As part of Nintendo's semi-annual financial results briefing, company president Satoru Iwata explained that the Wii U hardware will have a negative impact on Nintendo's profits during this upcoming quarter, because "rather than determining a price based on its manufacturing cost, we selected one that consumers would consider to be reasonable."
He continued, "In this first half of the term before the launch of the Wii U, we were not able to make a profit on software for the system while we had to book a loss on the hardware, which is currently in production and will be sold below cost."
Nintendo rarely launches a console at such a price that it is not making a profit from the get-go, though the GameCube incurred a small loss with each sale initially.
The 3DS also began to make a loss on each unit sold after its price was discounted last year, but it became profitable again several months ago after Nintendo managed to reduce production costs.
[Update: Our article originally claimed the Wii U will be the first Nintendo console to sell at a loss when it launches. We have corrected it to note that the GameCube sold at a loss initially when it launched.]