Why The Wii U Needs A Price Cut


Heading into E3, there was a lot of speculation over whether or not the Nintendo Wii U was getting a price cut down from $349 for the premium 32 GB model. The week prior to E3, Kotaku reported that basic 8 GB models were being recalled by GameStop and were not being sold beyond June 18. This led some to believe that Nintendo were ditching the model because they were set to announce a singular 32 GB SKU priced at $299. Any speculation has been put to rest, however, as Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata is reportedly hesitant to drop the price of the Wii U.

While this doesn’t remove the possibility of the Wii U becoming cheaper near the holiday season or beyond, I believe the Wii U needs to drop the price of their console as soon as possible, for a number of reasons.

It’s Not Selling All Too Well

That’s putting it lightly. The Wii U has sold only 3.45 million units as of March 31, according to Nintendo’s official consolidated sales chart. That means they fell roughly 550,000 consoles short of their already-revised projections of 4 million consoles sold in the fiscal year. Failing to meet your sales projections is never a good sign of things to come for a console that has a one year launch advantage over the two closest competitors. And with only 35,000-40,000 units sold in April, momentum is grinding to a halt.

However, a price cut has worked effectively for Nintendo before. The 3DS had terrible sales out the gate, selling short of their projected sales margins as well. But after just 4 months of being released in North America, Nintendo announced a price cut from $249 to $169, and have sold more than 31 million units since launch in just over 2 years. It might work for the Wii U, as well.

Competitors’ Pricing Is Not Much More Expensive

Both Sony and Microsoft announced their newest consoles’ launch prices at $399 and $499 USD, respectively. While the Wii U is the cheapest of the three, the hardware doesn’t nearly stack up.

The GPU’s peak performance at 0.35 TFLOP/s runs at least 3 times slower than the XBox One (1.23 TFLOP/s) and 5 times slower than the PS4 (1.84 TFLOP/s). The 2 GB of DDR3 RAM (1 GB for games) for the Wii U is greatly lower than the XBox One’s 8 GB of DDR3 RAM (5 GB for games) and the PS4’s 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM (7 GB for games). The premium Wii U model’s 32 GB standard HDD is minuscule compared to the standard 500 GB HDD of the XBox One and PS4, although the PS4’s hard drive is replaceable while the Wii U’s space can be complimented by up to 32 GB SDHC memory cards and up to 2 TB USB hard disk drives.

There’s plenty more comparisons to be made (complete with sourcing), and for the Wii U to be priced at only $50 cheaper than the 2nd cheapest 8th gen console makes little sense to the heavily-researched consumer.

Lots Of Wii U Games Coming – Much Later

The recent Nintendo Direct showcased a bevvy of new 1st and 3rd party games for the Wii U and more, including Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Sonic Lost World, Bayonetta 2, the unnamed Monolith Software IP, Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure and the newest Super Smash Bros. game. While these all look to please Wii U owners, the biggest problem is that all of these titles will be released from Fall 2013 to sometime during 2014.

While the games look strong enough to sell to current Wii U owners, with so much launch competition by Microsoft and Sony in Q4 2013 it’ll be difficult to entice as many potential new customers to purchase Nintendo’s new games and console over the PS4 and XBox One without a price cut. A $300 premium console during the holidays might be enough to sway purchasing favor towards the Wii U, or be cheap enough to be purchased as a secondary console in conjunction with another console purchase.

Publisher Support Is Waning

If you looked at the upcoming Wii U games, you’d notice that there is no seasonal Madden or FIFA game headed for the console. In fact, there are no EA games at all heading to Wii U in the new year. That’s because EA’s president Frank Gibeau has made it clear that the console needs to sell more for them to ship with Nintendo. It’s also the reason why Rayman Legends has been delayed: the “Wii U was not going to sell enough.” It was originally going to be a Wii U exclusive, but now it will launch on the XBox 360, PlayStation 3 and the Vita as well.

Hardcore Nintendo fans will continue to buy a Wii U to play all their Nintendo favourites, including new Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Pikmin and Zelda games. However, it’s the 3rd party multi-platform games that help drive console sales. If the Wii U can’t even promise a new Call of Duty or annual sports franchises for the casual market, how can the console expect to thrive? Reducing the premium model by a sizable amount might be the only thing left Nintendo can do. If not, they might have some tough challenges ahead to overcome.

The views expressed in this article explicitly belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor should be attributed to, GameSided as an organization.