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Can Mario Kart 8 turn around Wii U sales?


Mario Kart 8 is less than a month away and Wii U owners are very excited. The game brings anti-gravity racing, a new game recording feature as well as an item to repel the dreaded blue shell. There is a lot to be excited for when it comes to Mario Kart 8.

Yet you can’t just talk about Mario Kart 8 on its own. The fate of the Wii U commercially lies on how many consumers are attracted to the system because of it. By all accounts, Mario Kart 8 looks like the best entry in the series so far in terms of online play and new features. That enough should get a sizable chunk of people to spend $300 on a Wii U to play the latest Mario Kart.

Still, you’ve got to wonder if the game will make that much of a difference. If you had asked me over a year ago, even when the Wii U was selling 50k per month in the US, I would have bet money on Mario Kart 8 pushing the Wii U past 300k units in the US during its release week, let alone during an entire month. Mario Kart is a popular title that brings a lot of people together and often brings lapsed players return to console gaming.

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That was before titles like Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101, Wii Party U, Wind Waker HD, Sonic Lost World, Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze failed to improve Wii U sales notably. Look at November 2013, where the Wii U barely passed 225k in the US during the busiest holiday shopping season despite Super Mario 3D World releasing in mid-November.

You can argue that the releases of the PS4 and Xbox One hurt the Wii U during November 2013, taking away a lot of the dollars consumers were planning on spending on new hardware. The Wii U would recover to sell 450k in December which perhaps showed a late effect on systems sales with 3D World and of course a Christmas season bump.

But other titles like Donkey Kong Country, Pikmin and Wind Waker had marginal bumps in sales. Even with a $50 price cut and Wind Waker HD, system sales improved to 100k roughly last September. That was a nice bump from the 30k it did in August 2013 but still left a lot to be desired.

Nintendo knows a lot of people are on the fence about buying a Wii U because of Mario Kart 8 and the new Mario Kart Wii U bundle was made just for these people. The set includes a 32GB system, Mario Kart 8 and another game of the buyer’s choice for $329.99. This is a really good bundle from a value perspective but I fear most consumers will see that the bundle is $30 more than the standard 32GB Wii U New Super Mario bundle and turn away.

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Its not like Nintendo had any other option. They couldn’t lower the price of the system since they’re losing so much money on it already. The simple fact is that the Wii U likely costs roughly $330 to produce without the Mario Kart bundle so I imagine they’re selling this new bundle at a loss as well.

The $329 price tag, especially when you consider that its only $70 less than a PS4, may not make the Mario Kart bundle the system seller Nintendo would hope. It will certainly move units during late May and early June but in the months after? I’m not so certain about that.

Hopefully Mario Kart 8 helps to boost the Wii U’s performance commercially in the US and overseas. With games like Super Mario 3D World and Wind Waker HD producing smaller sales bumps than expected you’ve got to question even proven system selling franchises like Mario Kart and Smash Bros. If you were debating whether to get a Wii U then Mario Kart 8 should be the title to push towards finally making the purchase. Whether one hundred thousand or five hundred thousand consumers join you in that remains to be seen.