The console wars have lessened in ferocity in recent years, largely thanks to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One reaching the middle of their lifecycles and finding their own unique placement in gaming history – still subject to change of course. Meanwhile, Wii U operated in a different, isolated universe, with its superb first party titles, general lack of impressive sales, and not much else. I know of several people who bought the console solely for releases like Super Smash Bros. or Bayonetta 2, only to slide the small black box quietly onto a closet shelf from there on out. Some will reconnect it for Breath of the Wild, but for those investing in Switch, the jig was up a long time ago.
NPD’s monthly sales results were released recently and reported around the internet yesterday, and within them hides a bizarre Wii U-related statistic. The aging, ailing machine was outsold by its competitors from Sony and Microsoft, unsurprisingly, but was also outsold by one of Nintendo’s own. Can you guess? No, not 3DS (though that’s also true). Wii U was outsold by the NES Classic.
The NES Classic has been near-impossible to find since shifting hefty stock early on in its existence. Combine that with continued ravenous demand and a clear lack of planning and adequate supply from Nintendo, and you’ve got yourself a typical amiibo or Fire Emblem Fates special edition-style mess. Nintendo Switch hasn’t exactly been easy to find either, though it’s likely that situation will be remedied much more quickly. That said, at the time of writing availability remains a bit grim.
Given the shortages of NES Classic, I think it’s safe to say that the miniature device outselling the Wii U is as much a death knell for the latter as anything else we’re going to get. Sure, there may be some folks snapping Wii Us up to play Zelda, but likely several thousands more are instead doing the opposite, hoping to get their hands on the Switch if they haven’t pre-ordered one already.
If you never bought Wii U and don’t have your sights on Switch, there is admittedly a niche yet compelling case to grab one. While it hasn’t dropped to $99 MSRP the way GameCube and Nintendo 64 did once rendered certifiably outmoded, it can be had affordably via eBay or other resellers if you poke around. More striking are the $20 games though; the most savvy thing to do, probably, would be to mooch a Wii U off of a friend upgrading to Switch, then stock up on Selects for yourself. Keep in mind too that true backward compatibility, something that appears to have passed-on industry-wide with the late Satoru Iwata, renders original Wii classics just as playable.
Also notable in the NPD report was PS4’s continued leadership of the hardware pack, and Xbox One scoring its best January ever. I extend my warm congrats to each of them, but over the weekend I’ll be pouring one out for Wii U. We hardly knew ye, and you sure were awkward, but there’s no denying you were host to some fabulous games. I have to keep you plugged in for my Xenoblade Chronicles X obsession anyway.