Nintendo's 3DS has just managed to accomplish an amazing feat with the two years it's been on the market: It has surpassed the lifetime sales of the Wii over in Japan. This means that the Japanese really hated the Wii or they really love the 3DS.
My Nintendo News picked up the news courtesy of the Media Create sales from Japan [via NeoGaf], in which it was revealed that the Nintendo 3DS has shifted a whopping 12,752,731 SKUs in Japan. Compare this to the lifetime sales of the Wii, where the native-Japanese machine only established an install base of 12,698,878 in the land of the rising sun.
Despite having a global install base of 100,000,000, the Wii wasn't quite as big in Japan as some may have thought. The 3DS handheld put a royal whooping on its big cousin like it stole something. However, there's a bit more to the story than just the 3DS being some sort of angelic handheld that magically prints money for Nintendo.
As noted over on Kotaku, the Japanese gaming culture is a lot different over there than it is in other parts of the gaming world. The living quarters are a lot smaller; a lot of their time is spent out and about and home consoles are a bit of an inconvenience compared to mobile or arcade gaming. Hence, in Japan, there's a big gaming culture surrounding portable gaming and arcade “theme parks”. This also explains why over in Japan they spend more on mobile apps than Americans, despite having a smaller install base when it comes to mobile phone saturation.
With the above information in mind, it's not surprising that the 3DS – a device that brings high quality portable gaming with a 3D autostereoscopic schtick to the table – would find a lot of affability over in Japan, which is not to mention that there are some big exclusives for the 3DS like Monster Hunter 4 and Nintendo's iconic brands that just help push and separate the 3DS above and beyond the competition.
Even though analysts have desperately been trying to skew the data to make it look like Nintendo is dying and that portable (and dedicated) gaming is going the way of the dodo, the stats actually look quite good in the favor of core gamers, with app sales being on par with the 3DS and Vita throughout this year. While some people might say that's a bad thing, keep in mind that smartphones dwarf portable gaming on average of a five-to-one ratio with the 3DS, in addition to Sony's PS Vita making up for less than 3% of the total install base of Samsung's smartphones. Having comparable software sales on such a lopsided hardware landscape speaks volumes to the success of dedicated portable gaming... especially for Nintendo.
In simple terms, Nintendo is absolutely kicking butt and taking names despite naysayers sitting around spouting out and off on the doom and gloom scenario of Nintendo not doing what Sony, Microsoft, EA and Activision are doing. It's also funny that when you think about it, Sony's strategy for the PS4 is a lot closer to Nintendo than it is to Microsoft, with the company trying to focus on acquiring smaller indie studios to land a jackpot with something creative and emergent, as opposed to playing the dollar game that Microsoft is doing.
As far as portable gaming is concerned, Nintendo is safe. Now all they need to do is hunker down and get their home console head on straight and prepare for battle this fall. Hopefully they have enough exclusives to help propel the Wii U up in the same way they hunkered down and made the Nintendo 3DS one of the most successful gaming platforms ever released.