Industry tracking firm NPD has released some details for December sales in the US, and they provide some solid news for Nintendo, even if the absence of an official press release from the company — at the time of writing — suggests a cautious reaction to the results.
The major positive for Nintendo in the hardware stakes is that the 3DS family of systems was confirmed to have "topped overall hardware sales for Dec. 2013 and for 2013 as a whole", according to NPD's Liam Callaghan, a theme very much following on from Nintendo of America's recent boasts of record-setting 3DS sales in 2013. No precise number is available for December, but it will be above the 908,000 Xbox One units that Microsoft has asserted as the highest selling home console figures for the month; estimates are, naturally, around the one million mark.
As for Wii U, it has shown the correct momentum, with Callaghan saying that "hardware sales of the Wii U were also positive with December 2013 marking its highest month for unit sales... so far"; that means it passed the previous monthly high of 463,000 units — again, these are US numbers only. Some are estimating around 500,000 units, but that's merely speculation at this point.
Overall games industry headline figures for the US territory as a whole show December's figures up 2% on 2012, though that was heavily reliant on hardware sales jumping 28%. For 2013 as a whole, however, the industry figures showed a drop of 2% on 2012; bear in mind that NPD only covers new physical retail games, for example, so factors such as download sales and the second-hand market aren't represented. Random stat of the year has to go to Just Dance 2014 being the 8th-biggest selling game in the US for the whole of 2013, with the Wii (not a typo, we mean Nintendo's last-gen system) having the top-selling version. The December and 2013 software charts were devoid of single-platform games with the exception of Minecraft on the Xbox 360.
From Nintendo's perspective it can consider a successful month (and year) for the 3DS, and the Wii U's best monthly performance to date in the US. Due to the coyness and absence of firm figures from Nintendo so far (and Sony, for that matter), we may need to wait until Nintendo's financial reports at the close of January to see how the Wii U is performing, overall, around the world. We'd expect a formal announcement (already suggested on the Twittersphere) that the target of nine million Wii U sales for the year will be reduced.
In summary the 3DS continues to perform strongly in an increasingly diverse handheld / portable market — considering the role of smart devices — while the Wii U, at the very least, moved in the right direction over the Holiday season in the US. If Nintendo issues a statement on the NPD results we'll provide an update.