Nintendo Says Wii U Sales Lower Than Expected

Nintendo has conceded the Wii U is likely to fall well below its original sales predictions. The disappointment is tempered only by some good fortune with currency exchange rates.

The details come in financial figures covering April through December, the first nine months of Nintendo’s financial year. It says it sold 3.06 million Wii U devices in 2012 and expects to reach 4 million by the end of March, compared with its previous forecasts of hitting 5.5 million by that point.

The forecasts are particularly downbeat because they include actual sales figures for the Christmas period when Nintendo had the best chance of shifting the new console.

The figures do suggest the Wii U is struggling to catch on. It only barely outsold the original Wii during the Christmas season, and likely wouldn’t have done so at all if Nintendo hadn’t underestimated demand for the original Wii and produced too few units to keep shelves full.

Forecasts for 3DS sales — which had a disappointing launch in 2011 leading to slashed prices — are also coming down. Nintendo had pegged sales for the current financial year at 17.5 million, but now thinks 15 million is more likely.

Despite both this and a likely drop in software sales, Nintendo has more than doubled its predicted profit for the year to 14 billion yen (equivalent to US$160 million.) That compares with a loss of 48 billion yen (around $500 million) last year.

That turnaround appears to be largely due to a slump in the value of the yen against other currencies, meaning the revenue it gets from overseas sales is worth more in Japan. It’s also been helped by the fact that it’s found ways to make the 3DS more cheaply.

How Nintendo deals with the Wii U disappointment hasn’t yet been made clear. While the most likely explanation is a 3DS-style price cut, it’s also been suggested Nintendo might try to step up the pace for persuading developers to come up with big name releases.

On the other hand, it may decide not to panic. By the standards of many console releases, three million sales in the first few months is nothing to be ashamed of and it may simply be that hype about the Wii U being Nintendo’s savior led to unrealistic expectations.

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