Even though Mario Kart 8, its big first-party game released in May, shipped more than 2.82 million copies by the end of June, the Mario-themed racing game was not enough to help Nintendo’s struggling Wii U console perform in this particular quarter. The company said it lost $97 million between March and June.
Nintendo shipped 510,000 units of the Wii U in the June quarter, bringing the total to 6.68 million consoles sold, according to Bloomberg. It’s a big jump from the 160,000 units it sold in the same quarter a year ago and a small improvement over the 310,000 units it sold in the March quarter, but the Wii U is still lagging behind the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. Nintendo must also contend with mobile games available on Apple and Google’s app stores, which cost but a fraction of a Nintendo game.
Games like Mario Kart 8 will clearly help the Wii U achieve its goals. Consumers showed a 50% increase in “purchasing intent” for the console after the release of Mario Kart 8 and Nintendo’s successful showing at the E3 gaming conference in June, but it simply needs more games like Mario Kart 8.
As The Guardian’s Keith Stuart points out, Nintendo has a number of big games coming, including Mario Maker, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. But until those games release later this year and next year, the mainstream schedule is “a wasteland,” as Stuart described it.
As the Nintendo looks to bolster the Wii U with more titles, the company is already beginning to pivot towards a new health-related platform “that improves people’s quality of life in enjoyable ways,” according to Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.
Until that console comes around, however, Nintendo will keep pushing the Wii U, as well as the 3DS, its bestselling handheld console, and its new collectible figurines called “Amiibo,” which let gamers enter their purchased characters into Nintendo games with the Wii U’s GamePad controller. Nintendo hopes Amiibo can help drive revenue in the same way a similar, uber-successful platform called Infinity helped Disney.
Mario Kart 8 will carry Nintendo for the next few months until the fall rolls around, which will see the release of two new Pokemon games for the 3DS and Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS in October. But if Nintendo wants to reverse its fortunes, it may want to embrace its immense back catalogue of games — even the simplest of 8-bit and 32-bit classics from the NES and SNES consoles — and make them available for mobile gamers.