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NPD numbers reveal how Nintendo has lost touch with reality

Nintendo, I get that you're going through some hard times here, but can you please just own up to it? Yesterday, NPD issued its (perennially problematic) monthly sales data, detailing US retail game-industry sales for November. The big three have for years issued follow-on press releases, ones designed to spin the news in their favor. Usually, the tenor of these communique fall somewhere between raging enthusiasm and an always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life attitude. Yesterday, though, Nintendo apparently felt a psychotic break was in order.

"In looking at these results, two things are indisputable," said Nintendo of America's Scott Moffitt, the VP of S&M (y'know, Sales & Marketing--get your head out of the gutter). "Our hardware is gaining momentum at the exact right time and our software catalog is stronger than ever.” Moffitt is making reference to the fact that Wii U hardware sales were up 340 percent month-over-month, though no hard numbers were offered.

Now, there's a couple problems here. First, the idea that month-over-month sales figures have any bearing on anything is preposterous. As any financial analyst will tell you, its year-over-year numbers that offer any sort of true insight into growth trajectory, especially in an industry as cyclical as video games. Deep discounts, combined with a general air of Black Friday consumerism, have and always will lead to bigger sales in November than October. It's like bragging about the increased sales of your tomato harvest, glossing over the fact that, last month, those tomatoes were all unripe.

It's a point so obvious it scarcely bears mentioning--making it all the more bizarre that Nintendo would hang its hat on that "victory." That said, the publisher certainly isn't going to tout the Wii U's true year-over-year change. The math here isn't pretty. Though Nintendo conveniently left out specific sales figures for November, IGN reports that the Wii U shifted just 222,000 units last month. If that figure is true, then year-over-year sales for the Wii U are down nearly 50% from last November, when the Wii U launched. (Incidentally, it also confirms reports from last month that indicated the Wii U sold just 50,000 units in October.)

Problem two has to do with Moffitt's assertion that now is the "exact right time" when Wii U hardware should be gaining momentum. For one, if sales are down in the neighborhood of 50% year-over-year, that isn't exactly momentum. Quite the opposite, actually. And on a more semantic level, what does the "right time" mean, exactly? Is Moffitt saying that NOA planned this all along, to have Wii U sales languish until just before the holiday shopping season?

What good is this statement other than to mislead, to obfuscate? Nintendo certainly has problems right now. Its got a problem with a lack of games. Its got a problem with a lack of next-gen hardware. Now, its problem seems to be that it lacks a firm grasp on reality. Touting imaginary victories is not going to get it back in the console race, and it's certainly not going to get more people to buy the Wii U.