sales


Leaked numbers from NPD's latest report on US game hardware sales suggest consumers aren't scrambling for new systems from Sony and Nintendo. Numbers obtained and confirmed by sources in a position to know on gaming forum NeoGAF suggest the Wii U sold only 67,000 units in the US during the five weeks running from March 3 through April 6.

The leaked numbers continue a disappointing 2013 for Nintendo's newest system, which sold an estimated 50,000 US units in January and roughly 64,000 in February. This is after the system sold a decent 890,000 units during the 2012 holiday launch season last November and December.

For comparison, the Wii U is so far selling about 28 percent slower than the GameCube did in the five months after launching in November 2001, and about 50 percent slower than the Nintendo 64 and the original Wii did in their first five months. The Wii U is only about 10 percent behind the cumulative US sales numbers put up by the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 five months into their life cycles, however.

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We've known since late January that Nintendo had scaled back expectations for the early 2013 performance of its recently launched Wii U. But now, US sales numbers for the system in first month of the year are beginning to leak out and it's clear that Nintendo's latest system is suffering from a monumental post-holiday slump.

While NPD no longer releases US hardware sales data every month, a representative for the tracking firm told Gamasutra that US sales in the system's first three months were down 38 percent compared to the same period for the Wii. That would mean the Wii U has sold approximately 940,000 units through January in the US.

Combine that with the 890,000 Wii U units Nintendo has said were sold in November and December of 2012, and you get a US sales figure of about 50,000 in January alone. That gels with reports from others sources with access to NPD's internal data, who claim the Wii U sold "well under" 100,000 units for the month.

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Since Nintendo announced yesterday that it is cutting back Wii U sales projections, some consumers began to wonder if the system, which currently starts at $300, would see a price cut sooner rather than later. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata threw cold water on those hopes today, telling investors that such a price cut would not be forthcoming.

"With Wii U, we have taken a rather resolute stance in pricing it below its manufacturing cost, so we are not planning to perform a markdown," Iwata said in translated remarks. "I would like to make this point absolutely clear. We are putting our lessons from Nintendo 3DS to good use, as I have already publicly stated. However, given that it has now become clear that we have not yet fully communicated the value of our product, we will try to do so before the software lineup is enhanced and at the same time work to enrich the software lineup which could make consumers understand the appeal of Wii U." (Links added for context.)

Translated from corporate speak, the message is clear: "The Wii U isn't too expensive, we just haven't done a good job convincing enough people why it's worth the price."

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While the Wii U won't be an instant flop like the Virtual Boy, sales projections released by Nintendo today show it probably won't match the runaway sales success of the original Wii, either.

Nintendo sold 3.06 million Wii U units worldwide from its November launch through the end of 2012. That's nearly as much as the 3.19 million units of the original Wii Nintendo sold back in the 2006 holiday season.

But Nintendo doesn't think it can keep that momentum up. Back in October, the company said it expected to sell 5.5 million Wii U units through the end of March. That number has now been cut down to 4 million, meaning Nintendo expects to sell fewer than a million systems worldwide in the first three months of 2013.

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eBay user 23blueryno more than doubled his investment on a launch day Wii U pre-order.

Preorders for Nintendo's upcoming Wii U sold out at every major retailer almost immediately after they were first offered in mid-September, but you can still guarantee yourself access to the system just after its November 18 launch. You'd better be ready to pay quite a bit extra for the privilege, though.

Completed eBay listings dating back to Sept. 20 show resold preorders for the 32GB "Deluxe" system (which comes with a copy of NintendoLand and some accessories) selling for an average of $517, 48 percent higher than the $350 retail price. The eBay markup is significantly less for the 8GB "Basic" system, which is averaging $348 in pre-sale auctions, or just 16 percent above the $300 asking price. That doesn't include pricy shipping for some of the auctions, or auctions that bundle the system with games and further accessories.

One lucky eBay reseller convinced someone to pay $749 for his launch-day Deluxe system—a high price, but not nearly as ridiculous as the $1,550 one Buy It Now seller tried (and failed) to get for his Basic system preorder. On the other end of the scale, a couple of savvy eBay shoppers actually managed to purchase preorders at below retail price, no doubt to the chagrin of the resellers.

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The transition from one hardware generation to the next is never an easy time for a console maker's balance sheet, as sales of the old system start to taper off and investment in a new system has yet to pay off. Still, there are signs that Nintendo is handling the transition worse than could be expected.

The company reported financial results (PDF) for the quarter ending June 30 today that showed revenues plunging nearly 10 percent from last year, to ¥84.8 billion (about $1.08 billion). And while the net loss of ¥17.2 billion ($220 million) for the quarter was actually an improvement from last year's performance, it's still a worrisome sign for a company that had been consistently profitable for decades until just last year.

The main culprit continues to be drastic declines in sales of its most-popular console. Nintendo sold only 710,000 Wiis in the three-month period from April to June, less than half the 1.6 million moved during the same time last year, and well down from the record-setting pace of a few years ago. Nintendo is counting on a strong launch for the Wii U to help turn things around: the company expects its two home consoles to combine to sell over 10.5 million units for the fiscal year, which ends next March.

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