“Grab a Wii U while you can, because they won’t be around forever,” a Nintendo executive said in a 2016 interview, as the company geared up for the launch of Switch. The Wii U has vanished from retail stores and, now, used games salespeople across the country are saying that they’re not seeing many Wii U trade-ins. If you want a Wii U, you’d better get one soon.
And no, you can’t have mine, even though every time I turn it on, specks of dust stick to my fingers. It lives in a cluttered living room cabinet between my Switch dock and a thousand wires, a relatively prominent spot for an out-of-date console. It exists for Super Smash Bros. Until Nintendo gets a Switch version of Smash out the door, my Wii U, like others’, won’t see the inside of a used games store.
Wii U disappeared from retail shelves quickly when Switch came along to replace it last March. Nintendo discontinued its production in November, 2016. But as late as November 2017, you could buy a Wii U directly from Nintendo, either on its own online store or via eBay, for $175. These, too, are now depleted, although GameStop and Amazon have many in stock.
Besides Smash, another reason for low supply of Wii U is that it was Nintendo’s worst-selling console. Today, Nintendo announced that the Switch has already outsold it after less than a year on the market. Wii U also came with the unique (if somewhat polarizing) GamePad controller, and Nintendo never sold GamePads by themselves, meaning that if the controller breaks, the whole system is useless.
Ian Ferguson, who works at San Diego games store Luna Games, said he doesn’t see a lot of Wii Us come through his shop. “Wii U trade-ins are not common even after the launch of the Switch,” Ferguson said, and “even after the announcement of certain Wii U games being ported to the Switch.” Marcus Richardson, an employee at New York used games store 8 Bit And Up, said he had not ever seen a Wii U pass through his shop until last week. The console’s owner sold it to make rent after quitting his job, he said.
Kelsey Lewin, co-owner of Seattle game store Pink Gorilla, says says she’s seen significantly fewer Wii Us at the store after the Switch launched than Wiis after the Wii U launched. Because of that, the used consoles’ price hasn’t dropped as quickly as others’, she says: “Customers are surprised to see that the Wii U still sells for $150 [or more].”
There was a time when Wii Us were a little easier to find, right around the 2016 holiday season. Daniel Mastin of Videogamesnewyork said the trade-ins picked up after the launch of Switch: “The initial onset of the realizing the system is completely dead/abandoned by Nintendo is an unusual feeling. It took people time to accept that there would be no more games,” he said.
Videogamesnewyork bought back Wii Us at a faster pace than at any time in the console’s history at the beginning of 2018, he said. But what game sellers across the country agreed on was that when the “failed” consoles, the ones that sold in low numbers in the first place, do hit the market, they don’t stay there for long—hence the fact that they’re gone now.
Even though Wii U wasn’t a great seller, it’s still a Nintendo platform, and therefore it has a great library of games. So it shouldn’t be surprising that many owners haven’t sold theirs yet, and never will. Once Super Smash Bros. is released on Switch, we might see another rush of used Wii Us hit stores as the community trades up to the newest game. But as Wii U ages, it might experience a renaissance amongst those who didn’t even buy it in the first place.
“Confusion over what the system was, lack of third party support, and lack of media attention left it in the dark while Nintendo still kept releasing its handful of titles,” Ferguson said. “Nintendo fans are going to want to play those ‘lost games’ someday, one way or another.”