Nintendo Co. Ltd. sold more than 400,000 Wii U video game consoles in the United States in the first week of its release, the games maker said on Monday.
Nintendo, which has gradually ceded ground to Microsoft Corp’s industry-leading Xbox 360, needs the Wii U, which comes with a touchscreen controller, to be a hit to turn around years of losses.
But the video game industry is also under threat from a burgeoning smartphone and tablet gaming market. The Wii U hit stores in North America on Nov. 18.
The Wii U succeeds the revolutionary Wii, which was launched in 2006 and has been a bonanza for Nintendo, with over 97 million sold, although demand had tapered off in recent years.
“The Wii U is effectively sold out at retail (and) we are gratified by the consumer response,” Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America said in an interview.
The results are “comparable” to Wii sales in its first week in 2006, but it was early to do an apples-to-apples comparison, Fils-Aime said.
“At this point in the life of the Wii U, its sales are based on how quickly we can get the product to retailers,” he added.
The new Wii U – Nintendo’s first new gaming console in six years – had a few hiccups. Shortly after it hit store shelves, buyers complained on blogs and on Twitter of technical hitches such as excruciatingly slow software download speeds. It also initially sold absent some much-touted TV-related features and applications.
The selling points of the first hardware offering from Nintendo in six years have been a tablet-like touch screen “GamePad” controller, a social network called Miiverse and a feature termed TVii that lets users record TV shows through TiVo and other digital recording services.
Before the launch, Nintendo informed American consumers that the TVii application would only be available in December.
In addition to the basic 8 gigabyte model costing $299.99, Nintendo is selling a “deluxe” 32 GB version for $349.99 in the United States and 31,500 yen in Japan. The “deluxe” package will include its new Nintendo land game.
Nintendo is offering 23 original games for the Wii U. The machine is the first Nintendo console to launch with a dedicated “Super Mario” game title in 16 years. Third-party titles include Ubisoft Entertainment SA’s exclusive Wii U title, Zombie U, and Activision Blizzard Inc.’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
Before the new devices hit store shelves, Nintendo launched a massive advertising campaign on television and social media and had marketing tie-ups with Burger King Worldwide Inc. and Walt Disney Co.
People dressed up as animated characters from its MiiVerse network were spotted around New York City inviting fans to check the console before launch. Nintendo also set up kiosks in malls and retails stores giving gamers a hands-on Wii U experience.
Growing competition from tablet PCs and smartphones that are increasingly eating into the $78 billion gaming market mean the Japanese company might struggle to repeat the hit it had with the Wii and keep the holiday sales momentum going into 2013 and beyond.
But Mr. Fils-Aime said Nintendo would leverage its exclusive franchises such as its legendary Super Mario Bros. and Pikmin to draw gamers to the Wii U.
“We’ll be able to continue driving momentum for Wii U as these are experiences that they can’t get on smartphones and tablets,” Mr. Fils-Aime said.
Moreover, Nintendo – which began in 1889 making playing cards in the back streets of Kyoto before gaining popularity as the creator of the “Super Mario” franchise – will also battle a new Microsoft Xbox and updated Sony Corp Playstation expected in 2013.
The Wii U will go on sale in Japan on Dec. 8 for about $340.