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Mario Kart 8 could be a "catalyst" for Wii U sales

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata recently suggested a single game could have a major impact on a system's sales.

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As Nintendo attempts to turn around the fortunes of the Wii U, the launch of Mario Kart 8 later this month could be a "catalyst" for the system, according to the company.

"I certainly feel that Mario Kart 8 can be the catalyst that will broaden Wii U's horizons," said Nintendo UK's Mario brand manager, Roger Langford, in an interview with MCV. "It's very important for us that we have a successful launch and continue the promotion throughout the year and beyond."

Langford discussed the importance of letting people know about all the changes introduced in Mario Kart 8, however minor, in the lead up to the game's release on May 30. "There are lots of tweaks in the game that on the face of it might not sound like much," he said. "But we are looking to seed these bits out to the core Mario Kart fans via our online and social media campaign, and get that word-of-mouth and buzz up to launch. So that when we get to release day, we have the big TV campaign to make the big splash, but also the fans are raring to go."

Along with the new Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8 is one of the biggest upcoming games for Wii U. Nintendo is making a major push with its launch, hoping to not only continue the series' history of strong sellers, but to also encourage sales of the system. Nintendo will offer a bundle that includes the system, the game, and a Wii remote (allowing two-player local multiplayer right out of the box) in both North America and Europe, and is also giving away a free downloadable game for those who buy a copy of Mario Kart 8, which earned an 8.0 in GameSpot's review.

Langford's statement that the game could serve as a catalyst for Wii U echoes a similar sentiment shared by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. During a recent Q&A with investors, Iwata stated, "The fate of a video game system is often influenced greatly by the introduction of a single title." He cited the first Pokémon game on Game Boy as an example of this.

As of March 31, the Wii U had sold only 6.17 total million units worldwide, well short of the 9 million it had hoped to sell in the preceding 12 months alone. (2.72 million consoles were sold during that span.) Nintendo now expects to sell 3.6 million systems during the year ending March 31, 2015. For comparison, the PlayStation 4 has already sold more than 7 million units, while the Xbox One surpassed the 3-million mark in less than two months. Ubisoft expects the two to combine for worldwide sales of more than 30 million units by next March.

At E3 next month, Nintendo won't host a traditional press conference, instead opting for a digital event on Tuesday, June 10 at 9 a.m. Pacific. Despite reports to the contrary, Nintendo insists it will not be showing new hardware at the event, though we will likely learn more about its plans to sell Skylanders-style figurines that make use of the Wii U GamePad's near field communication feature.

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