Third Party Puzzle

The idea that third parties can't do well on the Wii is firmly rooted - and completely wrong

If the strength of feeling displayed on games forums and websites is a good measure of consumer sentiment (and I'm not implying even for a second that it actually is), Nintendo is a company in gamers' black books right now. The stunning success of the Wii and the DS in reaching out to new audiences who have never played games before is viewed in the Internet's darkest corners as a betrayal of core gamers, an abandonment of traditional games to be replaced with brightly-coloured, "waggle controlled" abominations.

The reality, of course, is somewhat different. Only this week, Nintendo announced dates for a line-up of Wii titles which should please any long-term fan of the company's output - Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid: Other M and Sin & Punishment 2 being key highlights for the hardcore audience. Many of the top sellers on the console are games which appeal broadly to upstream and downstream gamers alike - Mario Kart, New Super Mario Bros, Super Smash Bros Brawl and Mario Galaxy all appear in the console's top ten.

Viewed dispassionately, it's hard to see the Wii as the scourge which angry gamers claim it to be. It's unlikely to be the only console that an upstream gamer owns - but as a second machine, sitting alongside an Xbox 360 or a PS3, it's absolutely ideal, while for more casual gamers, young families and so on, it's the ideal machine to sit alone under their TV. Hence, presumably, the machine's sales - which remain almost as high as the 360 and PS3 combined, and almost 20 million units higher than the mighty PS2 was at the same point in its lifespan.

So why the anger? On one hand, perhaps a certain sense of technological disappointment persists. Gamers are used to HD, to persistent online services with voice chat and cross-game messaging, and so on - and in those senses, the Wii certainly does not stack up to the PS3 and 360. Nintendo's wisdom lay in recognising that the vast majority of its audience would not notice or care about those things, allowing it to save vast amounts of time and money by leaving them off the console - a decision whose knock-on effects are still felt in the much lower production costs of Wii games.

While this makes sense on a business level, a certain sense of disappointment from the existing fanbase is understandable - but not the harsh treatment Nintendo receives from its most vocal critics. In that case, I fear, a rather more unpleasant line of argument rears its ugly head - the idea that this is the young male demographic who view gaming as their own private playground railing against the sudden inclusion of women, older people and others in "their" pastime.

Yet if that factor - magnified and amplified, as always, by the Internet's unfortunate side-effect of making loud idiots seem like outraged majorities - explains some of the upstream consumer dissatisfaction with the Wii, where is the equivalent explanation for publishers' reticence to engage with the platform?

This, to me, is one of the least explicable foibles of publishers in recent years. A month does not pass without another publisher executive making a disparaging comment about his firm's prospects on the Wii, with doubts being expressed in the past few months alone by Ubisoft and Sega, with Ubisoft going so far as to publicly announce that it is refocusing development efforts on the PS3 and 360.

Of course, the headline hardware figures which suggest that the Wii is the market's dominant platform aren't the only figures publishers have to consider. The tie ratio is also important, and the Wii has another factor to consider - Nintendo itself. It's a long-held belief that only Nintendo games (and those from selected third parties who work closely with the Japanese platform holder) do well on Nintendo platforms. Both Sony and Microsoft publish titles for their consoles, of course, but these are key exclusives which lay the foundations for the console's success - Nintendo, some critics argue, not only lays the foundations, but goes on to build the whole damned house, and then lock the doors and windows.

In support of this argument, one need only look at the Wii's all-time top ten - a list populated exclusively by Nintendo first-party titles. Case closed - or is it? The reality is that the popular view that nobody other than Nintendo is making money out of the Wii is not quite as simple, or as true, as it may seem. In fact, 76 games have now sold over a million copies on the Wii - of which, only 22 were first party titles.

That's right - less than a third of the Wii's million sellers are first-party games. It may be rather different at the very top - just about everything that's sold over five million copies is a Nintendo game - but there's a lot of profit to be made in that ground between a million and five million units, especially considering how much more economical Wii development is compared with building games for the 360 or PS3. (Incidentally, the Wii also has more third-party million sellers than the PS3, one of the platforms Ubisoft is now moving its focus onto.)

These figures aren't discussed as much as they deserve to be, given the prevalence of the "Wii is awful for third parties" theme, but neither are they a secret - so why, in that case, are publishers so critical of the Wii? To some extent, this may be a little bit of sabre-rattling on their part - keenly aware of how profitable the Wii is for Nintendo, key publishers are unlikely to pass up on any opportunity to pressure the platform holder to drop its licensing fees by indicating that they're not happy with the money they're making from it.

More importantly, however, it may be a factor of the continuing inability of some studios to make the Wii work for them as a development platform. Even several years after launch, few developers outside of Nintendo itself have grasped the real potential of the console and its control methods. For every game which truly leverages the potential of the console to provide a unique and compelling experience (Silent Hill: Shattered Memories being a rare recent example), there are dozens of identikit mini-game compilations and on-rails shooters which compound their weakness as games with equally poor presentation.

Part of the problem here isn't creative drought, but rather a continuing aversion to risk-taking in the development process - which makes a certain amount of sense on the 360 or PS3, where budgets are so high, but is tougher to explain on the Wii, where low budgets and rapid development should, in theory, free development teams up to be much more creative. The reality, however, is that many large publishers struggle to actually take advantage of those low-budget opportunities. Wasteful internal studio working cultures conspire to make even Wii game development expensive for these companies, stifling both their creativity and their profitability.

In other words, much of the "problem" with Nintendo's third-party market isn't actually a problem with Nintendo at all. The platform holder has created a console which, although not without its challengers, has sold almost 70 million units in a shockingly short space of time and proved a success with both a core demographic and with a wider audience, and which has the potential to keep development timescales and budgets low. Publishers failing to take advantage of that can blame Nintendo in public all they like - but it's to their own product line-ups and development practices that they should look for the solution.

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Latest comments (21)

Antony Cain Lecturer in Computer Games Design, Sunderland College8 years ago
"In fact, 76 games have now sold over a million copies on the Wii - of which, only 22 were first party titles.

That's right - less than a quarter of the Wii's million sellers are first-party games."

Something amiss with the maths there!

Whole heartedly agree with the rest though.
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Matt Martin Editor, GamesIndustry.biz8 years ago
Edited, thanks Antony.
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Rob Fahey Columnist, GamesIndustry.biz8 years ago
Oops. I'm sure my brain said "third", and my fingers wrote "quarter". Apologies for any confusion. The offending fingers will be severely reprimanded.
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Show all comments (21)
Rob Fahey Columnist, GamesIndustry.biz8 years ago
The reason I didn't reference the slowdown is because I don't think it's actually terribly relevant to the argument. It's only a "slowdown" compared to the absolutely astonishing sales the Wii enjoyed in the first few years of its life - by comparison with any other console, its present sales are still excellent. It's only compared with its own records that it looks weak. Nintendo's rivals would give an arm and a leg for the sort of sales figures which people are quick to dismiss as a "slowdown" on the Wii!

There's no doubt that Nintendo usually leverages its own platforms better than anyone else. However, that's hardly surprising given that Nintendo also tends to make the most critically acclaimed, high quality games on those platforms - and it doesn't mean that the door is shut to third parties, as over 50 million-selling third party games on the Wii prove. Moreover, the Wii is quite a different proposition to the Cube or N64 - both of those were equally expensive to develop for as their rivals at the time, and had much smaller installed bases, so you could understand why publishers steered clear. The Wii has by far the largest installed base in the home console market and should have vastly lower development costs than its market rivals, yet some (not all!) publishers continue to struggle. At that stage, the question I'm asking here deserves to be aired - is this really a problem with Nintendo's platform, or with the publishers themselves...?
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Gary Lucero QA Analyst, Advanced 8 years ago
While all that you say may be true, it's also true that Nintendo's platforms represent a certain type of game. I think the DS has broken out of that mold to a certain extent and there are many different experiences available for it, and some that are quite successful. The Wii on the other hand seems destined to be a pure Nintendo platform, one tied to Zelda and Mario and a handful of other Nintendo properties. I think it's very hard to 3rd party publishers to appeal to an audience which expects nothing less.
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Mark Kelly Games/Level Designers 8 years ago
I'm going to use the same theory I've used everywhere else on the subject- what has stifled a lot of Wii development, compared to DS development, was that the Wii was (for want of a better term) casual first, as opposed to DS which was (again, for want of a better term) core first.

The DS, on day one, came complete with a full Game Boy Advance worth of buttons- plus two more. This meant developers could take serviceable GBA titles and do nothing to the control system apart from add the most tokenistic stylus use, get used to designing around the stylus and the DS' other features and limitations, and then build not only the more casual titles, but also DS-friendly core titles.

Depending on your interpretation of the controller, Wii, out of the box, is missing three or four (usable) buttons and an analogue stick- you can't take a GameCube-era title and 'just' append waggle to it, you have to start again almost from scratch, and because of that we aren't seeing the gradual evolution of motion control we did with the DS, and therefore we're not seeing the same range of software.

It will be interesting to see where smarter developers take Natal, as Microsoft have gone to great lengths to ensure people are aware it can be used in tandem with a control pad.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Thank you, Rob. A fine account of fact vs fiction.

I too am in the process of writing a similar editorial due to being shocked at the absolute ignorance of the circumstances regarding Wii and the blind acceptance by publishers of the biased fanboy mantra repeated on forums.
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Yannick Boucher Project Manager, Crytek8 years ago
I decided to delete my earlier comment just because I wouldn't want my personal opinions to be mixed up with my employer's. But nevertheless:

@Jimmy: "fiction", really? So multi-million publicly-listed publishers are pulling numbers out of thin air and just listening to 12 year-olds on NeoGAF... ? Sure. That's about as simplistic a conclusion as the one you're trying to debunk.
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Jack Loftus Contributing Editor, Gizmodo8 years ago
And the NES controller was said to be "missing" a joystick when it launched back in the mid-80's. The Atari proponents, who are reincarnated by Xbox/PS3 apologists today, lambasted that decision, as well as the Nintendo decision to scale back horsepower and make a "cheap" non-PC system. Look what happened there!

As to the casual argument, how do you explain the fact that the Wii had titles like Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy and ExciteTrucks at or around launch? And the fact that these "missing buttons" were actually more than well represented by the nunchcuk attachment, which was included in the box?! Related to that, the DS didn't really "take off" until a "casual title," called Nintendogs, motivated publishers to support this funky looking touchscreen portable over the much more powerful PSP! Are we forgetting the slow, boring first year of that system's life? Or the laughter it received when Iwata revealed it at E3? No, the DS does nothing to explain the Wii's lack of third party development effort, and this isn't even taking into account that Nintendo has dominated the portable space since they invented it with the Game Boy. That simple fact doesn't help explain why, maybe, the DS was more successful, and at a faster pace, than an incredibly disruptive product like the Wii? I think it does.

Then of course there's the argument about controller button creep. You speak of usable buttons, but what of the redundant buttons on the Xbox 360 controller? I know I haven't used the "back button" or even the start button in ages, and for most titles using just the triggers, the sticks, and one or two of the four main buttons. Part of the success of the Wii, in fact, is its lack of buttons. I know many people say this is because "casual gamers" (by which they mean stupid, less dedicated gamers) don't like a lot of buttons, but what they really want is an easier, quicker way to jump into their favorite games.

Sorry, but I don't buy the controller argument at all, nor will I ever subscribe to the "casual gamers" marketing term invented by Nintendo's competitors, and nor will I believe any publisher who says only Nintendo can make successful games on Nintendo systems.

It's been said elsewhere around the community, mostly by commenter Jimmy Webb, but it boils down to the fact that, in 2006, "analysts" forecast that the Wii would sell something like 12 million units in its lifetime, and that the PS3, magically, would sell 120 million (with Xbox 360 receiving similarly inflated numbers).

Publishers, buoyed by these forecasts, basically bet on the wrong horse, and they're still sucking wind because of it. A year after launch, in 2007, they started to see the mistake, but lacked the budget or resolve to start making dedicated Wii efforts. Hence mini games and PS2 ports and other garbage that wouldn't have succeeded in the PS2 era, let alone now. Two years later, well, they still kind of bought into BS reports from these "analysts" that Xbox and PS3 would somehow magically surge into first place. Now, in 2010, with yet another wave of powerful Nintendo software on the horizon, I think you'll officially start to see some real, fundamental change. Otherwise, more closures, more consolidation--the current model just can't support the practice of making $50-$60 million dollar games for the vocal minority of gamers who demand them month after month.

Then there's the journalist argument. When the gatekeepers of an industry are gamers first, journalists second, well, is anyone really surprised that the vocal minority against the Wii (and Nintendo) has gotten as loud as it has? That said, I do enjoy reading, especially these Fahey columns.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jack Loftus on 26th February 2010 6:31pm

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Mark Kelly Games/Level Designers 8 years ago
>And the NES controller...
>As to the casual argument,

I grant you that those two statements in isolation don't stand up. Which is why I used them together. The Atrai/NES comparison is not the comparison I'm making. I'm not saying that the Wiimote/Nunchuck combo is an inadequate controller, but that for the very specific purpose of directly porting a title from its immediate predecessor, as happened a lot in the "boring" early days of the DS, it can't directly cope. You build from the ground up, learning from experience with designing around the Wiimote, as with games such as- let's pluck three random games out of the air here- Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy and ExciteTrucks, and you're golden. Attempt to shoehorn a title designed around a 360 or PS3 pad into it, and you're going to hit many controller walls very quickly.

This is not to say that the DS wasn't without badly-thought out control schemes early on (Super Mario 64 DS springs to mind) but we don't see these any more now that developers are used to the stylus, having been able to experiment with it above a nice GBA-shaped safety net, something absent on Wii.

>...controller button creep...

Ignoring that controller button creep hasn't been a factor now for a while- the last 'new' button was the Dual Shock's second analogue stick- the 'redundancy' of 360 buttons is not the same as the 'usability' of Wii buttons. Holding the Wiimote as a pointer, as you generally do with a Nunchuck plugged in, means that the 1 and 2 buttons are simply unusable, and you're generally faced with the option of D-Pad or A button.

This is also not to say that the Wii's reduced number of buttons automatically results in bad games, as you say, it has been instrumental in bringing Wii to its wide audience, but it does result in bad versions of directly-ported titles, which means you can't make one of those, and then add waggle the way you could add stylus control on DS.

Yes, there is the Classic Controller, but then considering there's only about three of those out in the wild you can hardly blame developers for ignoring it- Nintendogs would never have happened had the touch screen been an optional extra for DS.

As a result, certain types of games from certain publishers haven't worked properly, hence they haven't sold, and a lot of the 'core' market have abandoned the Wii. This is part of, as you say, 'betting on the wrong horse'- but had they bet on the right horse first time around, they would have hit the same stumbling blocks, just twelve months earlier- and, of course, overcome them twelve months earlier than they eventually will.

>Then there's the journalist argument...

I didn't really want to bring this up in my original post, preferring to concentrate on my main control design point, but are they much better than those who immediately cry "Elitism!" the second someone dares criticise any minor part of the Wii? Nobody complains when people do it with music, if anything it becomes headline news and is generally viewed as A Good Thing- Christmas number one, anybody?
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Yannick, I'll debate you further on the 3rd part face vs fiction matter shortly but as for the first part of your post, I've noticed several industry people post a disclaimer first to separate their views from that of the publisher/developer they represent.

I feel you should have the right to fully express you opinion here and adding a disclaimer to the start of your post will give you that opportunity.

I don't believe it would be fair to engage you in discourse if your thoughts were held back.
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Yannick Boucher Project Manager, Crytek8 years ago
Well, here's a bullet point list where my thoughts are not held back, and are my own:

1- What ARE those 76 games that sold 1M+ ? We can assume there's a whole lot of Nintendo in there, but what about the 3rd party ones? Which ones are they (I could dig, but it would take a little too long just for the sake of argument). We can safely assume that out of those million-sellers, there is some good and bad stuff.

2- Even if the Wii installed base is larger than the PS3/360, the owners seem to think "Nintendo first" (and I'm not saying that's not justified, mind you, we all do). Or even "Nintendo Only" (getting Wii Sports, Wii Fit, New Super Mario, and taking the console out of the closet on holidays certainly happens for real).

3- In the same vein, they are more frugal buyers than PS3/360 owners, as the freefall in software sales last year has confirmed: they'll be the first to jump ship at the slightest sign of economic downturn. Is that the kind of customers you want? Meanwhile sales of AAA "hardcore" games on PS3/360 have grown across the board in '09 (and continue to do so), and you know these people are staying on-board no matter what. So, 360/PS3 provides a much more predictable stream of revenue, even if dev costs are higher.

4- A key point that is often overlooked: Resources you put on Wii and DS, mean resources that are essentially working on previous-generation hardware, with previous-generation capabilities. As a developer/publisher, do you want to trail behind technologically? What will you do when the next round of system comes around? (even though it'll surely come later this time), how will you keep your staff and methods up to date? One of the reasons a lot of Japanese publishers are now struggling is that they partially missed the technological step-up, by focusing a lot on booming Nintendo consoles in their homemarket. The result is they're now often having a lot of trouble matching western developers on 360/PS3, except a handful who saw it coming (Capcom comes to mind for in-house, and Square proved with their acquisitions that they couldn't do it on their own). And this gives them a problem on point #3.

Again, these are my views. Your mileage may vary. But I'm just generally tired that journos and "pundits" keep playing devil's advocate with the Wii by assuming that developers are "lazy", or "irrational". With the amount of games of varying quality and success that have been put out so far, the whole spectrum has been covered, and I would really expect this discourse to be settled by now, but it seems not. So I think publishers are starting to settle it by themselves.

PS: About the Silent Hill: Shattered Memories example... yes, excellent game. Now, how about we check how much that's selling?
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
1. Only 22 of the 76 are first party. Certainly some of those million sellers could be considered of poor quality. Especially by those that regard themselves as "core" gamers.

2. Yes and no. Indeed certain Nintendo titles have achieved a sales trend unparalleled in video game history which if you view only the top 10 selling games would suggest only Nintendo games sell. But the industry is based on far more than a top 10 list (which only generates a small portion of overall sales). As noted, of the 76 million sellers, 54 are 3rd parties. And that's not even takign into account the dozens upon dozens that are below 1 million in sales yet were still profitable. If the console were only taken on out on holidays, then do explain the massive volume of overall 3rd party sales. Did you know that more 3rd party games sell on Wii than on the PS3 according to NPD?

3. There was no overall software drop. Certain publishers saw drops while others saw increases. Yet the accumulative view was an increase, not a decrease. Yet even when sales do slow, that's like a Corvette Z06 dropping to 175 from 200 mph. Sure, that's slower than before but to call that slow is to look only at the difference of the 2 figures and not the actual data - it's still very fast.

4. Diversification is key. You don't need to solely focus on Wii or DS. Yet for those that do, they are in no more financial trouble than those that focus solely on the HD consoles. In fact, consider the smaller development houses today had the DS and Wii not been there to provide a low barrier of budget entry for their titles. This industry needs a middle ground (HD consoles/PC the high end, Wii/DS the middle ground, phone/flash apps the ground floor).

However, the technology race is also about to slow down. Budgets will not grant the tech explosion we just had again. The jump to Generation 8 won't demand the same technology learning curve so those that didn't stay at the forefront of technology won't be as far behind as you're suggesting. Nor is being behind necessarily a problem so long as a platform exists to cater to those older tech capabilities.

It's not settled because there is a huge dichotomy in the efforts with HD games and those of Wii (barring a few exceptions which I'll cover in a moment). What was the last big budget 3rd party Wii title you saw? What was the last 3rd party title to have as big of a marketing push as the big HD consoles titles? Aside from Monster Hunter Tri (that exception I noted before) the above concepts simply don't exist. The only one that does big budgets and big marketing campaigns on Wii IS Nintendo. So when I see a developer not putting in a Nintendo-like effort and then cry about not getting Nintendo-like sales, I call them out on it.

Market your damn game, stop putting it on rails, give it a real budget, don't add any niche concepts. Every single time a 3rd party releases a "test" title to see how well the Wii market will accept "core" 3rd party games, they do something inanely stupid about it. On rails? Check. Dumbed down? Check. No marketing? Check. Niche as hell? Check.

When you do all the things right, like Capcom has with Monster Hunter Tri, an amazing thing happens. It sells.

I'll see your Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and raise you Okami. How well did that do on PS2 again? My point? Even good games fall under the radar when you fail to hype/market them. On the flip side, look how many bad games have sold well because of hype/marketing.

You don't blame a platform for not taking up your game when all you've ever done is low budget, low marketed (if any at all), quick cash-in's, etc.... When you are part of the problem, be part of the solution....not just another whiny voice (speaking in general here, not you specifically) otherwise you don't sound much different than the 12 year olds on NeoGAF.
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Yannick Boucher Project Manager, Crytek8 years ago
So tell me in one sentence, then: Why are publishers leaving? If it's the gold mine that you are describing? Then 3rd parties just "don't get it", again, is what it comes down to?

You say "market like Nintendo". Yes, I agree that's probably a good way to achieve success. But has it occured to you how much Nintendo markets? Has it occured to you that perhaps doing that would offset the benefits of low development cost?

Anyways. This is an unending discussion. All I'll say is, it's not a conspiracy if more and more 3rd parties are leaving, and considering how varied their experiences were, I wouldn't oversimplify the reasons behind it.

PS: what publishers saw an increase on the Wii last year? (besides niche publishers that might have only published on Wii, or published just 1 or 2 games?)

PPS: Monster Hunter Tri is not out yet in the US (and neither Europe, I presume). Care to let it come out before calling it a success? We obviously can't make assumptions based on its success in Japan, where the Wii is pretty much alone (except DS/PSP).

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Yannick Boucher on 27th February 2010 8:33pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Why are some reducing their Wii support? Rather simple answer. They don't get it. They didn't get it in 2006 before release. They didn't get it in 2007. They didn't get it in 2008. They didn't get it in 2008. They didn't get it in 2009. Perhaps they are simply realizing they never will.

I've never seen a product with such success confuse the hell out of the very people that provide it content the way the Wii does.

All I ever see from the detractors are statements that are either void of facts, irrational, irrelevant, fail to view the whole picture, etc....

They don't have to put in the same budget that Nintendo does but when a company admits they won't even run TV advertisements and then complains it didn't sell, who do you blame? Do you really blame the platform? That's lunacy.

But let's look further at the problem....proliferation of product. Take a look at the size of a GameStop (or other major video game retailer). Look at the Wii section. If you release over 100 games in 1 quarter, how long do you think your game is going to sit on that shelve before it gets replace? 2 weeks if you're lucky. Oh, and don't forget, you're not even advertising it. The margin per title will naturally be tiny. A lot will be sold but perhaps not a lot of your game because you've mixed it in with 5 other releases from your own company, didn't advertise any of them and the same thing is happening with 5 other big publishers. Lot of product, no marketing behind them, tiny shelf are the problem.

Publishers put out more product than the market can ingest and then they want to blame the platform for it all. Why? Because if they blamed themselves their investors would obviously have something very unkind to say. So to keep investors happy and laying down the green, you point the finger at the scapegoat of the generation...the platform itself. And, like Rob stated in his editorial, it puts pressure on Nintendo to lower their licensing fees.

Correct, Monster Hunter Tri has yet to release outside of Japan. I mention it because even with that narrow focus it is already a success having outsold all previous home console Monster Hunter titles in Japan.
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Yannick Boucher Project Manager, Crytek8 years ago
On the subject of putting out too many games, that applies to every single platform right now (except perhaps PSP), and I think everyone is on the same page on that one. Same for "but when a company admits they won't even run TV advertisements and then complains it didn't sell, who do you blame?". Exactly the same on all platforms, that's just basic business. So right there you've got 2 counter-arguments that are in fact, platform-agnostic.

You lost me at "they don't get it". Really tired of hearing that, when it's clear that just about everything has been done on the Wii, with varying degrees of quality, marketing, and success, covering the whole spectrum in the end.m The funny thing is I know EXACTLY which games you're referring to when you're blaming the "niche" thing and the "lack of marketing", but there are other games than MadWorld and Dead Space out there (not to name them).

If you guys wanna keep thinking that "devs & pubs don't get it" just go right ahead. Meanwhile the pubs will take their own actions and we'll see how it ends up. We'll just sit back and enjoy whatever good Wii games were released (and there is enough to build a small library), and that'll be the end of the story for me.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Yannick Boucher on 28th February 2010 10:44am

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Kevin Fairbairn Standard Scripter, Lionhead Studios8 years ago
(I am on an iPhone (no Internet at home) so I shall keep my comment unusually brief.)

The one thing that seems to be missing is a discussion of WHEN those 50+ million sellers sold. It's all well and good pointing to that figure as absolute proof of third party success on the Wii, but it's meaningless if it doesn't reference some kind of timeline. We can look at the twenty-odd Nintendo million plusses and extrapolate that throughout the lifespan of the Wii and say with some amount of certainty that that matches up with Nintendo's record of releasing first party games. But those 50 third party titles? Across all publishers and spanning the entire life of the Wii? Less consistent.

If all those third party titles were cointained within the first year or two of the Wii's launch, what we're seeing is a reduction of third party successes on the platform. In which case the idea that "only Nintendo titles sell on the Wii" is becoming true. And, perhaps, gives publishers cause to focus on platforms that offer a greater chance of success. Which is why they're leaving now (it's the beginning of the end of third party success on the Wii, so to speak).

Now, that doesn't absolve the publishers, per se. It can be argued that they could still have success on the Wii with the right games and the right approach. Indeed, I don't know if the 50 third party million sellers all sold last year, which blows this theory out of the water right away.

But it was the first question I asked upon seeing the number of million sellers. And, while it may not fully answer the 'why' of the article, it would give some context to the 'why now'.
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Christian Funk8 years ago
As an observer and researcher I got the impression that talking about sales numbers is very dangerous. There are no clear evidences, only small pieces of information that - if available - refer to a specific region and/or time frame. Furthermore there are no sales data available (as far as I know) that help to analyze the performance of 3rd party titles on the Wii on a global scale. I've discussed this problem in my latest article ("EVALUATING WII THIRD PARTY PERFORMANCE: A CRITICAL APPROACH") on

Yet, I've come across sources that indicate success of recent 3rd party titles on the Wii. Again, it's up to one's personal opinion to evaluate the sources. I will list some examples taken from my article:

Just Dance:

GAMASUTRA: Saling The World: Just Dance Heads Wii Sales in U.S. and UK, available online at accessed on 02.01.2010.

MCVUK: Just Dance shatters Wii records for Ubi, available online at accessed on 02.01.2010.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Wintergames:

GONINTENDO: December NPD: Spots 11 through 20 show Spirit Tracks just missing out on the top 10, surprise showing from Just Dance, available online at accessed on 02.01.2010.

NEOGAF: UK Monthly Chart, December 2009, available online at accessed on 02.01.2010.

GFK CHART-TRACK: Top 40 Nintendo Wii (Full Price), Week Ending 30 January 2010, available online at accessed on 02.01.2010.

NIPPONSALESAGE: Famitsu Software- 11/23- 11/29, available online at accessed on 02.01.2010.

Tony Hawk: Ride:

COFFEEWITHGAMES: Tony Hawk: RIDE's sales comparison for the Xbox360, PS3 and Wii, available online at accessed on 02.01.2010.

GAMESPOT01: Under 114,000 ride Tony Hawk in November, available online at access on 02.01.2010

EA Sports Active:

GAMESPOT02: NPD: UFC May retail champ, US Wiis hit 20 million, available online at, accessed on 02.01.2010.

SHAKNEWS01: June NPD Sales: Prototype Tops another slow Month, online available at accessed on 02.01.2010.

Monster Hunter Tri:

CAPCOM: Platinum Titles, available online at accessed on 02.01.2010

I would like to comment on another point: The wide spectrum of the Wii’s target audience. People who debate about this phenomenon often argue that publishers and developers have problems defining a distinct target audience for their titles being published on the Wii. Although the Wii has a huge install base, consumer preferences remain unknown or too vague. Because of this 3rd party companies have troubles in developing games and marketing them to specific target audiences. As a result they risk failure and are more cautious in their strategies on the Wii. One could sum up this phenomenon as a problem of asymmetric information that makes 3rd party developers and publishers feel uneasy about the Wii's target audience.

One could discuss the relatively new feature of the "Nintendo Channel" within this context. It allows users to anonymously share their game stats (time and sessions per game), rate their games and provide other information to the community. This feature by Nintendo can be understood as a helpful tool to reduce the problem of asymmetric information about the platform's target audience for developers and publishers. From my standpoint I cannot evaluate the users' information from the perspective of a developer or publisher, since I have not analyzed them and checked if they offer worldwide stats or only are valid for a certain region.

As others have already stated in this discussion I support the view that 3rd party games can be successful if they are efficiently targeted and marketed to the right audience. Just to pick one example: I have never seen any advertisement for "The Conduit" on the Wii in Germany. For product that titled itself as "The Best Shooter on the Wii" it deserved much better marketing than just in-game scenes on Youtube that more or less focussed on the graphics. You need to show testimonials having fun playing the game at home or against friends. Especially the exciting multiplayer part (including the Wii speak feature), which is THE key experience on the Wii, was totally neglected in ads for this game. One cannot release such a game and expect it to sell well.

Best regards


Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christian Funk on 28th February 2010 4:34pm

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Chris Hunter-Brown IT / Games specialist, BBFC8 years ago
Part of the reason Nintendo are successful on the Wii is because they take their absolute best team of developers and put them on a project such as Wii Sports with the goal of making the best possible product they can for a wide audience.

The third party publishers will put their third/forth string teams on the Wii with a lower budget, many of whom are like the top teams at these other companies and did not get in to the games industry to make so called "casual" games. Is it any surprise when you consider this that many of these games struggle to compete with Nintendo?

Looking at the AAA HD console market now, what we see is the middle being sucked out entirely. Success is there to be found at the blockbuster top end and when augmented with one of the digital download services at the lower end. For the majority of entities, the gap in between is going to be an uncomfortable place to be with HD budgets as they are.

In this light, taking off all these other teams which have "failed" on the Wii and having them develop more games for the HD consoles is simply another disaster in the making. The top publishers are making fewer, bigger games. What will be the excuse then?

Fundamentally Nintendo have disrupted the market as it existed before 2005. In this scenario the disrupted can try and compete or retreat to "safer" markets as we are seeing now. In nearly all cases where this happens however, it ends badly for some companies no matter what they do. That one strategy hasn't worked out for one publisher doesn't mean either will or won't for another.
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Tony Johns8 years ago
I personally feel that most of the people who own a Wii perhaps have never heard of any other company than Nintendo themselves, and if they are only new to gaming, that can be understandable that they only get the games that they like.

There are some great hard core games for the Wii as much as there are on the PS3 and XBox360, all that is different is how the publishers of these 3rd party developers market their games.

Marketing games in gaming mags will not attract anything more to the Wii market if most people who own a Wii don't read the mags or search for information online, so therefore if you are going to attract a more casual audience though games marketing then you need to focus on more traditional advertising mediums like the radio, TV and also though women's mags and celebrity mags that the casual or new to gaming people read.

That is what I feel the problem is with some 3rd party publishers, they just need to improve on their marketing strategies.
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Tony Johns8 years ago
I also will suggest that the Wii is verry much a Hard Core console as it is a Casual Console,

Super Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid: Other M, Legend of Zelda (Wii 2010), Sin and Punishment 2, Dragon Quest X (sometime in 2011 or 2012), Fragile Dreams.

Also I am enjoying Muramasa: The Demon Blade on the Wii thank you very much with my Classic Controller,

You need to stop focusing on the top 10 games for the Wii and instead look at the whole over 9,000 games on the Wii and see what sells well in order to get more idea of what games sell well and make enough money for their developers and publishers if you are going to be drawing conclusions on data like that.

So I would say don't be too quick to judge, and instead look at the rest of the games on the wii not just those in the top 10 or 20.
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