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Is Mario Kart 8 the Wii U’s Savior?

Mario Kart 8

As the gaming industry spirals towards this year’s annual E3 show we enter what has traditionally been a slow period for game releases. This time of year most of the big publishers are busy preparing for the big show in Los Angeles, which means if any game is released it’s usually something that just gets dumped without much fanfare. 2014 seems to be an exception to that as we’ve recently seen the release of UbiSoft’s Watch_Dogs, and now Nintendo has released the game that may be changing the Wii U’s fate…

Nintendo released Mario Kart 8 last Friday, and they have announced that the game has already sold 1.2 million units over its first weekend making it not only a huge hit, but also the fastest-selling Wii U title yet. In the UK, Chart-Track says that the game has boosted Wii U sales a whopping 666% percent. We don’t normally hear of official US sales until the monthly NPD numbers come out in a couple weeks, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a large boost here.

The game is also the #1 seller in video games on Amazon, beating out UbiSoft’s Watch_Dogs (which has sold 4 million copies since launch):

Mario Kart 8 Amazon Top Seller

Just a couple of weeks ago, Iwata told analysts that “The fate of a video game system is often influenced greatly by the introduction of a single title.” Even at this early stage, it’s starting to look like Mario Kart could be that title for the Wii U.

A couple of weeks ago Polygon posted an article with questionable research that stated that not only would Mario Kart 8 be the worst-selling title in franchise history, it would only sell 1.26 million copies over the entire lifetime of the title. The game has beat their lifetime sales projection before its first week on shelves.

The game has even spawned a new internet meme around Luigi’s Death Stare:

luigi-death-stare-meme-mario-kart-8

The Mario Kart franchise has always been huge for Nintendo with the Wii version of Mario Kart selling upwards of 14 million units. While Super Mario 3D World featured “competitive co-op”, there hasn’t been a great competitive multi-player title on the Wii U. With split-screen and solid online play, Mario Kart seems to be filling that gap in the system’s line-up and it appears to be paying off for Nintendo.

Last month’s release of Mario Kart 8, followed by this fall’s Smash Bros., could signal that this is the year when things turn around for the Wii U in the US.

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