Wii U was expected to sell 100 million units

Nintendo talks about the failed console, and it now expects any new games to sell 2m units worldwide

In a recent investors Q&A session translated into English this week, Nintendo management addressed a host of issues about the state of its business, including the dismal performance of the Wii U. Naively, many people within the company expected the Wii U to sell close to 100 million units. The reality is it's only managed to sell a paltry 13 million units lifetime compared to the Wii's more than 100 million.

Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima commented, "In an internal sales representative meeting, someone projected that we would sell close to 100 million Wii U systems worldwide. The thinking was that because Wii sold well, Wii U would follow suit. I said that, since the Wii had already sold so well, we need to clearly explain the attraction of the Wii U if we are to get beyond that and sell the new system, and that this would be no easy task. I was responsible for selling the Wii U, and I knew what was good about it, so I talked with those in charge of sales about the importance of conveying the attractiveness of Wii U to consumers."

Shigeru Miyamoto still believes in the Wii U, but for now the top brass at Nintendo recognizes that it must do a better job with the NX. "It is true that we are having a hard time with Wii U sales, due to its price and the added fact that tablets are distributed free of charge in the market. I do think Wii U continues to be attractive as a media device that changes life in the living room. A similar challenge continues with NX," Miyamoto noted.

Kimishima added, "I am not currently able to talk about concrete figures for unit sales, but we are planning for NX to make up for falling Wii U sales. Software for NX will also contribute to sales and profit."

What form the NX ultimately takes is still anyone's guess, but Miyamoto dropped more hints about Nintendo's possible jump into VR/AR. "As for VR, we are researching not just VR but AR and many other technologies. We have a range of core technology including 3D, and we are also considering the possibility of implementing these in our own hardware development. For VR in particular, we are continuing our research, and looking into development with a mind to how our current core products are meant to be played for a relatively long period of time," he said.

"We are looking into the possibilities of providing an experience that gives value when played for a short time, and how to eliminate the concerns of long-duration use. We are also looking into how to make sure that a parent doesn't need to worry when their child puts on a VR device in their living room. At this year's E3, I was on the show floor, and it did not feel like VR was that big of a topic. This could be because VR is not that much to look at for the spectator, even while it might be highly appreciated for the person actually experiencing it. It might also not be clear how the experience can be made into a product."

Another interesting point that Miyamoto made during the Q&A is that Nintendo can do a much better job in leveraging its incredible stable of IP. There's clearly potential for the company to use the IP for entertainment beyond games, and that could do a lot to keep Nintendo relevant.

"Video content is a really interesting area for us. Going forward, it is extremely important for Nintendo to move beyond the limits of game systems and make good use of its character resources in order for Nintendo not to be forgotten," Miyamoto said. "Nintendo has a variety of characters. That one company has all the rights to so many characters is something that is recognized as unprecedented. To avoid any misunderstandings, we have never said that we will produce a movie. We have talked about our expansion into video and other areas, but we are not saying anything official about the details. What I can say is that video is one of the business areas where Nintendo is making good use of its IP. Three years ago I created an about 20-minute video content of Pikmin's short movie, and just recently I made a 15-minute PR movie for Star Fox Zero. These were made in association with video production companies.

"We can make video content by mostly leveraging the knowledge and capabilities of outside companies. For the production of those two short films, I was basically the only person from Nintendo involved. Nintendo needs to make a lot more products, but when a company gets too big, it faces continual problems nurturing its employees. Besides video content, we have begun to provide Nintendo characters for theme park attractions through a basic agreement with Universal Parks & Resorts. By working on development with others outside of Nintendo, I am working actively to expand the number of Nintendo products. These projects will take time to bear fruit, but they are something to look forward to."

Moving forward with the business, Miyamoto said that Nintendo has to aim higher with its software sales in order to succeed. "...while it's important that we do not overextend by putting an excessive amount of content in our games, the only solution is how to make software that sells well. There will be big hits somewhere in our business, and they support the games that fail and allow us to take on other challenges. So our basic premise is to create software that will sell in the range of at least two million units. We simply couldn't recoup our costs if we only released games in Japan that had sales of around 300,000 units, so the global market is our standard," he explained.

Check out the full Q&A for more comments from Nintendo's executives.

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Latest comments (13)

"Naively, many people within the company expected the Wii U to sell close to 100 million units. The reality is it's only managed to sell a paltry 13 million units lifetime"

Sigh... I could have told them that like a year before the launch. And so could have many other people in the industry. It is interesting how a company that used to be one of the biggest in games industry now seems to be a dinosaur with no clue about how the industry has changed. It goes beyond their game systems too.

Granted they have huge catalogue of game characters that are (were?) well-known by all gamers. Still, they churn out games with obsolete designs, the abysmally bad Star Fox Zero being a prime example. There was nothing good in that game and the only reason it managed to get Metacritic of 69 was the fact that many reviewers and game medias always cut some slack for Nintendo games.

They have over 5000 people in the company. What they should do is take a bold step on mobile. Found a task force of 100 people or subsidiary company that has full access to all the Nintendo IP and let them operate independently.

In related story, research firm DFC Intelligence does not seem to have a clue either:

DFC suggesting that Nintendo should swoop in to grab the "underserved under-12 market (with their new NX console)" makes it clear that DFC too does not understand the market of today. Under-12's are not underserved. They have more games than they can play in their lifetime on mobile already, with 500 more coming every day. Why would their parents buy their kids a console when they have already bought them mobile phones? And why would the kids want to jump from mobile, where everyone is always connected to others, to a console?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kim Soares on 7th July 2016 5:12pm

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Mariusz Kowalski 2D/3D artist, researcher 5 years ago
Eh, people shouldn't worry about Nintendo, they'll do fine and be around long after Mobile companies that churn out throwaway garbage like Tiny Troopers disappear.
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Drew Dewsall Editor, Game4Anything5 years ago
Wii U was a sad disaster, it's a wonderful console that unfortunately looks and sounds far too much like its predecessor. The standard Wii user couldn't have told the difference. Also by the time the Wii U was released most Wii's had been relegated to dust collectors and move nearly every sofa in the UK and you'll find a stashed balance board somewhere.

What Nintendo need to do is stop cocking about and get at least 2 games out a year featuring their big selling IP's. One Mario/Mariokart a generation is simply not good enough, nor is a single Zelda. They have so many wonderful IP's and their games are always (almost) a joy to play but they are so few and far between it's painful for a company that size. Even without 3rd party support a more regular release schedule of their own IP's would see sales soar even if people were buying the machine as a 2nd console.

On top of that, ditch the Wii brand or any other stupid name and go back to using Nintendo in the name.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 5 years ago
Nintendo needs to have more conversations about the cafeteria, kook-aid needs to come off the menu.

As I've been saying for a decade. They never figured out the Wii was a fad people bought to bowl on. Once that got boring, 80 million of them went in the closet.

Nintendo has lost continuity with kids. While today's children don't give a rats about Mickey, they know who it is, and while they want lighting McQueen, Buzz Lightyear, and Frozen it doesn't matter because the new has stepped up over the old. The good thing is that the new head hasstarted to make the connections with companies like Universal to try to make their IP relevant to the last two generations of kids. Releasing the NX is probably a waste of money, but I feel it will serve the purpose of allowing him to lock and. Load on abandoning hardware in favor of mobile and hopefully a sweetheart Third party deal. They won't be getting these kind of offers in another ten years, and that pile of cash only lasts so long.
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Jason Sartor Copy editor/Videographer, Florida Today5 years ago
Is this supposed to be a joke or hyperbole?

Yes, the Wii U is a sales flop., but looking at the pas two generations, of sales, Nintendo is still a major player:
Wii 101 million, Wii U 13 million, DS 154 million, 3DS 59 million.
PS3 85 million appx, PS4 40 million, PSP 82 million, PS Vita 13 million
Xbox 360 80 million (and how many of those are replacement boxes?) Xbox One 20 million apxp.
One dud in the past 10 years, the sales numbers do not lie, they are still a major player and sell along with anybody.
As the Wii "won" the home console race and then their two handhelds won the portable space, that would be "winning" 3 of 4 in the past 10 years.

As for people not knowing their IP anymore, Seriously?!
Mario Kart Wii 36.75 million sold
New Super Mario Bros. Wii 29.79 million
Super Smash Bros. Brawl 13.10 mil
SM Galaxy 12.69 mil.
Mario Kart 8 7.5 mil
NSMBU 5.19 mil
Splatoon 4.27 mil
NSMB 30.80 mil
Pokemon Diamond/Pearl 17.63 mil.
Pokemon XY 14.7 mil.
And Zelda seemed to show pretty well at e3, so I would say people know the IP.

As for saying they have antiquated design - how do you figure? They make both 3D and 2D games that are great in the Mario franchise, Zelda Breath of Wild is a return to open world design, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is another master of 2D design.
Also, you contradict yourself by saying Nintendo's design is antiquated, while bemoaning the fact that Star Fox didn't have traditional design controls. And Kirby also used the stylus and second screen on the Wii U. The Wii used motion controls and the 3DS uses AR. Part of Nintendo's problem for most people is their design is not antiquated enough. A lot of what they do is too far out and away from the standard design.
In addition, their take on online shooters with Splatoon was anything but antiquated and has been a great success and breath of fresh in the shoot space.

Also, how can you say Nintendo doesn't understand mobile? As noted above, their portable games systems have been outstanding sellers and sell huge volumes of premium games at premium prices. They get portable gaming. Their mobile strategy is coming along as Miitomo has been a huge download success so far and Pokemon GO is already catching on (no pun intended) (also using AR) and will most likely be a huge success.

Lastly, just because people have access to more games than they can play doesn't mean they are high quality. There is more music in this world than I can listen too, so nobody should make anymore, and I should never listen to a song I like more than once because then I won't be able to listen to all the different songs I don't like. And I should never get a high-quality music system to listen to music when I can just listen to music on a low-end device with bad quality. Plus gaming on a 3.5 inch screen is so much better than a 50-inch ultra HD 4k experience w/ surround sound. Why would I ever want a Ferrari when I already have a Toyota. Clearly, two Honda Civics are better than one LaFerrari.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
Naively, many people within the company expected the Wii U to sell close to 100 million units.
I hope none of them bet any real money on that. The Wii U was never properly marketed and to this day there are still people who think it's an add on to the Wii. It will go down as one of Nintendo's worst console failures.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee5 years ago
The Wii U is far from terrible, but I simply can't understand that figure.
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Richard Sutton Studying Bachelor of Science - Computing and I.T., Open University5 years ago
The Wii U is a brilliantly designed console. The price may seem a little high but is a worthy investment considering the library (which started off better than most people appreciated). The worst problem was marketing. The name 'Wii U' is a prime example of this. And because people just picked up a Wiimote and understood, Nintendo seemed to think the same would be the case with the Wii U, but the obvious advantages of the tablet are too few.
Anyone who actually used the Wii U, played games on the screen on the sofa, headphones in, then swapped to the T.V. and played as 'Murphy' in Rayman Origins understands the advantages of the screen. However, from their software, Nintendo obviously didn't know what to do, playing incredibly safe with most of its major IPs (to the point of ignoring the tablet) and realeasing far too few 'proof of concepts', far too late. That the launch included both NintendoLand and Wario mini-game collections, when putting them together or even bundling them with every console would have been more sensible considering the content, just shows how out of focus Nintendo were. Pikmin 3 somehow got lost to the side (and to be honest, combing the tablet with the wiimote and nunchuck was much more comfortable than the tablet alone) and what should have been proof of concept system savers came too late (Splatoon and Mario Maker).
Add the fact that Nintendo, being the games focused company we all know and love, dropped the ball when it came to implementing and advertising planned video entertainment features, which I think is a little advertised but greatly appreciated plus in the tablets' favour (as screen, sound and remote), Nintendo should have really had a better approach to sales strategy.
Maybe it's easy to say in hindsight, but Nintendo have performed poorly when it comes to advertising (in Europe at least) this last decade. Unfortunatley, in our current society, advertising is twice as important than quality.
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Lee Sheldon Professor of Practice, Worcester Polytechnic Institute5 years ago
"Nintendo has a variety of characters. That one company has all the rights to so many characters is something that is recognized as unprecedented."

Not by Disney.
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matthew bennion Web Development 5 years ago
I'm going to make a wild prediction that Nintendo are making the NX very AR driven more so than the current 3DS?
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 5 years ago
Console 1 = all the rage due to its gimmick
Console 2 = not so much
Solution: conveying the attractiveness of Wii U to consumers, i.e PR

I am glad, it did not work.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
That prediction was likely made long before the failed system unveiling and marketing.
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Richard Browne Head of External Projects, Digital Extremes5 years ago
The minute they went with an nonstandard controller for all players they jumped the shark. Nintendo's consoles are home to family friendly co-op gaming. Even though I know a lot of people who aren't bothered by the Gamepad/Wii controller combo from a marketing perspective they put a huge barrier between them and their consumer. One of the daftest things I've ever seen.
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