Analyst: Some Retailers Don't Know the Difference Between Wii and Wii U

While Wii U continues to struggle at retail, an IHS senior analyst reveals some shocking findings from her "secret shopper" experiences.

News by Jaz Rignall, .

As Wii U continues to struggle at retail, an IHS analyst says Nintendo’s problem is in its messaging. More specifically, most people just don't understand how it differs from Wii.

Despite being on sale for almost a year, the Wii U hasn’t repeated the runaway sales success story of its predecessor. There are plenty of theories why this might be the case, but one of the biggest ones is that, according to IHS senior analyst Christine Arrington, many consumers and retailers simply don’t understand there’s a difference between Wii U and Wii – despite seven years separating the two machines.

Speaking with Benzinga, Arrington said, "I think one of the things that was a real indicator of that was just, anecdotally, if you went into a retailer and you talked to somebody in the games department, they didn't even understand what it was."

Apparently some retailers don't know the difference between this and a Wii. One assumes that they also need to paint L and R on their shoes to remind them which one goes on which foot.

She reveals, "I did the secret shopper kind of thing, and they would say, 'Well, there's no difference between the Wii and Wii U.'"

Arrington said she was told the same thing multiple times in her secret shopping efforts. As for why the console was so poorly understood, Arrington lamented the lack of a Wii Sports-like launch title, a game that would let everyone understand at a glance why the Wii U GamePad would allow for different experiences from the Wii.

We'll have to wait and see whether or not consumer (and retail) perception will change with Nintendo’s fall games lineup, but Nintendo president Satoru Iwata acknowledged both the lack of consumer understanding and the absence of a Wii Sports-like title for the Wii U earlier this year. His belief is that Nintendo's "relaxed" marketing efforts for the system has failed to convey the true benefits of the machine.

With both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 just weeks away from launch, Nintendo certainly has its work cut out to keep their own next-gen machine in the gamer’s consciousness. It certainly has some great games coming up this fall that we’re looking forward to, and it seems that there’s a strong Nintendo following who love Wii U. But whether or not it’ll break out of the core market and become a hit with more casual gamers remains to be seen.


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Comments 13

  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #1 Captain-Gonru 4 years ago
    She didn't come into my store, then.
    Seriously though, as one of the "uninformed" sales associates refered to, I'll like to argue with the image being put forth here... but I can't. Truthfully, it is a struggle to find actual knowledgeable staff at a retail store anymore. True story. When I went to a Gamestop to preorder the Circle Pad Pro for my 3DS, (an item that was a Gamestop exclusive, mind you) it took me literally 15 minutes to explain that no, I'm not looking for a PS3 game.
    And when you're talking about a Nintendo product, it becomes an even greater struggle, as many of the borderline competent clerks I've encountered let their fanboyism get in the way of doing their job properly. If you preter one console over another, fine, but you don't bad-mouth another based solely on personal taste. That's just unprofessional.
    I don't know. Blame it on low wages and the death of commission sales, maybe.
    Sorry. Went a bit long.
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  • Avatar for Bla1ne #2 Bla1ne 4 years ago
    I also recently read about Microsoft dropping the "RT" from its "Surface RT" name for future models, because of "consumer confusion". Yeah, Microsoft, *that's* why consumers aren't buying your tablet... I rather think it's because they're too informed and know exactly what they'd be getting into. As for the Wii U, I think it's a similar story. It's easy to blame consumer confusion rather than identify the real problems. For example: maybe the Wii was a fluke? Maybe consumers who got the Wii don't want the new one? Maybe consumers are aware of its current library and aren't tempted yet? It could be anything...

    @Captain Gonru I'm not quite sure what you're arguing for... You want GameStop employees to be paid more, and make commission, both of which would raise game prices? As an informed gamer, that's the last thing I'd want, personally! Keep the games as cheap as possible, I don't need a knowledgeable clerk when I know more than I really should about games... I have to say though, when I went to preorder Dragon's Crown at my local EB Games, the clerk didn't even bat an eyelash--she knew exactly what I was talking about, even though it was a pretty niche title! I've never felt lack of knowledge on the part of game store employees was ever a problem.Edited October 2013 by Bla1ne
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  • Avatar for metalangel #3 metalangel 4 years ago
    Speaking of EB Games, I bought a new 360 pad and had a hell of a time with the guys trying to find a headset that would work with the Chatpad. They were insisting some third party model would work fine and I had to explain how the old model of headset plug (where there were two extra tabs, and the mute and volume control were on the plug where it went into the controller) was changed to a simple headphone jack-style plug to accomodate the chatpad. Not only were they wrong but they refused to believe me. In the end I bought an official headset.

    As for the Wii U, part of the problem is that there isn't anything to really differentiate it from the Wii! I'm a pretty 'informed gamer' and apart from the Gamepad I don't really know what it does differently - certainly not enough to make me want to buy one. It doesn't help that my perceptions are clouded with bad memories of Wii Sports shovelware ripoffs, games with motion control shoehorned in, and other 'mainstream' unpleasantness.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #4 Funny_Colour_Blue 4 years ago
    @metalangel I'm having the exact same problem and I'm actually interested in buying a Wii U and I still have absolutely no idea what the system comes with. Like, you really have to dig for this information when it should really be out there front and centre for everyone to see.

    Nintendo should not be resting on their laurels, they should be advertising the crap out of the Wii U in order to help continue to debunk those myths and develop that mind share. They should be doing this right now!

    "Oh, so that's the Wii U!" "Oh, so that's how you play games on it!" "So how much is it?"Edited October 2013 by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #5 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    Eh, I think this story is way over exaggerated ( the original story this is based on)
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  • Avatar for metalangel #6 metalangel 4 years ago
    @Funny_Colour_Blue You know what made me interested in the Wii U? That Penny Arcade strip (yes I know) where they mentioned a D&D game where the player with the Gamepad was using it to be their DM.

    THAT I would buy. As it stands, I am completely put off by the price tags and indistinct of the PS4 and Xbox One, but don't know why I should be excited about the Wii U either. I think, though, the Wii U was released without a clear plan as to why it even needed to exist and now Nintendo are playing catch up to try and give it that reason.

    I'm sitting here with my 3DS and slowly remembering why I loved Nintendo when I was a kid (they lost me at the SNES and I only had an N64 for Goldeneye and a few others) so I just need that reason to be good. When my best friend comes over, I have no idea what game to shove into my 360 that we can play together, and I don't know what the new generation offers either. In the end we just watch Netflix or Youtube because the 'hardcore' consoles are obsessed with online multiplayer.Edited October 2013 by metalangel
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  • Avatar for raymondfernandes09 #7 raymondfernandes09 4 years ago
    My own brother, who is fairly tech savvy, was confused by the Wii U. He thought it was for the original Wii. This is an even bigger problem for completely un-savvy consumer. Nintendo dropped the ball on the branding of this and I said this would happen from the beginning. Scores of journalists said the same thing.
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  • Avatar for vincentgoodwin88 #8 vincentgoodwin88 4 years ago
    The research is a bit shoddy, and people can be dumb. But I think that parents had difficulty understanding the difference between Super NES and regular NES. People can also understand console cycles now, and Playstation 4 is different than Playstation 3.

    That said, I think Nintendo wanted people to associate the Wii's success with the Wii U, but ultimately, it wasn't enough of a differentiating name. Wii to Wii U not much different a name than DS to DSi or DSiXL. One's a different product that plays different games. One plays the same games. And actually 3DS to 3DSXL to 2DS is probably even worse naming, since those are the same product.

    Maybe it's just me, but it also felt like the name brought back shades of THQ's uDraw tablet for the Wii (which I think was successful briefly, before THQ went overboard on manufacturing them). There was a product for the Wii that was a tablet controller with "u" in the name. It seems like a bad idea to associate similar concepts with similar names.
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  • Avatar for christopherhughes97 #9 christopherhughes97 4 years ago
    At the Kmart I work at, I have to explain the difference to about 1 or 2 customers a week, so assuming that a lot of department stores don't staff their electronics departments with people who consume the same amount (a little too much) of gaming news as I do, I could easily believe that there are plenty of retailers that don't know the difference.
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  • Avatar for Wellman #10 Wellman 4 years ago
    @vincentgoodwin88 It's not just the name (although Wii U is pretty bad) that is misleading people into thinking there is no difference between the Wii and Wii U. Nintendo sabotaged themselves in key areas in terms of design.

    The Wii U looks a lot like the last Wii redesign that has been on sale for years. Compounding that is that aside from the new Classic Controller and the Gamepad the Wii U has no unique controller. Most advertisements at launch had people using Wii remotes, the Wii remotes that are usually packaged with the Wii U use are basically the Wii remote Plus repackaged. Even the brand logo is basically just adding the U in the background. With consoles you need to make the successor look different, have different controllers so the average consumer knows its a new product.

    Nintendo blew the early launch time they had with really bad marketing decisions that seemed aimed at replicating the Wii's success without any of the effort they put in making that brand as strong as it was back when the Wii launched.
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  • Avatar for jjmahoney3 #11 jjmahoney3 4 years ago
    Around Christmas last year I was at our local Target and overheard a mother asking an employee in the game section about the Wii U. The employee stood there saying nothing, or "I don't know". I couldn't stand it so I went over and answered her questions. Granted there was even more confusion back then, like whether a 2nd GamePad could be purchased or not (we still don't know when or if that will ever happen) but even the most basic stuff the employee had no clue.
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  • Avatar for docexe #12 docexe 4 years ago
    @Wellman Yeah, Nintendo made many poor branding and marketing decisions with this console. Besides what you mention, it doesn’t help that with the original Wii they released a myriad of products branded as “Wii something”. With that precedent and with the console having such similar design to its predecessor, seeing people and retailers still confused or not knowing what differentiates the Wii U is not surprising in the least.

    The sad thing is that Nintendo is still dropping the ball in this respect. I just haven’t seen enough advertisement for the console that would help it to entice mainstream customers to buy it. Now, marketing and branding is certainly not the only problem that has affected the console, but is still a key component in order to reach the mainstream market that made much of the sales of the Wii and DS.

    And well, I think that in terms of exclusive games (Nintendo Land, Zombi U, Game & Wario, Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, Wind Waker HD, the upcoming Super Mario 3D World), a few multiplatform games (Rayman Legends, Lego City, Scribblenauts, Sonic Lost World, Monster Hunter 3G) and services (Miiverse, the e-shop), the Wii U has slowly amassed an offer that truly differentiates it from both its predecessor and its competition, so it’s becoming a more attractive platform overall even if it still lacks a title like Wii Sports that immediately justifies the new controller to most people. But whether or not this will be enough to turn around the situation of the console this Christmas is still in the air, and the prospects still look grim.
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #13 Captain-Gonru 4 years ago
    @Bla1ne Well, higher wages OR commission would help, frankly. Yes, Gamestop/EB Games employees are generally more knowledgeable than many of the "big box" store workers (the focus of the article). That doesn't change the fact that you would, on the whole, get a better caliber of employee with better pay. And, conversely, you get a worse worker with worse pay. I'm not trying to paint with too broad a brush here, but I have frequently run into a person that, while informed on their console of choice, will lack in other areas, whether it be other products or general salesmanship. A better pay scale would help with this.
    This isn't a new idea, either. Most retail sales positions were more lucrative until the late 70's to early 80's. When upper management decided they needed a bigger piece of the action, the wages dropped (this was the same period when domestic manufacturing started to be outsourced, too). Eventually, the "professional salesman" became extinct. A shame, really.
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