Reggie Fils-Aime, the friendly public face of Nintendo has been trying to explain away the WiiU sales figures – by drawing some dodgy comparisons.
Speaking to the Seattle Times, Reggie defended the WiiU’s reputation as an ailing platform. He said:
“The dirty little secret is if you look at life-to-date numbers, between Sony and Nintendo they’d be pretty close in terms of PS4 vs. Wii U, with Xbox coming in third place. I think it’s going to be a three-horse race for the balance of this cycle.”
That’s some superb turd polishing. According to MCV, the PS4 has sold 7m, Xbox One 5m and the WiiU is on 6.17m as of early May. Whilst this isn’t bad, there’s one crucial difference: The WiiU has been out for 17 months, whereas the PS4 and Xbox One are just getting started.
Taking today (16th June 2014) as a yardstick we can estimate the rate that consoles are sold. Since the WiiU release in the US (its first territory) on November 18th 2012, there has been 563 days pass – so that works out as about 10,730 WiiU units sold every day.
For PS4 it works out as about 32864 units per day, over 213 days. For Xbox One’s 206 days that’s 24272 units per day.
Obviously these numbers are only estimates based on available data, and sales won’t be completely evenly spread because of Christmas/etc – but it shows the mountain that Nintendo need to climb, with the Xbox One currently actually selling about twice as well.
Think of it like this: If you had £100 and I had only £50, but was receiving £10/week versus your £5/week.. who’s really earning more?
But there’s one thing we haven’t considered: the games industry isn’t static. A good game can change the rate at which sales are achieved. Could major releases turn things around? Reggie described the forthcoming WiiU line-up:
“We are now at that point of having a great regular pace of software: “Mario Kart 8,” then it’s going to be “Hyrule Warriors,” then it’s going to be “Bayonetta 2″ with “Bayonetta” packed in, then it’s going to be “Smash Bros” for Wii U, then the “Captain Toad” game, then we’ve got all of that great 2015 content.”
The WiiU and its competitors are at different points in their product life-cycles. When a console launches all it has to sell itself is a handful of games and as much hype as it can muster. Whilst the PS4 and Xbox One have relatively slim catalogues of games at the moment, both are at the start of their life.
The WiiU, by contrast, is almost two years in and is still a desert. Worse still is the product pipeline: whilst Microsoft and Sony have tonnes of games coming out – both first and third party, the WiiU has… little first party and third party is essentially non-existent.
This isn’t just editorialising – the numbers speak for themselves. In the recent E3 press conferences Microsoft demo’d 39 games, Sony 42 and Nintendo… 12. And of the forthcoming games – how many could be described as “system sellers” – games that people would fork out for the whole console to play? Does Nintendo have a Watch Dogs or a Titanfall? Whilst Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros will provide WiiU sales with an inevitable uptick… Umm… is anyone going to be splashing out big just so they can play Captain Toad?
So whilst the current sales figures – the week after Mario Kart 8’s release – might seem pretty encouraging, there’s very few reasons to assume that this sort of success will continue. The Mario Kart bump will not last forever – and there is scant evidence of future bumps to come.
So be careful – though everyone likes Reggie, it wouldn’t be wise to trust his analysis if you want to know what is actually happening in the console race.
By James O'Malley | June 16th, 2014