Wii U unit sales jump 40 percent -- and still disappoint

Nintendo's device made gains in February, NPD reports, but it's hardly catching fire. And the game business as a whole continues its downward trend.

Nintendo

The video game industry once again had a down month as console and software sales slipped.

Total industry sales hit $810 million in February, representing a 25 percent drop compared with the same period last year, market researcher NPD said yesterday. Hardware sales were down 36 percent to $244.2 million, and console and portable software sales across the physical retail channel could only reach $352 million -- a 27 percent drop compared with February 2012.

The Xbox 360 once again led the hardware market, earning the top spot in console sales for the 26th month in a row. According to Microsoft, it held 41 percent share of the console space, thanks to 302,000 units sold in February.

The big news in the console market, however, might just be that the Wii U continues to be a disappointment. In January, Nintendo sold only 57,000 Wii U units in the U.S. According to NPD, the company's sales rose 40 percent in February. Although that might seem like good news, that means Nintendo sold between 64,000 and 80,000 Wii U units last month -- an abysmal showing for a product that launched just a few months prior. The discrepancy is based on NPD's January figures, which included an extra week. Assuming a straight week-to-week comparison not accounting for that extra fifth week, sales figure would be around 64,000.

Historically, new consoles will dominate the hardware market for an extended period after launch. The Wii, for example, was the clear leader in the console space, selling out each month for an extremely long time after its launch. But the Wii U has failed to do so.

In the past, price cuts have helped consoles increase sales. However, Nintendo has consistently said that it won't cut the price of the Wii U, which retails for $300 for the Basic set and $350 for the Deluxe set that adds Nintendo Land and some accessories.

For its part, Sony didn't say how many consoles of its PlayStation 3 it sold, but that company is currently focused on the launch later this year of the PlayStation 4. That console, which has yet to be priced or even shown in public, will come with a major component upgrade, allowing it to deliver improved graphics over what's available now. Sony has yet to say when it will launch.

One other tidbit from the NPD February report: Dead Space 3 was the top-selling game, followed by Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Crysis 3.

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