Wii U: A Good Buy (Bye) For the Holidays?

Don't Forget About The Wii U This Holiday Season.
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Last week, I reported May’s global sales numbers for video game hardware.  In those reports, it was clearly evident that the Wii U’s sales were doing poorly since it was selling less units than the PS3, the Xbox 360, and even its predecessor: the Wii. 

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But right now, we’re just looking at numbers. What we really need to do is have a look at reason. The holidays are sneaking up on us, and the launch of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 are on their way. The Wii U may not have had a good year, but that’s not to say it can’t change.  Thinking about this from an average consumer’s standpoint, the Wii U should not be counted out.

“The Wii U Has No Games”

This is obviously one of the biggest problems for this console right now, and the reason it deserves to be discussed first. Yes, it was a bad idea for Nintendo to launch when it did, because of the lack of titles. It performed how it needed to during its initial launch, but sales have dropped off dramatically, and this is because it lacks its coveted titles to drive interest. There are different reasons for the drop-off in sales, but as Gamestop CFO Rob Lloyd states, one of the main reasons is the lack of a “blockbustergame to drive Wii U sales.

An attention to quality

This problem is going to be solved. Several titles are confirmed to be released before the holidays: Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, and The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD are just a few, in addition to other titles. Sure, it’s not pleasant having to wait a year before seeing the “top dogs”, but this is because Nintendo does not wish to “compromise on software quality.”

Those that have played the well acclaimed first party titles, from Super Mario 64 to Mario Galaxy, know that Nintendo is notorious for its quality. Rob Fahey from Gamesindustry.biz argued that “Nintendo can, however painfully, survive a failed console–but they could not survive tainting the Mario brand in order to meet a deadline.” If this means consumers will have to wait for a delayed game to be released, then so be it. But at least the proper effort and time is being taken to perfect the game rather than create sub-par work that may leave fans disappointed (or even worse, disgusted).

Sales may follow prior patterns.

We must also not forget about another piece of hardware that followed this trend: the Nintendo 3DS. Scott Moffitt, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Nintendo of America, expects that the “Wii U to follow the same kind of sales trajectory as the portable Nintendo 3DS.” The 3DS was doing poorly in sales until the Mario games were released and now it’s seen an increase. While the Wii U has to make up for a significant amount of lost ground, it’s very hopeful that the new titles and content will help provide a “phenomenal growth” in sales.

“Value as a deciding factor”

It should be no surprise, but in a general sense, we are living in an economic time where jobs are more difficult to obtain and financial generosity is low. In other words, the average consumer is going to be more wise in choosing how they spend their money. Not just in the United States, but in most major industrialized countries, including the West and Japan. In choosing a new console to purchase, value is going to play a role for those making the decision to go next-gen this holiday season.


Nintendo’s Wii U is expected to stay as the least expensive console amidst the others, and recent rumors addressed a possible price cut for the Wii U come this holiday. It’s highly unlikely that Nintendo will allow any price reductions since the Wii U is already retailed for less than the manufacturing costs, so I wouldn’t keep my hopes up. However, the price is still less than the PS4 and Xbox One, and that’s what the average consumer will notice when making comparisons. The standard bundle for the Wii U sits at $299 while its competitors are looking at $399 for the PS4 and $499 for the Xbox One. And this is all before we add in games that are seen in the more pricey bundles. Looking at it from the average consumer’s perspective, you can buy the Wii U and a couple new games to get you started, for less than a standard kit for either of the newest consoles. For any reason the Wii U were to lower its price, this would create an even stronger impact. Nintendo Life makes a good argument in saying,

“If you’re a parent or a casual consumer and you see a new Nintendo system that’s much cheaper from the flashy alternatives this Holiday, the possibility that you’ll lean to Wii U is very real.”


The Wii U cannot rival the hardware that comes packed into the PS4 and Xbox One. This is the truth. But what the Wii U lacks in specs, it makes up in innovation, and this is what may drive sales to the console. Nintendo has been on the forefront of originality with the Wii console; the Wii U is no exception.  It showed that, “innovation is not just about new experiences, but their form factor.”

While experienced gamers and industry experts saw a number of new experiences being unveiled before our eyes during E3, as well as details for the newest consoles, the mainstream audience may not have seen something so different. Everything is offered in HD 1080p and advanced graphics engines show us games that look and behave in a very realistic way.  But the biggest question is, if we continue along that same path, how far can we really go? Is there a new concept or is it just an enhancement of what is familiar to us? Former BioWare boss Greg Zeschuk stated,

“I worry a lot that unless Microsoft or Sony pull something magically out of a hat, it’s pretty much the same old, same old repackaged and I don’t think they’re going to change the dynamic of the retail market.”

Nintendo is taking a huge risk with their console, and lack of third party support to develop games on its system is hurting them significantly. But if sales take a turn this holiday because consumers decide to choose the more distinctive and unique Wii U, there is a slight chance that third-party support may change for the better with improved sales. It seems like a subtle factor, but the distinct difference in appearance (and functionality) for the Wii U from its predecessors in comparison to its competitors may be the selling point and potentially sway consumers.

Backwards compatibility

The PS4 and the Xbox One will not offer backwards-compatibility.  On the other hand, the Wii U is backwards-compatible with Wii games.  While this may not be an issue with some users, others may find this feature extremely attractive.  Having a large Wii game library, and looking at some of the newest games coming to the Wii U, it is a nice feature to be able to play all of those games on one console. For those that are newcomers to the Wii U, having the option to pick up older Wii games from a local Gamestop, (maybe bestsellers that you didn’t get the chance to play) can be great additions that give the console that added value.

Family Friendly

Last but not least, we cannot forget that the Wii U is a console that is built with a wide demographic is mind. This is what makes Nintendo very attractive: their ability to keep their loyal fanbase throughout the years and their ability to bring in new generations of gamers with a console that offers something for everyone.

“We invite gamers of all ages and ability levels to enjoy our platform.”

As an experienced gamer, I saw some excellent choices of games for both the Xbox One and PS4 that I would be dying to try once released.  But I am also an adult, and I found the majority of titles being unveiled for both the Microsoft and Sony E3 Press Conferences to be targeted to the older, experienced gamer crowd. If families, especially ones with younger children, are looking to invest in a new console, they have to take the game content into consideration.

Which console to get for the Holidays?

With numerous factors to evaluate, the average consumer will have to consider several console features before they make their decision. The Wii U should not be counted out, at least not yet. This holiday will be its true test to see how it stands up to the marketplace.

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Kristin Silver
Prior intern at Gameskinny, recent college grad from the DC metro area, my favorite games are Legend of Zelda, FFXIV, and Metal Gear Solid!