A couple weeks ago, Nintendo published a press release touting strong December sales of its new Wii U console. Now the company is rolling back that initial optimism and instead warning that the next few months may not go as well as Nintendo had originally hoped. According to the Times, in a new earnings forecast, Nintendo says it will likely sell only 4 million Wii U consoles by the end of March – a 30 percent drop from earlier estimates of 5.5 million.
Similarly, forecasts for Wii U games during the same period have dropped from 24 million to 16 million.
So what's driving the less-than-stellar Wii U numbers?
Well, there's the price, for one, which starts at $300 – steep for a machine that it is many ways playing catch-up to the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3. "It's natural," writes Kyle Orland of Ars Technica, "to expect some sales drop-off as a new system transitions away from a holiday launch."
It's more likely, however, that there's a bigger-picture shift going on here. In a smart piece at Time Magazine, Matt Peckham speculates that the so-called "casual gaming" market may be fragmenting, with some consumers gravitating toward tablets and smart phones instead of dedicated consoles.
"Casual gamers, if you’ll pardon that label, are by definition uncommitted gamers," Peckham writes. "And with buyers already spending considerably more for something like the iPad (and considerably less on that platform for games), would it be such a surprise to find a much pickier audience for a system like the Wii U in 2013 than existed in 2006?"