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Nintendo 3DS sales continue to climb

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(Credit: Nintendo)

Nintendo doesn’t have a lot to say about the Wii U these days, but the 3DS? It’s happy to talk about that, and for good reason.

Life-to-date sales of the 3DS and 2DS have topped 11.5 million in the U.S., the company announced Friday.

More impressively -- and likely more importantly -- the owners of those systems are buying a healthy number of games. 3DS software sales in 2013 (again, for the U.S. alone) topped 16 million. That’s a 45 percent improvement over 2012, according to Nintendo.

The reason? Quality, says Nintendo, who point out that seven 2013 3DS games cracked 85 on Metacritic with two -- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Fire Emblem: Awakening -- topping 90.

Nintendo also pinned down release dates for a few upcoming games, including role-playing game Bravely Default (February 7), puzzler Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy (February 28), platformer Yoshi's New Island (March 14), and the character-driven Disney Magical World (April 11).

The good 3DS news doesn’t overshadow the state of the Wii U, though. Nintendo provided no sales updates for its flagship console, which was already struggling before the introduction of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Nintendo had previously said it expected the Wii U to boast sales of 9 million by the end of this March. Most analysts say that figure is absurdly out of reach, given consumer apathy for the device.

We should get an update on where things stand with the Wii U on January 29, when the company releases its quarterly earnings.

But until then, the company can take comfort from the new 3DS numbers. When it was first released, the handheld system failed to meet sales expectations and some doubters wrote it off as a casualty of the growing mobile market. With one dramatic price cut and a renewed focus on quality hardware, though, it bounced back. It’s currently tracking ahead of the pace of its predecessor, the Nintendo DS, which surpassed the original Game Boy to become the best-selling handheld gaming system of all time.

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