The PS Vita Outsold Wii U in Japan Last Week, What’s Nintendo’s Next Move?

Posted on February 28, 2013 1:30 PM by Rob Williams

Well before the Wii U’s launch, I would have laughed out loud if someone predicted a headline like: “PS Vita outsells Wii U”. But it’s happened. In Japan, Sony’s PS Vita is getting a price-drop, and it’s assumed that some retailers decided to jump the gun in order to attract immediate business. That lead to the Vita selling 11,456 units over the last week, while Nintendo’s latest console pushed a mere 9,633. With the Vita to get its price-drop more wide-spread this week, it’s expected that the next report will lean even heavier in Sony’s favor.

In the same week, Sony’s PS3 sold 18,529 units, while Nintendo’s 3DS sat happily on top with 74,729.

The important thing to note about these numbers is that they encompass only a single country – so where does North America stand? For those numbers, we paid a visit to VGChartz, which publishes extremely thorough reports. While I don’t believe the weeks line-up, the numbers are still useful.

Wii U and Controller

Compared to Japan, the scaling is quite different. The Wii U in NA sold 11,636 last week, versus 6,512 for the PS Vita. On one hand, it seems a bit strange that the Wii U only sold a few more over Japan despite having 3x the population, but we can see it was the original Wii that helped level things out. That sold 12,929 units, whereas Japan only saw 1,677 make their way off the shelves.

What we can take away from this is obvious. Nintendo needs to step things up. One of the flagship titles for the Wii U, Pikmin 3, doesn’t even have a release date, and since the console’s launch, announcements have been made that the company will be re-releasing older titles with improved graphics – Zelda: Wind Waker is one example. While this is awesome if you are a fan of these games, it’s not exactly the way you should go about promoting your next-generation console.

Pikmin 3 Wii U

Some speculate that one of the biggest reasons the Wii U hasn’t been such a knock-out success is due to its name – and I have a hard time disagreeing. Wii U sounds like an add-on for the original Wii, not a brand-new console. It’s much easier to understand the generational differences between “PS2″, “PS3″ and “PS4″, for example. Of course, the chance of Nintendo renaming its console is nil.

The company could amp up marketing, but that just sounds like a money sink. All of the solutions point to a single, major issue: the console doesn’t have enough attractive games. The original Wii suffered the same, as Brett once talked in-depth about. Are people just not willing to be fooled again? Seems reasonable enough to believe.

  • Stetson Smith

    I feel like the the WiiU is the dreamcast of today. So many innovations that people will be ripping off for a generation+ but no real traction in the market now.

  • The Focus Elf

    I agree with Stetson in part, it is a nice console, but I bought it, fully aware of the limitations for the kids. You can’t put a price on a game a 2 year old can play (Mario in Burst mode or whatever its cold, laying down blocks all over the place) and that a 5 year old can learn on (An Xbox control flatout confuses him something fierce, hell I can never get my LT and LB right). Good job Vita, but the other option was buying the kids iPad Minis.

    • The Focus Elf

      Maybe the other criticisms are right, that consoles are a dying breed, but heck, I still think the motor/spacial skills a child can learn on these things are invaluable.

      • Marfig

        Consoles may die. I suspect they will in fact. But controllers are here to stay.

        • The Focus Elf

          No disagreement here Marfig, It is another reason I’m holding off on any further computer purchases. The market needs to right itself… Also, while it is easy to spend money on PCs, from watercooling to $1000+ GPUs, if “Rage” is any indication, developers, even firms like id Software that got started on the PC are using the consoles for primary development, and the PC is getting “afterthought” treatment… annoyed.

  • Marfig

    “The company could amp up marketing, but that just sounds like a money sink. All of the solutions point to a single, major issue: the console doesn’t have enough attractive games.”

    There’s a game development crisis going on in Japan currently, where the old models just don’t seem to work much as before. I may have to dig up some articles on this, if anyone cares to know about it in more detail. The Wii probably suffers exactly from its approach to games and the fact the Japanese culture is changing on that regard.

    There’s a serious conundrum that Japanese developers are facing. On one hand their attempts at creating western culture games hasn’t been met with much success in Europe and USA. On the other hand their own market is starting to become too small for much more growth. European and USA companies compete on 4 continents. Japanese companies are starting to lose their edge on Europe and competing solely on Japan. Japanese high production values and carefully developed home games have lost their appeal in both the West as they are starting to lose in Japan itself.

    The real problem is that Japan corporate culture is having an hard time embracing the highly visible titles with low production values of western development culture (nice looking, fun, but riddled with bugs, poorly developed and essentially bad products from a corporate point of view). Western companies are notoriously bad development companies, specialized in producing low quality but highly visible products. Japanese are the exact opposite. Their attempts at mimicking Western titles have been alienating the already shrinking Japanese market, while not gathering success in the West.

    A few key Japanese developers have been addressing this problem in the past. Keiji Inafune in particular with his meme-like “Japan is over. We’re done. Our game industry is finished.” While many companies, many game developers and many gamers refuse to look at the truth, the fact is that Japan is in a tight spot. And they need to face it sooner or later. Last year Tokyo Game Show, once the biggest games convention in the planet, was a veritable attendance graveyard and where the biggest stand was… of a cellphone gaming company!

    Nintendo is facing this reality. No longer holding a relevant position in the West with its home gaming approach and also losing ground in Japan itself. The problem is that Nintendo is the dalai lama of Japan gaming. If they try to westernize their gaming offer, their success is questionable and they will deal the biggest blow to Japanese gaming culture ever heard about. If they don’t, Nintendo is going to die in a market that is becoming increasingly more open to western titles.

    • Rob Williams

      Good insight! I had no idea about any of that. I wish I could contribute back a detailed response but I am not sure what the solution really is. I just know that “back in the day” (SNES, N64), there were no shortage of quality games that people all over the world really enjoyed. I don’t think tastes have changed too much, but rather the game companies have, in trying to deliver what they THINK we want.

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