Nintendo has certainly had a rough go at it the last few years, especially on the console front. After bursting out the gates with the insane sales numbers following the launch of the Wii, the console fell off in its later years due to a lack of third-party support and overall number of games. That misfortune has seemingly carried over to its successor as well, with not only the Wii U struggling to provide a constant stream of games, but having trouble selling period. Already surpassed by the PlayStation 4 in total sales, the Wii U badly needs something to help turn things around. The question is, can Mario Kart 8 be that catalyst for some sort of resurgence for Nintendo’s console?
For awhile now, many have been pointing fingers at Super Smash Bros. or The Legend of Zelda Wii U as the games that the Wii U desperately needs to try and get going, but when looking at the sales numbers of Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii versus Mario Kart Wii, the difference is staggering. Mario Kart Wii has sold 35.53 million copies worldwide while Super Smash Bros. Brawl has sold barely a third of that with 12.14 million copies worldwide. Both Legend of Zelda games for the system, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, sold even less than that at 5.82 and 3.52 million respectively. These aren’t bad numbers for any of the three games overall, but it just shows how important Mario Kart was for the console. The game was only outsold by Wii Sports, which came bundled with every console, so it was really the highest selling standalone game.
As a result, Nintendo is obviously banking on Mario Kart 8 to play a major part in selling consoles. The problem however is that the Wii was selling extremely well on its own, and Mario Kart Wii boosted that even further. It sold plenty of consoles I’m sure, but a good majority of the sales numbers were likely from those that already owned a Wii.
The latest sales numbers from the end of March stated that 6.17 million Wii U consoles have been sold, and with Nintendo only forecasting 3.6 million in additional Wii U sales before March 2015, that would put the number of consoles sold at around 10 million total. Mario Kart Wii managed to sell over 15 million copies in under a year of its initial release, so even if every single Wii U owner bought Mario Kart 8, it will still sell less copies than its predecessor in its first year by a good margin.
Of course with gaming sales, it is incredibly hard to perfectly predict anything, but I do believe that Mario Kart 8 will give the Wii U somewhat of a boost. Mario Kart 8 looks absolutely gorgeous and has to at least catch the eyes of some non-Wii U owners. The best part about any Mario Kart is the local multiplayer, which Nintendo still thrives on, as that has been their goal with both the Wii and Wii U. However, the system has not quite managed to sell itself as that with fun but not awe inspiring first-party games like Nintendo Land and Wii Party. Super Mario 3D World was personally my favorite game of 2013, but many probably still saw that game as a 3D Mario title with no interest in the multiplayer element, sadly enough.
Mario Kart 8, along with Super Smash Bros., are the kinds of games that when you just utter the name, people will think of multiplayer. Nintendo’s best hope here is that people will get together to play the game with their friends in person, offline play does still exist after all, and through word of mouth the game will get others to buy the Wii U. As you will see in our review in the coming days, Mario Kart 8 certainly deserves to be a gamechanger for the Wii U, but the question remains whether or not it actually will be. If there is going to be a game to get the Wii U going, this really needs to be it.