With new online store, game bundles, can Nintendo turn things around?

Lagging sales and a bump from UK supermarket Asdo has Nintendo scrambling to find ways to market the Wii U to audiences domestic and abroad.

Reuters
A man tries out the Nintendo Wii U GamePad E3 2012 in Los Angeles.

Nintendo was poised to take over the video game console world last November when it followed up its industry-shifting Wii game console with the Wii U.

The Wii U had all the technical innovations that would seem to shake things up once again. It was Nintendo’s first HD graphics capable console, featured a portable controller with a screen that could either be supplemental to a TV screen or work on its own, and it was released along with new versions of its hyper-successful Super Mario Bros franchise and Madden NFL 13.

But things didn’t work out as planned, and now Nintendo is playing catch up before Xbox One and the Sony PS4 are released in late November.

Nintendo only sold 3.61 million Wii U systems since its release last November, with sales in the previous three months only at 160,000 units. By comparison, the Nintendo 3DS sold 32.48 million systems in the same time period. Wii U users complained that the portable game controller, or “game pad,” had low battery life and third-party developers said the system is hard to make games for, which has led to few new game releases. In addition reviewers said the console was so loaded down with small new ideas, it made the overall gaming experience confusing.  

These issues did not translate well to the Wii’s non-traditional gaming audience, which caused sales to suffer. So much so that Walmart-owned UK supermarket chain Asda decided to take the Wii U and Wii U games off its shelved in July, only stocking them on a “merit basis."

But Nintendo, who revolutionized the video game world several times over, isn’t down for the count. Instead it has countered with several Europe-centered updates and strategies, as well as new gadgets for a younger audience.

Nintendo launched a UK-only online store on Thursday that promises exclusive prices, such as free shipping on orders over £200 ($319). The video game company also announced three new game bundles for the Wii U, just for the European market: New Super Mario Bros U, Wii Party U, and Just Dance 2014. In response to battery life issues, it released a high-capacity battery pack for the UK and Germany that extends playing time to five to eight hours (rather than the current three to four).

Nintendo is also looking to appeal to younger gamers. In November, the company will release the WiiFit Fit Meter pedometer, which is a small pedometer that uses Bluetooth to sync steps and fitness stats to a player’s Mii character. This keeps tracks of players’ fitness both while playing Wii, and while away from the screen. Plus, at only $19.99, it’s a bargain for parents looking for an extra Christmas gift for kids who already have the Wii.

But the question remains: Will these strategies keep the Wii U competitive into the Christmas season once the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are released in late November?

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