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Tuesday, 28 April 2009 08:43

Face it! Nintendo doesn't sell the Wii, they sell Wii Sports

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This generation of gaming consoles, nothing has been more successful, and yes, surprising than the Nintendo Wii.  Dismissed initially by all the “experts”, the little white box has gone on to dominate sales charts around the world.  But is this because of the little white box, or the Wii Sports game it comes with?

It is undisputed that Nintendo is winning the console sales race during the current generation technology.  Even if we ignore the success of the Nintendo DS (and more recently, DSi) hand-held gaming device, the Wii has topped sales charts the world over, though it has been struggling in its Japanese homeland of late, dropping down almost to the unpopular Xbox 360 in monthly sales.

So there are 50 million Wii’s in homes around the world, what are they being used for?

Well the continued big seller, and even more so as we head into the retail week that is the lead up to Mothers Day, is Wii Fit. 

The balance board packed personal training software continues to dominate “game” charts.  Just recently using the UK market as an example , the Wii Fit “game” secured its 13th consecutive week at number 1.

The game sales chart reveals the other Nintendo main-stays, being Wii Play (essentially a mini-game packed with a necessary second Wii-Mote controller) and Mario Kart Wii (also packed with the wheel shaped piece of plastic).

All three of these titles have been top sellers around the world since released. 

Yet, disappointingly more so for third party software producers than Nintendo, not much else seems to sell for the Wii console.

The Wii’s attach ratio for software to consoles, is the lowest for the current generation.  Though this data is purely based on U.S. figures, and the Xbox 360 has had a year head start on the PS3 and Wii, it shows that Microsoft and Sony console owners are more willing to shell out for games than their Nintendo brethren.

The Xbox 360 sits at an attach rate of just over eight games per console, the PS3 has people buying around 6.5 titles each and the Wii (which does not include the imbedded Wii Sports – but does include Wii Play) hovers at around 6.

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Still, having such a big hardware lead over the opposition, means that software sales - in terms of units shifted – is far ahead of the opposition.  Given most of these are Wii Fit, Mario Kart, Wii Play, Legend of Zelda, Mario Galaxy  – all Nintendo first party titles – and so on, Nintendo have Scrooge McDuck vaults of cash to swim in.

So, any way you look at it, Nintendo are doing fine. 

Anecdotally, quite often, the uninitiated’s first introduction to the Nintendo Wii is at a friend’s house with a quick game of Wii Sports Tennis, followed by some Wii Sports Bowling and a dabble in Wii Sports Golf or Baseball.

Usually this ends in elongated multiplayer games of these three, and the distinct possibility of the previously uninitiated planning on a trip to the electronic store tomorrow morning.

It is the Wii Sports experience, with its pick-up and play immersion, integration of Mii characters and deceptive use of the Wii-mote accuracy that hooks the wider demographic into the Wii concept.

If the consumer sat down and analysed the technical specifications of the console or took into account the quality of the broader software library, or other features such as the online experience, it would be hard to understand the decision to purchase a Wii over a competitor’s permutation.

So it is Wii Sports more than anything else that keeps the Wii bobbing at the top of the table.

In June this year, the Wii Sports sequel Wii Sports: Resort arrives.  This title featuring more of the same kind of cute sporting activities, with a holiday resort theme.  So expect some Frisbee tossing, Jet Ski riding and fencing in this release.

Will this game attract the Wii Sports only crowd?  Probably not on its own, but there is a clever hook that Nintendo are using this time around, though it is based on previous success.

Wii-Sports: Resort will come bundled with the new Wii MotionPlus – the add on device for the Wii-Mote promising greater accuracy for the controller, eliminating the sometimes sloppy game-play that can be a trait of many Wii titles.

Will the attraction of more accurate controls and a Wii Sports follow up translate to Wii-Fit like sales figures? 

More than likely, but again, once somebody forks-out for a complete set of Wii, two, three or four controllers, plus Nunchuck attachments, plus Wii MotionPlus (at US$20.00) for each controller will they be getting a better experience than on offer with the competition?

Maybe, we will find out in June if the Nintendo need to build another money vault.


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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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