Nintendo back in profit but Wii U and 3DS sales crawling

Nintendo's profits are up, but sales of its latest consoles are below expectations, with just a few thousand Wii Us selling each day.

Nick Hide
Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
Expertise Copy editing, football, Civilization and other old-man games, West Wing trivia
2 min read

Nintendo is slowly recovering, with profits for 2012 up on last year, but sales of its latest consoles, the Wii U and 3DS, are hardly hitting the dizzying heights of previous generations.

The post-Christmas slump saw the Wii U sell only 390,000 units worldwide in the last three months -- roughly 4,300 per day across the entire planet. In the whole of last year Nintendo sold 3.45 million units across the globe, well below its target of 4 million. The 3DS, too, narrowly fell short of the expected 15 million units, selling just under 14 million.

Nintendo had already cut its targets from 5.5 million for the Wii U and 17.5 million for the 3DS, which is probably just as well, while UK retailers had to cut the price of the Wii U to entice shoppers. Nintendo's monstrously popular last-generation console, the Wii, sold 20 million units last year -- impressive considering it hasn't had a major game release in quite some time.

The Big N made £46.7m profit in the last financial year, half of its target of £93.4m. This doesn't sound like much for a global gaming colossus, but following the previous financial year, when it saw a loss of £284.5m, this is certainly good news. Nintendo made £4.19bn in net sales, down 1.9 per cent from last year, while its operating income is £240.1m in the red, more or less consistent with last year. This is hardly surprising considering the cost of R&D and manufacturing a new console.

The Wii U and 3DS have suffered from a lack of high-profile releases, which would drive sales. Given that the Wii U is being sold at a loss, with Nintendo hoping to reap money back through software sales, it must have all its fingers and toes crossed its games sell like hot cakes.

Upcoming games for the 3DS include Pokemon X and Y, Mario and Luigi: Dream Team and Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past 2, and new Mario, Super Smash Bros, Pikmin and Legend of Zelda games for the Wii U.

"These games, along with titles from Nintendo's third-party publishing partners, will help drive hardware momentum and introduce new audiences to the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS platforms," Nintendo hopes.

Nintendo has high expectations of eShop, its digital store, after online sales increased by 110 per cent last year.

Will the new Mario make super profits? Or is Nintendo nobbled? Stomp around in the comments, or on our super Facebook page.

Watch this: Nintendo Wii U hands-on

Additional reporting by Alex Calvin.