It's common knowledge that Wii U sales have lost momentum, worldwide, in the early months of 2013. After a promising set of launch figures, NPD results for North America in January and February have been low, Japanese sales are currently only beating Wii and Xbox 360 (which sells poorly in the region), and there have been leaks and suggestions of poor figures in European markets such as the UK.
Whatever your stance on the reasons behind this, the statistics don't lie, and even with major releases arriving in stores this week and in the near future — such as Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and LEGO City Undercover — retailers are understandably nervous about the below-par performance levels.
Some UK retail figures have been speaking to MCV on this subject, expressing fears about the situation and even stating that recent price promotions have failed to lead to a major up-turn of interest; ShopTo purchasing director James Rowson said the following.
We have taken the decision to reduce the price of the Basic Wii U to test the market and assess the impact of a price change for a short period of time. This has resulted in a smaller than desired increase in sales at this stage.
An unnamed top buyer for a major games retailer stated that shelf space hadn't necessarily been lost due to low demand but went on to add that it's a potential next step. "We are looking to reduce slightly but must admit their silence on strategy is deafening at the moment. They’ve got to do something otherwise it is GameCube all over again.”
While those of us that believe the upcoming lineup of games and improvements to Wii U will go a long way to reviving its fortunes, it'd be a mistake to be hostile or dismissive of retailer's fears. Without a prominent presence on the high street or online stores, Nintendo's image will suffer; it seems the UK branch of the company, however, has plans to bring retailers back on board, as a spokesperson explained to MCV.
We’ll be speaking to our retailers directly over the next few weeks to take them through our plans for building Wii U momentum over the course of 2013. We have a strong and broad line-up of software launching this year and we look forward to updating – and exciting – our partners over the coming weeks.
Whether you believe in the long term success of Wii U or not, current damage limitation and strong relationships with retailers are vital for the system's fortunes, so we wouldn't be surprised if similar meetings are taking place throughout Nintendo's regions.