Mario Kart 8 Sells 1.2 Million; Owned by One-Fifth of Wii U Owners

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Nintendo is scrambling to catch-up to the PS4 and Xbox One heading into E3, both in terms of raw unit sales and brand cachet. Miyamoto acolytes will say the company has a shred of momentum in declaring Mario Kart 8 sells 1.2 million in its debut weekend. Those statements aren’t inaccurate. But the momentum is truly just a shred.

Nintendo reported today that Mario Kart 8 sold more than 1.2 million total units across Japan, Europe and the Americas during its first weekend on the market. Those are impressive numbers on any system, but the fact that they were achieved on Wii U is something to be sincerely celebrated.

Yet as of March 31 this year, Nintendo had sold just 6.17 million Wii U consoles worldwide. For context, that means about one-fifth of all Wii U owners bought Mario Kart 8. Had that one-fifth figure been applied to, say, the PS4, the game would’ve moved 500,000 more units. And on a system one year younger than the Wii U.

In celebrating the news, Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime said “the early response to Mario Kart 8 demonstrates that the best days for Wii U are still ahead. This year’s E3 is just days away, and it will be all about the future games for Nintendo platforms. This milestone is a great place to start!”

Reggie, you’re not exactly kicking ass yet, and these Mario Kart 8 sales results, while impressive, aren’t indicative of a future growing spurt for Wii U.

Nintendo’s always owned its fanboys. Every new DS or 3DS sells like hotcakes because the hardcore Nintendo community will buy whatever the hardware and software company creates. These guys and gals bleed Hyrule gold and Mario red, and they’re among the most rabid fanboys around.

I say that in as complimenting a way as possible.

With that said, if 19.7% of all Wii U owners — arguably the most rabid, buy-it-all crowd out there — bought Mario Kart 8, does that really indicate “the best days for Wii U are still ahead”? The people who bought Mario Kart 8 on opening weekend are the same people who were supposed to buy the game. They’re dedicated. They live and die by Miyamoto’s proclamations. And even then, only one-fifth of them ponied up for it.

Mario Kart 8 supports 12-player racing. It introduces anti-gravity racing, allowing for some of the most creative track design the series has ever seen. Mario Kart 8 is the 14th Wii U game to launch in the United States with a Metacritic score of 85 or higher. In other words, the game rocks.

That’s to be expected; first-party Nintendo games are almost always excellent, and they’re generally the one reason people buy a Nintendo console. But even with that history of excellence, even with that rabid install base, just 19.7% of people ventured into their local retailer this weekend to buy the most-anticipated Wii U game in months?

That’s not good news, no matter how many mushrooms Mario and Co. are trying to get us to consume.

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