In the spring of 2005, we were all introduced to the next generation of gaming, and it came in the form of Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Showing off its cutting edge graphics, robust online community and deep lineup of third party developers, it paved the way as far as what to expect from consoles for the second half of the decade. The 360 was off to a great start by launching a year ahead of everyone else. Waiting for their turns, both Japanese console makers we’re pretty hush-hush on the details on their plans for the next generation. Nintendo probably more quiet than Sony, for a while was referring to their machine simply by its code name: Revolution.
Was Nintendo wrong by giving it such a code name? Absolutely not; because the word by it’s definition means, “major change”, and that’s exactly what the Wii did for the industry as it reached out to people who normally wouldn’t have any interest in gaming and turned them into believers.
Fast forward 3 years to present day and Nintendo little white box that could has managed to sell the most amount of hardware in the least amount of time, in the short history of video games. To date the Wii has moved an astounding 56.14 million units (as of September 2009) since launch. As amazing as that sounds, you should see the software sales. With 140 million units of software (in the US) sold they’re currently about 3 million units behind the 360 which had the one year head start, but still 80 million units ahead of Sony’s PS3.
I guess it doesn’t take a rocket science to figure out that with such extensive market penetration it should be relatively easy to sell software, yet third party publishers can’t sell games even if their lives depended on it.
This is something that has been plaguing the Nintendo brand for quite sometime now. With the Gamecube, it felt as though 3rd party publishers wanted nothing to do with Nintendo, and now with the Wii every publisher under the sun wants a piece of the 56 million plus user base just can’t go about doing it efficiently. And what’s the one thing standing in their way? Nintendo.
I know your probably like “whaaaa?” but just hear me out. Trust me; know one wants their 3rd party publishers to sell more than Nintendo or any other console manufacturer for that matter. Remember kids, money is made off of the software, not the hardware, so it is imperative that all publishers sell as many games as possible. So how is Nintendo throwing a wrench into that? Easy. No one wants to play games on a Nintendo console if it doesn’t include one of the following: Mario, Samus, Link, Go Karts, or Mii’s (or any combination of the 5).
With that said, how many times do people read NPD results and wonder why titles like The Conduit, Madworld, and the more recent Dead Space: Extraction don’t sell as many copies as they should. Games like this simply do not work on the Wii, and it makes me ponder, how much longer will this last? How much longer can developers continue pouring in good ideas, time, and effort into a console that of which has the biggest reach yet manages to provide little incentive?
I know some would argue the idea that games released in 2007 and 2008 for the Wii suffered because of all of the 1st party gems being released by Nintendo at the time. And I couldn’t agree more. Although if that is the case then what’s the situation with the titles listed above? In 2009, there hasn’t been any major 1st party titles released (not including New Super Mario Bros Wii which will hit stores in a few weeks) and yet all of the 3rd party games that have been released still have managed to bring in abysmal sales numbers.
In a recent earnings press conference Satoru Iwata has even gone on to say “We didn’t release strong software continually [for the Wii] and let the good mood cool down.” That right there shows you that Nintendo knows who’s the captain of software ship. They are the captain, the first mate, the cook, and the deck hands. They do not need 3rd party games and developers should stop making them. They should focus attention on the 360 and the PS3 where they have a better chance of having the fruits of their labor actually strive on the other platforms.
Another major point to make note of is Nintendo’s sales for the year of 2009, which have been in line with exactly what they’ve sold last year. I know to some that may sound good, and it’s definitely not a bad thing per se, but when you’re in the business of making money you always want your sales to increase and not stay stagnate. In the meantime the other two consoles have been experience exponential sales growth on a year-to-year basis with each passing year being a huge improvement on the previous.
Although it’s all fun and games, the video game business, just like any other industry is about making money. If developers continue to see sales not meet projections, they will see no reason to continue producing games. These games are made to sell, not to sit on shelves.
I know that their lead in the console wars this generation is pretty much insurmountable. As they sit about 30 million units above their current competition (the 360) but in all honesty when it’s all said and done wouldn’t it be embarrassing when a console with half (or even a third if you throw in the PS3) of your install base sells more software than you do? This spring, the other big console makers (who actually move software) are also about to jump into motion controls as well. If developers were all about utilizing motion controls then what incentive will developer have to stay on board on the Wii? Everyone’s love affair with the Wii is winding down, and most who do still play it only do so when the latest AAA 1st party game is released, which is more and more infrequent with every passing season. That brings me back to my original question: Why should Wii (consumers and developers) even care or bother anymore? As I write this staring at my dusty Wii in disgust, I’ll end this with a fitting quote from CliffyB’s twitter a few days back. “The Wii is a one night stand, the Xbox 360 is a serious relationship.”
(Joel goes and sits in the corner and waits for Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles to flop on the Wii, and then get ported to Natal in HD in the spring)