Nintendo looks like it is breaking out of its slump as gamers begin to warm up to the Wii U.
The Japanese game publisher is experiencing a minor resurgence. Nintendo’s shares are trading at $128.44 (13,040 yen) on the Tokyo Stock Exchange today. That’s the highest value for the company since Feb. 26. The big reason for the thrust is likely due to brisk sales of Wii U exclusive racer Mario Kart 8 and the general sentiment of gamers coming out of the Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow in June thanks to big-names like Smash Bros. and Zelda. Market-research firm IHS Technology found that consumers’ opinion of the Wii U changed big time based on Nintendo’s presence at E3, and that has the market feeling better about the company’s chances of returning to profitability.
Mario Kart 8 has already sold more than 2 million copies worldwide as of the end of June. That’s incredibly impressive considering Nintendo had only sold a little more than 6.2 million Wii U systems since its November launch as of April. That means a huge portion of Nintendo’s fans rushed out to pick up the racer. The game also helped move new Wii U systems.
While Nintendo didn’t provide specific numbers, it revealed last week that Mario Kart 8 and other games helped increase sales of the Wii U by 49 percent in June compared to the same period in 2013.
That success took Nintendo into E3 where it showed off a number of new games that have fans excited.
“According to our results there has been a substantial shift in purchase intent toward the Wii U across console and PC gamers,” IHS head game researcher Piers Harding-Rolls wrote in a report. “Share of those intending to purchase a Wii U has grown by a substantial 50 percent, albeit from the lowest level of the three latest consoles.”
Prior to E3, less than 15 percent of gamers intended to purchase the Wii U. Now, that number is more than 20 percent. In the chart above, you can see that Wii U purchase intent among people who play games on console and PC is equivalent with Xbox One, according to IHS’s data. Of course, the difference is that more people intend to pick up the Xbox One first, as the green bar in the chart indicates the percentage of people who plan to buy that respective console before the others. Also, the Xbox One is outselling the Wii U each month. PlayStation 4 is still well ahead of either Microsoft or Nintendo’s offerings — although the PS4 was the only console to lose interest coming out of E3.
So, what did Nintendo do at E3 to turn things around with gamers? Well, Zelda and Super Smash Bros. were the big things, and a few other surprises helped set it apart.
Nintendo doesn’t have a lot of games coming out for the Wii U for the rest of the year. It has the isometric puzzler Captain Toad Treasure Tracker and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U … and not much else. Gamers are so excited about Smash, however, that it might not matter, and the publisher is doing a great job of hyping up the four-player fighter.
Nintendo held an invitational Super Smash Bros. tournament during E3 that gathered thousands of hardcore fans at the Nokia theater in Los Angeles. It streamed the event live online. The company also spent the whole week streaming info and exclusive looks at its games live on its Twitch stream.
That gave fans a close-up look at other surprises of the show. That includes the build-your-own platformer Mario Maker, touchscreen adventure game Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, and the colorful, family-friendly shooter Splatoon. By the end of E3, gamers seemed to come away thinking that Nintendo was the only one of the big three doing stuff that looks and feels different — even if that’s not entirely true.
Finally, Nintendo showed off a few seconds of the new Zelda, and it was enough to re-ignite massive interest in the franchise.
Nintendo promises that it’s rethinking things for the aging (and somewhat stale) property, and this includes turning Zelda into an open world that players can explore. It doesn’t hurt that the HD visuals also look astounding.
Zelda, Kirby, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Mario Maker, Splatoon, and a number of other interesting Wii U games aren’t hitting the system until 2015. Fans of the publisher, however, are used to long waits — and they seem more excited than ever to pick up a Wii U for Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. so that they can have it for the big releases in 2015 as well.