In the time taken from the Sega Dreamcast’s launch to its discontinuation, Nintendo’s Wii U has sold only half as many units as that system. While the final Sega machine sold 10.6 million units in its just under two years of worldwide release, the Wii U has only just crossed the five million mark.
While Nintendo’s fortunes are buoyed by the steady success of their handheld machine, the 3DS, the dreadful numbers will be no encouragement to the company, whose CEO Satoru Iwata recently took a 50% pay cut following record losses announced earlier this year.
In addition, March’s sales figures compared unfavourably to even the Gamecube’s, which comprised 165,000 consoles sold in March 2003, compared to the Wii U’s 70,000 in March this year. By comparison, the Wii in March 2008 outsold the Wii U by an order of magnitude, shifting 720,000 units.
The Sega Dreamcast launched successfully worldwide in September of 1999, but was beset by piracy problems, a lack of developer support and the strong competition provided by Sony’s PlayStation 2, which had the added benefit of DVD playback. While lauded for its better games, including Shenmue and Jet Set Radio, it was discontinued in March of 2001.
The Wii U, even with the advantage of an early launch compared to its competitors, has struggled to compete against the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It has seen a comparative drought of new releases and those multiplatform games which do make it to Nintendo’s machine often come late and missing features. However, the 3DS continues to dominate in the handheld market. Its relative cheapness compared to its only serious competitor, the PS Vita, alongside instalments of long-running and popular series like Pokémon, Zelda and Mario Kart, have allowed it to claim some 85% market share and over 40 million sales.