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Wii U's failure came down to the wrong approach at the wrong time, says Miyamoto

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The Wii U's lackluster sales are partly a result of Nintendo's miscalculations regarding the console's tablet-like controller and launch timing, said legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto in a recent interview with Fortune.

With only 9.54 million units sold as of March 31, the Wii U is Nintendo's slowest-selling console of all time. Miyamoto said during an investor Q&A in early 2014 that he believes that Nintendo failed to educate consumers about the "true value" of the Wii U, and that the company didn't make a good enough case for the console's tablet-like GamePad controller.

"I feel like people never really understood the concept behind Wii U and what we were trying to do," Miyamoto told Fortune. "I think the assumption is we were trying to create a game machine and a tablet and really what we were trying to do was create a game system that gave you tablet-like functionality for controlling that system and give you two screens that would allow different people in the living room to play in different ways."

But the GamePad can't hold a candle to the utility provided by stand-alone tablets such as the iPad. And according to Miyamoto, that comparison proved particularly unflattering for the GamePad because Nintendo launched the Wii U in late 2012 — a time when proper tablets were exploding in popularity.

"Unfortunately, because tablets, at the time, were adding more and more functionality and becoming more and more prominent, this system and this approach didn't mesh well with the period in which we released it," said Miyamoto to Fortune. "I still feel it was a very novel approach — and a very interesting idea."

As for Nintendo's next hardware platform, code-named the NX, Miyamoto is stepping back from its development.

"Of course I am observing and looking at the hardware, but I am not actively participating and making decisions," he said. Instead, he is currently focusing more on software, including Star Fox Zero — a title designed specifically to highlight the GamePad.