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Summary:

NPD has released a September report that shows great news for Nintendo, but against a slow period for its larger rivals. Can its sales strategy keep the business going?

Nintendo3DSWiiU
photo: Nintendo

After a rough couple of years, Nintendo should be patting itself on the back. The latest sales report by NPD on gaming industry sales for the month of September, picked up by Joystiq, shows that not only is the Nintendo 3DS the top-selling device (both handheld and console) for the fifth month in a row, but the Wii U has seen its sales triple thanks to a new price cut and the release of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD.

It may be short-lived, due to the impending releases of new consoles from Sony and Microsoft for the holidays, but NPD’s sales history shows just how different Nintendo’s sales patterns are compared to those two companies. Instead of the high-impact splash and “Day One” madness that Xbox and Playstation releases tend to generate, both the 3DS and Wii U have benefited from the long game, gaining sales over time through the release of high-profile exclusive software titles and strategic price cuts.

animal-crossing-3ds-screenshotThis is largely due to Nintendo’s old-school commitment to producing its own games. At the time they launch Nintendo consoles are generally lacking a roster of playable software, save for the proof-of-concept party game (think Wii Sports) and the flagship Mario title. Nintendo has focused on creating its own software in house, and that, unfortunately, takes time. Compounded with the need to support a current console while a next-gen model is under development, it means that Nintendo doesn’t have the bandwidth to create a dozen-strong launch title list like Sony or Microsoft.

Right now, the company is really getting going. For example, the 3DS’s sales have been largely affected by the release of two blockbuster game titles, Animal Crossing: New Leaf (which drove sales upon release in June and July) and the newly-released Pokemon X and Y (which sold 4 million titles at launch alone). While these look like small feats compared to the sale of something like Grand Theft Auto V, it’s worth stressing that the former titles are exclusive to the 3DS only, which means that consumers will buy the handheld to play the game. Nintendo plans on continuing this strategy through the holidays with Mario Party: Island Tour and Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

The Wii U, which has had a shaky (at best) 11 months on the market, has benefited from both an exclusive title and a price adjustment enacted on September 20. A premium Wii U console with Wind Waker is now $299, and the “basic model” has been phased out — to the company’s benefit, as there was very little reason to take the cheaper console. The boost in sales, which Nintendo has declined to give exact numbers on, also comprises just 15 days on the monthly tally.

While it seems like common logic for the Wii U to see a rise in sales, especially now that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are becoming phased out, it’s important to note that both consoles’ sales still vastly outpace the Wii U, which was third on NPD’s consoles list. In fact, according to VG Chartz, Microsoft hit its 80 million unit milestone this month with the sale of 1.6 million consoles. That monthly gain comprises nearly half of the Wii U’s overall total sales.

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In a lot of ways, Nintendo’s far-sighted strategy is best suited to be off-cycle with direct competitors, rather than synced up like Microsoft and Sony. That’s because Sony and Microsoft have very much squared off against each other: with so many overlapping titles and features, budget-minded consumers will choose either the PS4 or the Xbox One, not both. The Wii U has very much entrenched itself as a niche console, with its alternative design aesthetics and a focus on in-house titles. It’s a console that can be a complement to either Sony or Microsoft’s offerings (dependent on taste), and can be even more attractive now that it’s hundreds of dollars cheaper that any other big-name console.

But Nintendo’s strategy is also high-risk. It relies on continued loyalty and allegiance to decades-long franchises like Mario, and rarely does it vary from that trajectory. Nintendo has been famously difficult at working with third-party titles, most notably losing its Rayman Legends exclusivity with Ubisoft. It also risks requiring a price slash to get sales — a strategy that neither Microsoft or Sony need to embrace, especially only a year into a console’s existence. Nintendo relies on software to turn observers into owners, rather than letting the hardware’s quality speak for itself.

Despite its age and the influx of competition on the horizon, the Wii U is shaping up to have a promising 2014. The long awaited Wii U titles (including the latest Super Smash Brothers) will be released, along with third party titles (most notably Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag and Watchdogs). There is the value brewing in the Wii U that is already apparent in the 3DS, but it will take some more time. That is, if the holiday consoles don’t wash the hype away.

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  1. I think the main reason Nintendo lacks in sales every year, is because they just keep coming out with the same games! I used to love Nintendo, but their lack of imagination is just ridiculous! Can you please come up with a new original first party IP that is not freaking Mario, Mariokart, or Zelda! They were original almost 20 years ago for crying out loud!

    1. Moe Drifter Menace Hunter Bacchusx88 Saturday, October 19, 2013

      Agreed but gaming is like food. If you have a favourite, you gonna keep eating your face food. And maybe add the odd different ingredients every now and then. But for you to have a gat old rant at Nintendo for creating well.some of the at games.of our time. And hen say its because they are not original tour either jumping.on the hate Nintendo bandwagon. Or your just fake. Because every single game developer uses their IP’s over and over again it’s called business. Its called making money. Cod, ass creed, rayman, angry birds. Gran turismo, grand theft auto, gears of war, splinter cell, kinect sports, battlefield, god of war. And then throw in the originals, you cant count them in your fingers, every single company and developers.are doing it so rant at them all not just Nintendo. Thank you

    2. Moe Drifter Menace Hunter Bacchusx88 Saturday, October 19, 2013

      Agreed but gaming is like food. If you have a favourite, you gonna keep eating your face food. And maybe add the odd different ingredients every now and then. But for you to have a gat old rant at Nintendo for creating well.some of the at games.of our time. And then say its because they are not original your either jumping.on the hate Nintendo bandwagon. Or your just fake. Because every single game developer uses their IP’s over and over again it’s called business. Its called making money. Cod, ass creed, rayman, angry birds. Gran turismo, grand theft auto, gears of war, splinter cell, kinect sports, battlefield, god of war. And then throw in the originals, you cant count them in your fingers, every single company and developers.are doing it so rant at them all not just Nintendo. Thank you

      1. Wrong every final fantasy number series is new story. Zelds same game over and over. Sorry ironic fan loyalty saves Nintendo.

        1. No theyre not. Many of the same characters but they are completely different. Its just different books in a series.

        2. If you actually played Zelda, you would know thats not the case

          Stop forcing it

          last i checked Zelda beats Final Fantasy is the actual gameplay department

    3. This whole generation is nothing but sequels stop assuming Nintendo is the only ones

      Also, unlike others, Nintendo only releases a game once per Nintendo consoles through years, vs 4-5 sequels in 1 goddamn generation

  2. Moe Drifter Menace Hunter Saturday, October 19, 2013

    Sorry about the Double post silly windows. Phone, lol

  3. Nintendo fans are morons period. Buying 30 year games with repaint.

    1. Dude, are you SERIOUSLY comparing super mario bros to mario galaxy? legend of zelda to legend of zelda twilight princess? Youre retarded, absolutely retarded

    2. You obviously haven’t played Nintendo games in a long time. Zelda games have such vastly different stories its barely comparable. Sure there are the same characters, but at least its not the exact same games with a new roster or set of guns. People who buy cod and fifa every year are the morons.
      Every god of war game, assassins creed, uncharted, almost all first person shooters and racing games etc. have not changed at all. The mechanics have remained the same, they have literally only had a graphics update and that’s about it.
      But Nintendo? No, almost every successive game they release has something new, in fact, no Zelda has had the same story as another, if you changed the characters of link, zelda and ganon, you wouldn’t even think it was related. The changes Mario has had are incredible, going from Mario bros to galaxy? you’d be a retard to say that wasn’t amazing. Same for Metroid and now with pokemon too. Nintendo is doing just fine.

      1. Jacob D. Taylor taz Sunday, October 20, 2013

        Thank you both for correcting this. It isnt even an arguement, its just… wrong

  4. Jacob D. Taylor Sunday, October 20, 2013

    Just a few corrections losing rayman legends didnt have anything to do with nintendos difficulty with third parties. It was a purely financial decision by ubisoft. The other was the PS3 pricecuys. It was mentioned that sony doeant rely on ptice cuts but lets remember how many people purchased the ps3 at the $600 price tag

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