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Nintendo: Wii third party sales 'especially low', 3DS will do better

Iwata pledges to work more closely with external publishers

Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata has acknowledged that its current platforms have not performed as well for third parties as they do their owner.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Iwata noted that "it is true that the third party software sales ratio on Nintendo platforms are comparatively smaller in Japan. Wii's third party software ratio is especially low."

Graphs from Media Create data demonstrated this was approximately 26 per cent of total Wii software sales.

He claimed, however, that in terms of units rather than percentages, the DS was "the platform for which the largest amount of third-party software is selling" (with slides putting it at just under 50 per cent) but admitted this was partially attributable to the sheer size of its install base.

Iwata then attempted to defend interational third party sales as "not inferior" to the situation for PlayStation and Xbox.

Using data from Media Create and NPD, he offered that DS's third to first party ratio for US and Japan combined was around 55 per cent versus approximately 45, and slightly closer to 50/50 on Wii.

However, 360, PS3 and PSP first party sales each accounted for less than 20 per cent of total software shifted on those platforms.

Iwata was thus adamant that matters had to change for the 3DS.

"We need to decrease the concern that only Nintendo software can sell well on Nintendo platforms and third party software cannot sell in the same volume.

"We will not make a trend similar to the one found for Wii in Japan now," he promised. "we feel a need to have closer ties with our third party developers from the beginning."

Iwata then presented pre-recorded enthusiastic statements about the 3DS from third-party Japanese lumanaries behind the likes of Resident Evil, Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid and Professor Layton.

"The big expectations they hold make me humble," Iwata claimed afterwards. "Together with the third party software people, we aim to expand the sales of Nintendo 3DS, and we will never stop our efforts to expand the gaming population."

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Latest comments (14)

David Stenow8 years ago
No kidding. Nintendo has always been strongest on the first-party IPs, and the Wii focusing on the segment where many consumers buys one or two games each year, well of course that'll be the Nintendo IP games.

The 3DS seems to appeal more to the core crowd, so far we've mostly seen media focus on the classic Nintendo IP titles. While I realise this is partly because of journalists being nostalgic over Kid Icaros and other titles from their childhood I doubt that a market that focuses less on new IP than Activision themselves will be very attractive for new developers.
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Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 8 years ago
Admitting it is the first step to reform. :)
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
David, I think the media has glossed over more 3rd party 3DS titles than 1st party so far. RE, SSIV and MGS have grabbed more focus than any other titles.

Alec, do you mean "1st party" in the middle of your article regarding X360, PS3 and PSP?
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Nick Burcombe CEO & Co Founder, Playrise Digital Ltd.8 years ago
Don't they say this at the pre-launch of every console though and then about 18 months in everyone says...."Can't make money with Nintendo". I hope it changes - for the whole industry's sake.
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David Stenow8 years ago
Jimmy, perhaps. I'm not sure for how long the third party developers have had to work with the 3D engine, but I'm sure Nintendo has a headstart and will manage to make it work better for their titles. And let's be honest, the 3D gimmick is everything that makes the 3DS interesting.

Also, first party titles on 360 would be titles published by Microsoft, and PS3/PSP titles published by Sony, no? Less than 20% market share on software for Microsoft and Sony on those consoles sounds plausible to me.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Stenow on 30th September 2010 4:41pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
^It WON'T change if companies keep foisting new products on consumers hoping they'll keep shelling out for them and the games to go with them on a REGULAR basis. One of the major mistakes the industry continues to make is ASSUMING because there are millions of casual gamers now playing on every possible device, ALL of these folk will gladly buy into any new tech as soon as it's launched and support it until the next upgrade is announced (which is made to grab newer consumers rather than keep some of the older ones).

In terms of third-party Wii games, well... how about acknowledging there are too many out there? Separate the good ones from the shovelware and it's sort of easy to see why first-party games do much better. Add the fact that a lot of Wii owners probably aren't regular game buyers (and also probably rent more games than they actually buy) and it's no wonder sales have been slowing. As for the DS, too many games as well plus piracy issues plus too many good games being overlooked by reviewers (and little word of mouth for these games until they drop to the bargain bin) = lower than expected sales.

Based on reaction worldwide, the 3DS looks like it'll sell like hotcakes and the ability to play older games is a good thing (and makes me wonder why Nintendo so rapidly killed off the GameBoy name - GB games for all the platforms are still sold and traded in huge amounts - that name recognition and some great titles from the original up to the GBA era make it so). On that front, Nintendo shouldn't need to worry too much.

Still, while I have high hopes for the 3DS and know it'll perform well, how many who bought/upgraded to a DSiXL will want to spend that next few hundred dollars on a new handheld and games for it if they're not interested in 3D in the first place? In the end, it really doesn't matter how good the games are if the "projected' amount of consumers are merely waiting for a price drop at some point or simply doesn't want to play 3D games for whatever reasons.

One thing I rarely read about in industry news is the simple fact that we're still very much in a worldwide recession, no matter what the news says about it "letting up". A bit of quick polling outside a nearby GameStop a few days back revealed that there are a lot of consumers who want the 3DS (89 of the 100 people I asked), but only a small percentage (11 out of those 100) can actually afford a new handheld and games thanks to either recently buying a new one or their current financial status/future financial forecasting.

Yes, we all need a break from reality, but if your reality is that you can't afford a potential $250-$300 handheld when it launches, well... that's a little issue that needs addressing. Sure, a 1/10 acceptance rate might seem like a great number to some, but I'd gather that figure might be even lower in some areas. Or higher - polls suck, anyway because the information is easily manipulated (and people do change their minds).

Nintendo has held a solid grasp on the handheld market for what two decades now and I don't think they'll fall off the map anytime soon unless they price out consumers who'd normally snap up a new Nintendo product.

Granted, the many celebrities and fewer critics that get that 3DS and games for free will be having a blast...
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 8 years ago
Greg, although I broadly agree with your comments that there are still global financial problems ongoing, if Nintendo markets the 3DS well with the right kind of software then it will shift millions of units - I mean, just look at how well the iPhone 4 and iPad have done.

I'm not suggesting that the DS family has such a desirable reputation as the iOS hardware, but there are 120 (?) million DS owners out there, and how many of those would love the chance to play a similar new system with some impressive new tech built in?

Nintendo are bloody good at marketing in the last few years, so I certainly would not underestimate their output.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
David, the article initially said 3rd parties account for 20%...hence my comment.

And 1st party studios always have more time to work on software leading up to launch than do 3rd parties. But that's also why Nintendo has delayed the 3DS; to allow 3rd parties more sufficient time to prepare for console launch. I think that says a lot about Nintendo at the moment. Nick states Nintendo says this every generation but not to this level they don't and not so much that they'll bypass the important holiday shopping season and take a nasty hit on their stock price just to ensure 3rd parties are ready.
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Why don't you start speeding up the process to become an official developer? it takes ages!!
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
I will try to be objective but I have my fan hat on. :)

I dunno what people expect from one the Top 3 developers in the world.. stop making games so that people do not compare other games on their consoles with theirs?

There must be a reason why nintendo games sell more don't you think?
Helping 3rd party developers understand how to develop better games on their consoles would be a great step! Is it a coincidence that the few times nintendo was somehow involved in 3rd party development that game was very good and did quite well?

Almost with every game and demo they make they give lessons in exploiting the features of their consoles effectively.

I understand they have a somehow unfair advantage due to being the makers of the hardware but.. come on.. after a couple of titles that shouldn't be an issue. And we are talking about a huge amount of games for wii and ds. Churning constantly, one bad port after the other... you expect success?

However i too think that they should make it easier for small indie teams to develop a game on 3ds or future consoles. Especially for their DSi\wii ware series they should have done this. Anyone with a PC or mac can make a game for online distribution on other hanhdeld devices. I wish engines like unity or shiva3d show interest in 3ds development!

edit: the glass free 3d element is just that. a nice feature. i read the forums, blogs and all, and i think it is clear that gamers are not on 3ds just for the 3d effect. there are some really good titles coming from 3rd parties, along with classic nintendo titles. this device offers every feature one could possibly want to use in their game.3D, motion controls, analogue, camera, microphone... the works. There is no need to use them all for a game to be great, something that nintendo was stressing from the moment DS and wii were unveiled.Nor is it necessary to put the extra effort in designing your game for 3D.Yet everyone implemented features in a gimmicky way. I hope the same thing won't happen this time around.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Yiannis Koumoutzelis on 30th September 2010 6:58pm

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Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer 8 years ago
The issue here is how third parties utilise new gameplay with the Nintendo machines.

Nintendo has a track record of using first party software to show case what their consoles can do - from Super Mario 64 (N64) to Nintendogs and Wario Ware (DS) and Legend of Zelda, Wii Play, Wii Fit Plus (Wii). However what happened after that is that a lot of third party publishers just imitate what Nintendo has done to make a quick buck until these new ideas are worned old and tired.

Also Nintendo also has a track record of not just introducing new ideas, but also reinventing old franchises or gameplay. Look at titles like Animal Crossing and even franchises like Kirby and Metroid. Nintendo is not afraid to make changes or reinvent their old franchises. So far apart from Capcom's Resident Evil series, I haven't really seen someone reinventing a major franchise seriously and appropriately to hopefully score a success.

Look at all the games we now have, a lot of them are clones of each other using tired formulas. The situation is the worse on Wii and DS, so no matter why third party games are not selling as much. Titles like Mad World or Dead Space: Extractions although are now franchises on Nintendo's platform but they are not new games in terms of gameplay. Remember how Sega scored success with Monkey Balls on the Cube? Remember how Resident Evil 4 sold loads on the Cube? Remember how Tales of Symphonia trump RPG sales on the Cube? Where are these games on the Wii (not the franchise but the quality and innovation)?

While I think it is good that Nintendo acknowledged the third party issue, it is up to third party to up their game. I reckon what Nintendo wants to achieve this round is that the third party initiates the innovation with 3DS instead of Nintendo taking the lead and end up inspiring millions of clones titles from third parties that are not inspiring and with no market value.
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Charley Wang Studying Engineering, University of Toronto8 years ago
I agree Haven -- there are so many third party developers on Wii producing unoriginal games that it taints the average gamer's impression of third party games in general. It's a shame!

I feel the best thing Nintendo could do would be to try to increase the visibility of third party games. Not sure how best to go about this. But I suppose one thing Nintendo could do is feature an original/unique third party game in each of its official offerings. I.E. Mario Galaxy 2 could contain a brief shoutout to LostWind.

Heck, does anybody remember those Demo Discs that you used to get? Those were totally sweet, and the important thing is that with the internet you don't even need a physical disk. Include a code with each official game that allows the buyer to download some free demos of cool third party games. I suggest limiting 3 demo downloads per code, so 1) players feel like they're getting some sort of added value and 2) players become emotionally invested in the choice which predisposes them toward buying the game later.

I don't know, just something I'd love to see :)
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Tony Johns8 years ago
The only reason why I believe that 3rd party sales on the Wii are low compared to 3rd party sales of games on the XBox360 and PS3 is because that Nintendo themselves produces huge ammounts of 1st party games on their consoles and the people who buy the consoles don't have enough money to get all the games that they want that comes out so they are left with a choice of choosing either the 1st party game from Nintendo that they expect high quality game from, or a 3rd party game where the quality could be either high or low.

And considering that there is a causual user base on the Wii, who have not got much money for games, they perfer only to get Nintendo 1st party games on their Wii.

The DS is in a lucky position to have a larger install base and less competition in the handheld market to allow more users to buy cheeper 3rd party software that allows more chance for 3rd party developers to match the market dominance of Nintendo on their successful handheld market Nintendo have hold since the GameBoy of the 90s and Game & Watch days of the 80s.

Microsoft and Sony don't have much 1st party games so they dependant on the informed gaming community to know what 3rd parties are making in order to reflect their buying decisions for 3rd party software while all the casual users who have a PS3, XBox360 and even a PSP handheld to just buy the 1st party software or any game that is marketed well enough to attract the attention of the casual market.

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Tony, I need to correct a few things about your comment. Sony actually has a larger 1st party group of studios than Nintendo does. Sony studios have developed 42 PS3 titles. Nintendo studios have developed 32 Wii titles (they've published 59).

Wii attach ratio is 7.7 which is just shy of the PS3's 8.1 and not far behind the X360's 8.8. This shows that average Wii owners do buy about as much software as they do on the other consoles. Casual or not....they do buy games.

You are right about the rest of it, though. It's a battle between quality and brand and consumers know the Nintendo band and know it's likely to be of good quality where as they, and myself, have been burned with poor quality 3rd party titles.
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