We all know the woes Nintendo has had with the Wii U globally; the low sales figures reports, the update issues and the lack of games both from Nintendo and third parties to name a few. Now UK retailers are even meeting with Nintendo to discuss how to get the console selling.
But how is the console doing in Australia?
We’ve got no official sales figures being disseminated from Nintendo Australia and no press release bragging about a fastest sell through across a specific time period, a practice we saw commonly with both the Wii and the DS. This, of course, leaves us pondering. Anecdotal evidence suggests that things aren’t too good either, with stores pushing the console’s designated bays to the back of their store or down-scaling the amount of shelf space to the bare minimum – even less so than the original Wii.
However any good researcher would tell you that anecdotal evidence isn’t most reliable nor representative of evidence, and it just won’t do for us either. With no official word from Nintendo Australia themselves, we reached out to the next best entity – the retailers, the people on the front lines who sell the stuff. We invited EBGames and GameTraders to talk about how the Wii U is faring in the Australian market. What follows is what we heard straight from them. Before we go on, we’d like to highlight that despite their presence within the market, we were unable to contact JB Hi-Fi for comment – however we welcome anyone who can represent the company to comment should they read this piece.
“We were quite happy with the launch, there were solid presells and general excitement for the release”, says Kelsey Gamble, Community Manager at EBGames Australia. However… “Wii U is currently facing some headwinds in the market but this is in line with what Nintendo is seeing around the world. We feel that it’s all about educating customers on the great features of this console.”
We also asked Mr. Rob Jenkins, the National Marketing Manager of Gametraders for his thoughts: “Currently Wii U is slow. It needs an injection of great titles both from Nintendo and 3rd parties. Plus some marketing. It may be a console that takes time to get market penetration but we’re hoping it takes off – people love Nintendo and we do too.”
With a slow selling console comes the concern of slow selling games. We’ve already seen Activision pull both 007 Legends and The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct from their release schedule in Australia and more recently The Amazing Spider-Man Ultimate Edition, so we would not be surprised if Activision were reluctant to release their future titles either for the system. In terms of the present, this week we’ve seen limited stock of Need for Speed Most Wanted U as tepid demand for the Wii U means there isn’t a lot of confidence these games will sell. We asked Kelsey from EBGames again about this. Is the fact we’re missing out on some titles because of retailers not believing they’ll sell or the publishers?
“It’s not about what retailers want, it’s what the consumer demands” says Kelsey from EBGames. “We work very closely with every publisher in the country and if presells indicate a strong enough interest in a title we will always work alongside with them in order to make it available here.”
Rob from Gametraders has a different message “Demand is slow in stores. We’d love to promote these titles but we just don’t see the demand. Nintendo needs to push them both in store and with advertising and promotions.”
Since Gametraders have been known in the past to import titles from Europe and sell them (sometimes ahead of local street dates), we asked would they be open to doing this for the games that publishers don’t release in Australia. “We can only sell games that get a classification locally. We’ve seen many online sites importing and selling online but the delivery can be 2 weeks or more. When we sell games they are generally in stores so a gamer can collect them immediately. Yes we’ll get games in, but it will depend on customer demand and until customers are buying consoles and wanting games it’s uneconomical. Don’t get me wrong we do stock games and they sell, just not in large numbers.”
The situation is clear, Wii U sales will need to pick up speed if we’re going to get publishers to release their games locally or even for stores to want to import them. Currently, there doesn’t seem to be the demand for these titles. This mirrors what happened with the GameCube in Australia, if you wanted a game you had to pre-order it – we’ve seen this happen this week with Need for Speed Most Wanted U. Most stores only received one or two copies.
Even more problematic is the baffling choice to hold back releases without comment or word as to why. Back in January we reported that Ninja Gaiden: Razor’s Edge, a game that Nintendo has chosen to publish on the Wii U, was Australia’s first R18+ rated game. This wasn’t a necessarily controversial story, but it certainly got exposure even on an international level in the web based media. It’s now March 2013, and not only does the game not have a release date, but another Ninja Gaiden game on the Playstation Vita has beaten Razor’s Edge to the punch. Not to mention that ports of the game are heading to the other consoles with extra content in as little as twenty days. Why has Nintendo Australia stayed quiet with this particular title – no, it’s not a killer app by any means, but it’s a game to play. And it’s now available in every single territory worldwide, except Australia. The reasons for this, as we stated, are unclear – is there not a market for Razor’s Edge in Australia anymore (which begs the question as to why Nintendo would distribute it) or is it just the worry of a company with an admittedly family friendly image publishing an R18+ game?
So what’s next then for the Wii U? Will things ever change?
The first step in what we hope will be the right direction comes with tomorrow, the long awaited release of Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate. This week we also got the first game to end our severe drought – Need for Speed Most Wanted U, which we’ve already discussed. Next week, we have Lego City Undercover which is being met with favourable critical reception, which we see as another step in the right direction (that is, if the stock issues faced in North America do not trickle over to our market).
Following March – Game & Wario, Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, Injustice: Gods Among Us and the recently announced Deux Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut will be released. And of course, let’s not discredit or forget the eShop releases as well as games yet to be announced. In the long term we have the Nintendo staples to look forward to as well – Zelda, Yoshi, Mario, Wind Waker and eventually Smash Brothers too as well as titles like monolithsoft’s “X” and the Fire Emblem cross-over with Atlus.
Games being released is just one part, at the moment there’s zero marketing for the Wii U in Australia, there’s also little mind-share among gamers and the general public. We cannot begin to count how many times we’ve heard people shopping and assuming that the Wii U is just another Wii upgrade, or a new Nintendo handheld console. The marketing and the message are not as clear cut as we’d like.
And as we’ve shown here, the retailers still believe in the console, but want it to do better. Fans want it to do better and we’re sure Nintendo Australia wants it to do better.
The beginning of 2013 have been incredibly lacklustre for the Wii U, so let’s check back in another three to see if Nintendo can lift that to an acceptable level.
What are your thoughts on the whole situation? What do you think the Wii U needs to revitalize the brand? Let us know in the comments or on the forum.