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Here’s How Many Wii U Units Nintendo Hoped to Sell

July 8, 2016, 7:18 PM UTC
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LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07: The new Nintendo game console Wii U is displayed at the Nintendo booth during the Electronic Entertainment Expo on June 7, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Wii U will have HD graphics, a controller with a 6.2 inch touchscreen and be compatible with all other Wii accessories. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Photo by Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images

At least one person at Nintendo was way off the mark on how popular the Wii U might be.

Speaking to investors at a recent meeting, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima revealed that at least one salesperson at the company believed Nintendo (NTDOY) would sell nearly 100 million Wii U units. The person, who wasn’t identified, is off by about 90 million units to date.

“In an internal sales representative meeting, someone projected that we would sell close to 100 million Wii U systems worldwide,” Kimishima said to investors recently. “The thinking was that because Wii sold well, Wii U would follow suit.”

He went on to say that the forecast came around the time the Wii U launched in November 2012, but he cautioned at the time that the Wii U might not be as successful as its predecessor without the right sales pitch.

“I said that, since the Wii had already sold so well, we need to clearly explain the attraction of the Wii U if we are to get beyond that and sell the new system, and that this would be no easy task,” he said.

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It turns out, Kimishima, who took over as Nintendo president last year after the death of Satoru Iwata, was right that it might not be as easy as others had thought. Through March, Nintendo has sold 12.8 million Wii U units worldwide—a pittance compared to the tens of millions of consoles competitors Sony (SNE) and Microsoft (MSFT) have each sold. The Wii U’s disappointment came after the Wii notched nearly 102 million unit sales during its lifetime.

Exactly why the Wii U failed has been debated among the gaming industry’s analysts for years. Some have placed the blame on Nintendo, saying that its console was underpowered at launch and gamers didn’t like its tablet-like controller. Others said that Nintendo’s core group of gamers, which included many children in the Wii years, was moving on to mobile gaming, where they could play titles on their smartphones and tablets. Shigeru Miyamoto, the famed Nintendo developer who created the iconic Mario franchise, among countless others, blamed the Wii U’s issues on its price.

Whatever the case, Nintendo was on a high coming off the Wii. The console enjoyed the kind of success Nintendo hadn’t seen in years. Its predecessor, the GameCube, could only muster 21.7 million unit sales worldwide. The Nintendo 64 was a middling performer at 33 million unit sales. It hadn’t been since the early 1990s that Nintendo was truly living atop the gaming industry.

With the Wii, it was finally back.

Judging by Kimishima’s comments, at least some at Nintendo believed that the company could hold on to its success and the gamers that got it there, and continue on. They were wrong.

Now looking ahead, Nintendo is working on a new console to replace the Wii U. Currently codenamed NX, the device is believed to offer higher-end graphical capabilities and should launch in March. Nintendo plans to announce more details on the secretive project in the coming months.

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It’s unknown how many units Nintendo hopes to sell, but hopefully the company isn’t pitching such lofty numbers until it has a chance to see actual consumer demand.