Super Mario 3D World is not going to be the Wii U's saviour. Despite many - and deservedly so - praising Nintendo's reimagining of its mascot, the initial sales figures do not look good. You don't even need to lose yourself in thousands of numbers or statistics either. You just need to know it was outsold by Knack…
It's not that surprising of a trend, however. Firstly, Sony's launch title is bundled with a console that's selling incredibly well. Secondly, although the sheer ingenuity and class Mario's latest brought to the table was nothing short of exquisite, it has been the 2D versions where public interest appeared to have been at a fever pitch. While Mario Galaxy sold around 10 million copies on the Wii, for example, New Super Mario Bros. sold almost 27 million. The former is nothing to sneer at, obviously, but when there's such a vast difference you have to assume the wider audience - or the individuals you need to purchase your console - are very aware of which iteration they prefer.
The worry, then, comes when you see how the two franchises are currently fairing on Wii U, the system that's, if we're honest, desperate to start achieving more success (the PS4, for example, has seemingly already outsold it in the UK). New Super Mario Bros. U - officially the worst name for a sequel in history - topped out at around 2.3 million, a far cry from the figures quoted above. With Christmas looming and the sheer love the series has, there's every chance 3D World bucks the current slump and finds some momentum. That's increasingly looking like somewhat of a dream scenario.
When the Wii destroyed the world and managed to convince an insane amount of new people to hop aboard the video game train, Mario was a fresh experience, in many occasions seen through fresh eyes. His popularity is such that his moustached-face was instantly recognisable, and the accessibility coupled with, of course, co-op play in New Super Mario Bros. was an easy in. It's why Mario Kart Wii followed suit - there wasn't much there to get your head around. As you'd imagine a significant portion of people introduced to such mechanics did make their way across to Mario Galaxy, a more intricate, in-depth and, for my money, better game. It was an obvious jump to get more content from a concept you already understood.
That hasn't happened with the Wii U, though. Even a vast proportion of longtime gamers have decided Nintendo's latest still has nothing to convince them to invest, and the even greater population doesn't appear to be interested at all. If they were, 3D World would be selling machines as the memories of last-gen became new experiences today. Again, it could be far too early to tell how much impact it may have, but it certainly seems unlikely that anyone is holding out for Christmas… which is only three weeks away. A far more likely scenario is that the hype just isn't there.
Nintendo still has aces up its sleeve, Mario Kart 8 being the one with the most potential power, but surely given the current landscape even that's doomed to be a far cry behind its predecessor? Mario Kart Wii was popular because the console already sat in families' houses, not because it enticed people to drop £179 so they could bomb around Mario Circuit.
The question is, then, what does save the Wii U? The popular answer would be the mentioned racer and the arrival of a 'proper' Zelda game, but they won't make any huge dents. If Mario can't do it - often a turning point in Nintendo hardware cycles - then its other big franchises won't either. The 3DS is a bonafide beast but A Link Between Worlds certainly didn't light up the sales chart on its release. It'll no doubt be a constant seller for the foreseeable future and add yet more power to the handheld's insanely good catalogue, but it was an extra feather in the 3DS's cap, not the foundations which the following success was built from.
It sounds redundant to say so, but at this point the Wii U needs games, and not just the ones we expect. Looking at the bigger picture, mind, that doesn't look like the most easy of outcomes. Many of the bigger third-party publishers have expressed their disappointment with the console, and even Ubisoft - who used to be so desperate for success on Nintendo devices they made Red Steel 2 - have taken a step back. ZombiU may've been an intriguing experiment, but ultimately no one cared.
Nintendo has proved time and time again in the past that it's never a wise idea to bet against it. This, however, may be the always inevitable exception…