing for consumers and needs a major change.
I’m no expert but I would suggest something simple but informative like Apple’s iPad ads. Show someone browsing the web on the Game Pad, then watching Netflix, have them switch over to Miiverse to talk about a popular TV show (I suggest Breaking Bad), have them switch to a Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on their TV screen. Then someone can enter the picture and change the TV to another input to watch something else while the user plays COD on the Game Pad.
This new marketing should have a large emphasis on the Game Pad without forgetting the console. The person playing the system should be very vocal (or the narrator of the commercial) and indicate key points like how the graphics are much better than on the Wii, why Off-TV play is awesome, and more.
These are just a few ideas on how Nintendo can turn around the Wii U’s slow start in North America. Software sells consoles and Nintendo needs more of it on store shelves. Even though the next few months will be absolutely brutal for the house that Mario built I do believe they should wait as long as they can before dropping the system’s price.
Release their delayed first party line up like Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101 and Wario. Produce a marketing blitz for Wii Fit U and convince people that they need another fitness game in their living room. New system bundles with the most wanted Wii U exclusives like New Super Mario Bros U and Zombi U would be a step in the right direction as well.
Nintendo will right this ship, and even if the Wii U sells as many systems in the long haul as the GameCube Nintendo will prosper. The 3DS is doing fantastic throughout the world and will continue to make them money even if they lose money on every Wii U. What would you do to turn around the Wii U’s slow start in the US? Leave a comment below with your answer!