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NPD numbers reveal how Nintendo has lost touch with reality

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Nintendo, I get that you're going through some hard times here, but can you please just own up to it? Yesterday, NPD issued its (perennially problematic) monthly sales data, detailing US retail game-industry sales for November. The big three have for years issued follow-on press releases, ones designed to spin the news in their favor. Usually, the tenor of these communique fall somewhere between raging enthusiasm and an always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life attitude. Yesterday, though, Nintendo apparently felt a psychotic break was in order.

"In looking at these results, two things are indisputable," said Nintendo of America's Scott Moffitt, the VP of S&M (y'know, Sales & Marketing--get your head out of the gutter). "Our hardware is gaining momentum at the exact right time and our software catalog is stronger than ever.” Moffitt is making reference to the fact that Wii U hardware sales were up 340 percent month-over-month, though no hard numbers were offered.

Now, there's a couple problems here. First, the idea that month-over-month sales figures have any bearing on anything is preposterous. As any financial analyst will tell you, its year-over-year numbers that offer any sort of true insight into growth trajectory, especially in an industry as cyclical as video games. Deep discounts, combined with a general air of Black Friday consumerism, have and always will lead to bigger sales in November than October. It's like bragging about the increased sales of your tomato harvest, glossing over the fact that, last month, those tomatoes were all unripe.

It's a point so obvious it scarcely bears mentioning--making it all the more bizarre that Nintendo would hang its hat on that "victory." That said, the publisher certainly isn't going to tout the Wii U's true year-over-year change. The math here isn't pretty. Though Nintendo conveniently left out specific sales figures for November, IGN reports that the Wii U shifted just 222,000 units last month. If that figure is true, then year-over-year sales for the Wii U are down nearly 50% from last November, when the Wii U launched. (Incidentally, it also confirms reports from last month that indicated the Wii U sold just 50,000 units in October.)

Problem two has to do with Moffitt's assertion that now is the "exact right time" when Wii U hardware should be gaining momentum. For one, if sales are down in the neighborhood of 50% year-over-year, that isn't exactly momentum. Quite the opposite, actually. And on a more semantic level, what does the "right time" mean, exactly? Is Moffitt saying that NOA planned this all along, to have Wii U sales languish until just before the holiday shopping season?

What good is this statement other than to mislead, to obfuscate? Nintendo certainly has problems right now. Its got a problem with a lack of games. Its got a problem with a lack of next-gen hardware. Now, its problem seems to be that it lacks a firm grasp on reality. Touting imaginary victories is not going to get it back in the console race, and it's certainly not going to get more people to buy the Wii U.

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50 comments

  • SnakeinmyBoot - December 17, 2013 6:04 p.m.

    It would have helped if Nintendo came up wit a better name to differentiate it from the Wii. Their marketing has been horrible for the last couple years. Even the 3DS got hit with it. I, as another customer, had to tell a couple people that the 3DS will play DS games and the 2DS will play DS and 3DS games just not in Eye-Bleed-o-Vison. Ninty, your names confuse people; that's one of the reasons the Wii U is doing bad. No is wants to buy lil' Timmy a Wii U; they think he got one back in 2007. As for the hardcore crowd, there is little to entice them. All I see is games for Mario Fans, an ok Sonic game, a remake of a Zelda that reeeeeeallllllly did not need a remake this soon(or all that bloom), and Pikmin 3. Nintendo hasn't made a decent Metroid title since '07. They hopefully are working on that because the next Zelda and Pikmin are the only reasons I'd put off buying a new video card. Nintendo is digging this thing DEEP into a rut, far past the Vita's. They are too arrogant to see this. They should learn from their own mistakes with the 3DS and the steps they took solve it's problems. A price drop or a couple major AAA exclusives(3rd party or not) is what this thing needs.
  • -Saatkvss- - December 16, 2013 4:59 p.m.

    Anybody feeling persuasive? i would like someone, preferably a ninty fanboy, to tell me why i should buy a wii u. but first i should disclose some info about my gaming tastes. i own a 360 and a ps3. between the two i own roughly 200 games. my tastes in sp ranges from skyrim, the tomb raider reboot (anybody else love that game, but hate the way square runs their business ?), and bioshock. my mp preferences include: any battlefield, any cod, and less popular mp-centic titles like payday 2 and brink. i also appreciate smaller downloadable titles like from dust, deadlight,and bloodforge (don't hate- it wasn't that bad!) i think this establishes that i appreciate games that arent mindless shooters filled with "bald space marines".all that being said, i haven't cared about mario since i was 8. i have no interest in donkey kong or metroid. given my love for the god of war meets zelda mashup that is the darksiders franchise (i love darksiders) its reasonable to suggest that zelda is a title worthy of buying a wii u. it also has not escaped my attention that bayonetta 2 is a ninty exclusive. i still don't feel as if these 2 justify a purchase. how many of the aforementioned titles (mp included ) and any potential sequel's to said games can i expect to enjoy, (in ALL their glory, not shitty ports) on the wii u? on a sidenote, i would like to acknowledge that whomever coined the detestable phrase "bald space marines" should suffer the same fate as prometheus, substituting the vulture for the 3D ninty monstrosity from the 90's (was it gameboy vision?), and having their liver eaten every day, only to grow back the next day replaced with daily 8 hour genuine 90's cutting edge 3D tech gaming sessions? RETORT?
  • Pillfy - December 16, 2013 5:56 p.m.

    I like Nintendo (and Sony and Microsoft), but the Wii U is not a good fit for you. There will likely only be a few exclusive games for it that fit your tastes during it's entire lifetime. I mean, by all means keep your eye on it if you want to, to see what happens, but I definitely would not jump on one right now if I were you.
  • HAMMERCLAW - December 16, 2013 4:37 p.m.

    Foe the last twenty years, Nintendo's handheld tail has wagged the console dog, except for a few brief years when the dog woke up and cried Wii, Wii, all the way to the bank.
  • MonsterBeatle - December 16, 2013 11:46 a.m.

    They're not doing great on sales, but in my opinion, they are the best for games! Super Mario 3D World, New Super Mario Bros U and other multiplats
  • Pillfy - December 16, 2013 11:41 a.m.

    In the linked to article where you got the data, it says "Vita sales went unmentioned." Exactly. Because Vita is DEAD. Sony needs to admit defeat and just close up shop. They clearly have no clue what they are doing.
  • josue-santos - December 16, 2013 8:07 a.m.

    I recently Purchased the Wii U and it has been a blast. I will always have a nintendo console and one "Next Gen" Console. At the moment it will be the playstation 4, as i value the single player experience over multiplayer. Nintendo should not feel the need to change what they are already doing. They need to continue being original and continue to deliver incredibly fun games. I leave my "Hardcore" games to be played on the playstation. If i want to have a blast with friends and family at home, i pick up the wii u!
  • Pillfy - December 14, 2013 9:48 p.m.

    Nintendo: Two systems. One selling really well; one selling really poorly. Sony: Two systems. One selling really well; one selling really poorly. Conclusion: Nintendo: Doomed! Sony: Doing great! Where are all the articles slamming Sony for the performance of the Vita?
  • Cyberninja - December 15, 2013 10:03 a.m.

    Well logically speaking everything sells well at launch the question is how long will it keep up once people start getting it
  • Dadyo238 - December 15, 2013 10:05 a.m.

    Because Sony doesn't try to sugar-coat it's failures. Nintendo is talking as if nothing is wrong, as if they will have as big a success with the Wii U as they did with the Wii, while simply releasing game after game without much else. Sony is actually taking some action, with the semi-recent price drop, and remote play, which I think will help out the sales by a lot. Nintendo is still the little kid it was in the 80s, thinking that it can do anything and sell anything, just because its Nintendo. Don't get me wrong, I love Nintendo, and own a Wii U myself. They just really need to be frank with its fans about stuff like this.
  • Divine Paladin - December 16, 2013 11:03 a.m.

    I distinctly remember Sony sugar coating the Vita for the past two years. That aside, Nintendo of America is the one you should wave fingers at. Nintendo of Japan has said straight-up "we're in a bad place, we're sorry, and we're working on it." Nintendo of America has always been insanely cocky, though, ignoring the facts and arguing, say, that Nintendo is fine because Sony doesn't have Mario. That's why I despise Reggie. He's a pompous asshole who loves to stir the pot and claim superiority. That said, this article is still purely Nintendo bashing because right now that's cooler in this industry than bank bashing is in politics. There are several logic flaws in criticizing Nintendo's logic flaws. Not only does it point out that NPD is irrelevant, it also ignores the statement it made that EVERYONE blindly focuses on false positives for NPD numbers. Seriously, GR is better than this. I didn't see a single reference to how 3DW sold 220K in the US in eight days (somewhere in the tune of at least 10% of the US install base), nor anything mentioning the whole thing about how the PS4 and Xbox One launched in the same month as when Nintendo pushed 800K 3DS consoles and 220K Wii Us in the US. With a big lack of Black Friday sales discounts on the U, even that much surprises me (likely due to the price cut, natch). Anyway, I'm rambling now. The point is that in the face of the biggest launches of all time, we saw near-record-breaking numbers for the 3DS and good Wii U numbers. With the U allegedly at the top of kids' Christmas lists (I don't believe it but analysts keep claiming that), I'm not concerned about the U nor its doomsday following. I hate defending one side because it makes me feel fanboyish but I can't stand these Fox Newsesque attacks on the U.
  • Divine Paladin - December 16, 2013 12:15 p.m.

    ...I think this posted on the wrong comment thread. This was supposed to reply to Dadyo238.
  • wober2 - December 18, 2013 12:52 p.m.

    i agree I really dislike Reggie and NoA. They give nintendo the "kiddie" context based on ads and the type of games they localize.
  • Aquasol - December 15, 2013 2:47 p.m.

    Simple: Western gaming media for the most part wants Nintendo to fail hard until they either surrender everything to Sony/MSFT, or they "give up" and start westernizing by scrapping the Wii U and releasing a console that'll do everything the competition does, as if that'd fix some imaginary problem through bald space marines. Say what you will about Nintendo-- at least they're still making lots of money, and haven't resorted to rebranding the Wii U as a $200+ glorified controller with four missing buttons for another piece of hardware.
  • TPoppaPuff - December 16, 2013 12:40 a.m.

    Nobody's asking for bald space marines; people just want a machine that's competitive. Unless you only want two or three Nintendo games a year and nothing else, the Wii U is hard to justify at anything above $200. The Wii U has can't play current gen multiplatform games and struggles with past gen games compared to 360/PS3. Nobody wants Nintendo to start making games everybody else makes; people just want to also be able to play non-Nintendo games as well. If you have a limited budget for gaming, the Wii U can't be your main console going forward because of the lack of games. And at $300-350 or truthfully anything above $200, it's too expensive as a secondary console.
  • Dadyo238 - December 16, 2013 9:16 p.m.

    Well, with the rebranding part, all they marketed was basically the controller. Hell, a lot of people didn't even know there was a console part to it.
  • TPoppaPuff - December 16, 2013 12:32 a.m.

    #1: Sony isn't touting the Vita sales as a victory. #2: Sony sold more home consoles in one day than Nintendo did all year. OK maybe not quite, but truthfully it's pretty damn close at this point. By the end of January there will be more PS4s purchased than there will be Wii Us, and the PS4 isn't even out in Japan until February.
  • jason-gumshoe-mcdermott - December 16, 2013 4:34 a.m.

    Because your main console is always going to be more important than your handheld. Plus sony has 3 consoles at the moment, improve your math.
  • clownferret - December 17, 2013 2:04 a.m.

    plus there is no mention that Wii U outsold PS4 in the same period. Is it any wonder Wii U is not selling when all you read about it on the internet is negative press.
  • Outofmanyone - December 14, 2013 2:39 p.m.

    Well, when you don't give the public numbers.. something isn't right. I purchased the PS4 and the Wii U at launch and to be fair, I barely use either of them. I use my PC, PS3, or 3DS the most. Now, I'm finally using the Wii U again to play through SM3DW and I really enjoy keeping the pad by my bed and playing through it before I sleep, being able to play games remotely is still the Wii U biggest selling feature in my opinion but the problem is.. Nintendo--as far as I know--does not advertise this feature, virtually nobody in the casual market knows about this feature and I've asked people that own a Wii if they knew about the Wii U and of course they haven't. My uncle thought it was a tablet add-on for the Wii and you can't blame the guy because that's what it looks and sounds like. The name should have been something like Wii 2" so there wouldn't be so much confusion but can't change that now. We need Nintendo's magic in this industry, I love the games they put out but they need to stress the main selling points of the Wii U to the public, not just "we hope it catches on" and do so before it's too late. Nintendo shareholders are not going to be happy when they see that the goal of 9 million units sold is not met..

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