Jan 10 2014, 10:42am CST | by Forbes
While the Wii U is still the “console who must not be named” in terms of sales at this point, Nintendo is more than happy to boast about its other piece of hardware, the 3DS. The handheld has exploded in popularity this year, even competing against a smartphone market that was supposed to doom the very concept of a games-only pocket device.
Nintendo has revealed that lifetime sales of the 3DS have surpassed 11.5M in the US (including 3DS XL and 2DS sales), and that 16 million games for the handheld were sold worldwide, representing a 45% increase over 2012. They were also quick to point out that two 3DS games, A Link Between Worlds and Fire Emblem Awakening, were two of the best reviewed titles of the year with 90+ Metacritic ratings.
What can we learn from the rising tide of the 3DS? First, it’s that a shaky launch doesn’t damn a system. At launch, the 3DS was overpriced and had few worthwhile games. But now, after a price cut and the release of a slew of high quality titles, the system has become increasingly appealing with sales to match.
Similarly, the success of the 3DS, both in the US and in smartphone-obsessed Asia, speaks to the fact that phone and tablet games simply aren’t cutting it for players who want more engaging experiences than those devices can provide. Nintendo’s titles may be $20, $30 or $40, as opposed to $1-$3 apps, but they’ve shown they’re more than worth the value. Not to say mobile games are awful or worthless, but overwhelmingly Nintendo’s games will offer a deeper, more engaging experience.
This is why calls for Nintendo to simply release its games on the vast iOS and Android markets are unfounded. With numbers like these, it’s clear they still have a firm grasp on the handheld realm, and there is still a demand for their high quality games at higher prices.
That said, it’s hard to tell if the 3DS’s success will be prophetic for the Wii U. Yes, the Wii U also had a rocky launch with few must-have titles, but will better games drive the system to become a rousing success like the 3DS? That’s not clear. Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PS4 have nearly matched the lifetime sales of the Wii U, despite the fact that Nintendo’s console was released a year earlier and faced literally no next-gen competition over that time period.
I expect Nintendo will report increased Wii U sales over the holiday, but their yearly numbers will likely pale in comparison to the six week launch window totals of the One and PS4 at 3 and 4.2 million respectively. Last we heard, 4.3M Wii Us had been sold to date. We should have updated totals for their earnings report at the end of January, but meeting Satoru Iwata’s goal of 9 million Wii U sales by the end of March seems increasingly out of reach.
It’s fortunate they’re able to be bolstered by this great 3DS news, and it’s well deserved given the quality of games that have been released for the handheld over the past year. Nintendo is constantly full of surprises, and this news only reminds us to never count them out.
Source: Forbes Business
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