If you follow the site regularly, you know that I had some trouble when I went to pick up Injustice: Gods Among Us on release day. I live in a relatively small community of about 10,000 people with the only video game retailer in a 30 mile radius being Walmart. The local Walmart is typically pretty good about having new releases, so I didn’t think anything of it when I strolled in. However, when I got there, I realized that there are multiple factors as to why the Wii U is failing to move units and games alike. Customers can’t buy them if they aren’t there.
This is the current Wii/Wii U section available at my local store. As you can see, the Wii U games are rather haphazardly thrown in with the Wii games with no regard for organization. There are a total of 11 Wii U games available, with only one of them–Lego City: Undercover–having come out this year. This is appalling for a display for a new console. First, the Wii and Wii U games should be separated. The manner in which these games are thrown together makes it appear as though Wii U games are able to be played on the Wii. I’ve had to answer that question more than once just from random people emailing our tip line asking if that was the case.
Below the games shelf are the Wii U consoles.. obstructed by black Wii consoles the store hasn’t sold yet. You can’t even determine whether or not the store has a Wii U in stock, since its hidden behind hardware from 2011. So how does the Wii U display compare to the Xbox 360 and PS3 counterparts? Quite poor. As I strolled down the aisle, I noticed that each section was given proper display area. There were no Xbox 360 games mixed in with PS3 games.
Several new releases lined the Xbox 360 and PS3 shelves, including the very game I had made the trip to the store for–Injustice: Gods Among Us. Walmart had chosen to order copies of that game for the PS3 and the Xbox 360, but had neglected to do so for the Wii U. Wondering if it was a fluke, I waited a day and went back last night just to see if there would be a Wii U version available on the shelves. Sadly, there was not.
All of this is certainly chalked up to limited shelf space and living in a smaller community, but if you consider the amount of Americans that live in rural communities exactly like mine, the number adds up. From the 2010 US census, it was determined that around 18% of Americans live in rural areas, with rural areas being classified as towns less than 50,000 people. The current US population is hovering around 315 million. 18% of 315 million is 63 million Americans. 63 million Americans walk into their local Walmart or other supermarket that deals in video games and sees what I see when it comes to the Wii U offering. That’s abysmal.
Certainly some of this is alleviated by having dedicated stores like GameStop in larger communities. I could have driven for 30 minutes and hit up the GameStop in a larger town if I wanted to do so. The problem there is that GameStop has been notoriously bad about getting Wii U releases in as well. When Lego City: Undercover was released last month, there were reports of people who pre-ordered through GameStop being unable to get their game because of delayed shipments and lack of stock. Tell me how it makes sense for someone to pre-order a game to guarantee a release date copy, only to not have it when the release date arrives?
Overall, the situation with Wii U games and retailers needs to be rectified. Retailers need to do more to differentiate between Wii and Wii U games, so general consumers will stop assuming that the Wii U is just an accessory for the long available Wii that’s already sitting in their home. Nintendo is doing all it can to build up a bulky fall catalog to try and compete with the likes of Microsoft and Sony, but if retailers aren’t giving the Wii U the shelf space it deserves, then it’s going to remain a problem.
What are your experiences in buying Wii U games in your community? If you live in larger suburban and urban areas you’ve likely not experienced the same problems I have, but I’m eager to know what your shelves look like at your local Walmart, Target, or other supermarket.