The popular belief is that the Wii U will be lucky to replicate the 21 million sales of the Nintendo GameCube. Both consoles struggled at points in their life (Wii U right out of the gate, Cube during holiday 2002 and after) and had delayed first party titles (Mario Sunshine was seen as too late in Aug 2002, much like the many delayed Wii U games) among other similarities.
I get it, the Wii U is trending lower than the GameCube in the same time frame. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee the system’s fate, as so many are willing to write it off today. Everyone should take a step back though because there is another console that sold very similarly to the GameCube and that console is Sony’s Playstation 3.
Let’s look at a comparison between the Wii U, PS3, and GameCube in NPD hardware sales for their first six months respectively. Between November 2001 and May 2002 the GameCube sold about 1.6 million units in America. It actually had a pretty decent start out of the gate, not posting a number like 30k in a month like the Wii U has. The Wii U’s 1.15 million sales in America from November 2012 through May 2013 looks bad by comparison until you notice how the PS3 only sold 200k more in the same time frame.
That’s right, the PS3 sold 1.35 million units in America from November 2006 through May 2007. It had its share of bad months too. Of course, there is a lot of things to note about this. The PS3 was $499-$599, one of the more expensive consoles in history. The fact that it put up those numbers at all with that price is pretty astounding. It took years for the system to really take off and now it is closing on 80 million systems sold. Eighty million!
Remember, the PS3 didn’t pass the GameCube’s 21 million sales until spring 2009, almost 2 and a half years after it came out. The PS3 saw a pretty big resurgence in pretty much every region once the slim model and $299 price tag was introduced in late 2009. Another 50 million PS3 units have been sold since spring 2009 when it passed the GameCube’s 21 million sales. That’s 50 million in just about 4 years, where as it sold about 20 million in its first two years on the market.
So why do people say the Wii U will be a repeat of the GameCube’s low sales when the PS3 defied the odds with an even higher price and less third party exclusives initially?
A new game system comes out and is considered over priced by the masses and while it has good first party software it misses out on a bunch of third party exclusives save for a few major ones. Sound familiar? No, I’m not talking about the Wii U, I’m talking about the PS3. In addition to costing too damn much in 2006-2007 it missed out on good games like Saint’s Row, Mass Effect, Bioshock, and others.
If Sony can turn around a $600 PS3 with its first party software and good marketing then so too can Nintendo. Nintendo can turn around the Wii U and surpass GameCube levels of success, even if it will never reach the Wii’s 99 million install base.
First off, the Wii U is in a better spot to improve in sales than the PS3 was due to a lower price. Consumers see the Wii U as over priced both because it doesn’t have enough compelling software and because $349 is a bit much. If Nintendo can get the system’s price down to $250 along with a line up of stellar first party games they could do the same thing Sony did with the PS3.
Sony’s marketing improved greatly in 2009 along with a price cut. These improved sales helped the PS3 gain franchises that weren’t on it previously, like Bioshock, Mass Effect, and others. I see no reason why Nintendo can’t do the same.
They need better marketing for the system, that’s for sure. A price cut is need too but a better games will help even more. This holiday could be the first step on re-launching the Wii U and having it gain some momentum. A line up like Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101, Donkey Kong, Super Mario 3D World, Wind Waker HD and Wii Fit U could be combined with a good third party line up (Rayman, Splinter Cell, Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty potentially and Batman Arkham Origins) and better marketing to make those Wii U systems move off store shelves at a quicker rate.
The Wii U is not doomed to repeat the failures of the GameCube, not anymore than the PS3 was. That could very well happen if Nintendo doesn’t improve marketing, cut the price and release heavy hitting first party games. It is up to Nintendo to change the course for the system and Sony has already provided them with a blueprint for doing just that. Nintendo can have the Wii U go one of two roads: The low sales of the GameCube or the success of the PS3. We shouldn’t be writing off the system just yet.