I'm thinking that Nintendo, with a mix of skill, luck, and support, can still sell 40 million of these things lifetime.
- First, Mario Kart 8. It's predecessor for the Wii is one of the best-selling games of all time, with over 34 million retail copies sold. Now, I expect Mario Kart to have a big decline from that series high point. However, even with that taken into account, Mario Kart 8 can still easily sell over 10 million copies lifetime. If we compare Mario Kart DS's sales in late 2005 to MK7's, we can see an increase of roughly a million sales, despite MKDS being released earlier in November rather than December. It's arguable that the main reason MK7 has worse legs after 100 weeks than DS did was because it sold to so many customers already and downloads are not included. Even if you believe that people buy Mario Kart games for hardware rather than them being actual system sellers by default, it is hard to imagine MK8 not becoming one of the best-selling racing games of the generation at least.
- Second, we have a bunch of games with loose release dates for sometime in 2014. These include Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2, and X. None of these games are likely multi-million sellers, but could all possibly sell a million copies. Furthermore, they appeal to demographics (Action and RPG fans for example) that might be on the edge of buying a Wii U for its more traditional Nintendo games.
- Third, Super Smash Bros 4. Like with Mario Kart 8, it's hard to imagine this game being less than a big hit even after a steep decline. Brawl was the first Fighting game to ever sell over 10 million copies on one platform, and even the N64 original sold over 5 million copies, or to roughly 15% of the N64 userbase. The 3DS version will likely hurt it, but Super Smash Bros 4 will still sell millions of copies in its first year, and sell a million consoles at bare minimum.
- Fourth, the Wii U is going to benefit from being the cheapest console of the generation in terms of third party support. There are series such as Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and Just Dance that will simply do well on the Wii U because people buying hardware for those games will want to save $100 or $200. The fact that these games have thus far sold better on the Wii U than the PS4 and One simply help[s matters.
- Fifth, indie support. Indies don't really sell hardware by themselves, but they perdorm an important role: filling up an otherwise bare library. This is why Xbox had a few "summer of the Indie" events: to make up for lack of big games with smaller but still quality ones. People who could buy Nintendo consoles and care about indie games would be more likely to do so considering how a new major indie game seems to come out every cuple of weeks.
- At this point, Nintendo would have secured enough momentum so that 2014, particularly June through December, could be the first time the Wii U does particularly well since launch. This would guarantee support from third parties like Disney, Ubisoft, Warner Bros, Sega, and Activision, who have been willing to invest in Nintendo platforms before. Meanwhile, games like MK8 and SSB4 will join the Mario games as long-term legs games, selling the console into 2015.
- As 2015 rolls by, likely Nintendo releases will include games like Zelda, Mario Party, Pikmin 4, Animal Crossing 5, etc. These games, much like 2009's Wii lineup, can keep momentum going, especially as the console gets a $50 price cut or two by the end of 2015.
- 2016 would likely be the Wii U's last big year of support, with a new 3D Mario being one likely candidate, but by this point, the Wii U could survive off of momentum. As Nintendo releases a new 9th gen platform in late 2018, the Wii U could sell through May 2019.
- In this scenario, Nintendo would only have to sell around 6 million Wii U units per year for the next half a decade to reach 40 million.
Note that I expect some of these stars to fail to align, and for the Wii U to sell far less than 40 million. However, I still believe Nintendo can cut their losses.
Just some thoughts on the eve of the Wii U's last hope.
Love and tolerate.