Yesterday’s Nintendo financial report revealed that Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U sold 3.43 million fewer copies than the same game on the 3DS. It’s a surprising discrepancy considering that Smash 4 is the franchise’s first handheld incarnation and the game has traditionally been played on a home console.
The 3DS’s 50 per cent sales buff is hard to parse. Since the game’s 3DS release, fans have complained that Smash wrecks their circle pad, works poorly with the handheld’s ABXY button layout, can’t utilise the Circle Pad Pro, is laggy (especially for more combo-heavy characters) and, players say, is still shitty to play online against friends or strangers. The Wii U also features several game modes and stages that 3DS players can’t access.
And, frankly, Smash is meant to be played locally with friends. I’m sorry. It’s true.
There are a few potential explanations, though. Nintendo initially released Smash 4 on the 3DS. People excited about the game may have rushed to purchase it immediately and neglected the Wii U version when it came out two months later, despite its superior graphics. Why buy two versions of the same game?
Also, the 3DS hardware simply did better. Compared to the Wii U’s unimpressive 13.56 million units sold, the 3DS (which had several models) sold 65.3 million. Curiously, on the Wii, which sold 101.6 million units, Nintendo pushed 13.2 million copies of Smash Bros. Brawl — the equivalent of Smash 4 on the 3DS and Wii U combined.
Maybe the explanation is a little more whimsical. When I posed the question to Kotaku staff, weird snack correspondent Michael Fahey told me, “I preferred it on the 3DS, where my failure was small and hard to notice.”