Nintendo Wii’s Third-party Troubles
The Wii has been one of the best-selling home consoles in the history of gaming. It’s no surprise that Nintendo has hit the jackpot with their little Wii and all its little Miis. Nintendo introduced the world to the Wii with a shockingly sparse line-up of hard-hitting games — yet it featured an innovative motion-controller that had casual and hardcore gamers scrambling to get their hands on the semi-cheap game console. The Wii hasn’t lost steam since its November 19th, 2006 induction into the competitive market of interactive entertainment, but the third-party games haven’t picked up in their quality either.
According to recent NPD figures, the console has effectively sold well over 10 million units in the United States (surpassing Microsoft’s Xbox 360 installed base) and has sold over 12 million units in Japan. What’s amazing about these numbers is that the Wii’s software lineup has been on complete opposite ends of the entertainment spectrum when compared to the likes of the PS3 and Xbox 360. So while big-budget games like Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4 have all helped to move SKUs of the Xbox 360 and PS3, the Wii has solemnly stood by with a less audacious software backbone. The only big-name games the system has recently received were all first-party titles by Nintendo (i.e., Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl). And despite lacking the provocative flavor of ‘M’ rated content in popular 360 and PS3 titles, the Wii has continued to power ahead of all its home console competitors in hardware sales.
While some might applaud Nintendo for the brave risk that has paid off for the company with a larger market share value, great sales and near-flawless publicity, the flip-side is that the Wii’s software isn’t quite as blockbuster-worthy as the hardware. With the exception of the popular miscellaneous fitness game, Wii-Fit, the remainder of the Wii’s recent software titles seem to verge on lazy, bargain-bin quality games and the occasional licensed-property conversion. Furthermore, this was an argument put forth last year regarding the Wii’s software performance and quality, which was still staggering outside of Nintendo’s own first-party titles and a few PS2/Gamecube remakes. Now fast forward one year later and the Wii is still in the third-party crisis state that it was a year ago.
Take for example, if you look at any NPD software sales chart for the Wii and minus out any first-party titles from Nintendo, the Wii really wouldn’t be in the top 10 for monthly software sales. Also take note that if you compare the top 20 software sales charts for third-party games for both the Wii and PS3, the Wii won’t have anything on there if it’s not Guitar Hero. Again, this criticism is only in comparison to the ratio of consoles sold versus the amount of software being moved for the console, in the third-party sector. So while Nintendo has continued to dominate the gaming hardware market with casual care, they don’t seem to want to expand beyond that casual dominance. I think what’s sad is that Nintendo has set a trend for many third-party publishers to follow in the footsteps of being casually trendy with their projects, when in fact the trend itself is not for the software but for the hardware.
Often times the games that sell well from a third-party publisher for the Wii usually comes from the likes of Electronic Arts (e.g., Tiger Woods, NASCAR, Madden, etc.,) Activision (e.g., Guitar Hero, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, etc.,) or Ubisoft (e.g., Brothers in Arms, Raymond Raving Rabbids, etc.) But in all honesty, most of the fore-mentioned publishers have the same software titles on the PS3 and Xbox 360. But when you talk about third-party exclusives for the Wii it’s often times a completely different story when looking at the sales charts. For example, MiniCopter: Adventure Flight by Aksys Games, how well do you think it did in sales? What about Wild Earth: African Safari by Majesco? Or possibly Wacky Races: Crash & Dash by Eidos Interactive? A quick google search of any of these titles will return poor review scores and unpropitious user feedback.
Now every system, of course, will have its fair share of third-party shovel-ware (e.g., Vampire Rain for the Xbox 360, The Shield for the PS2, etc.) But in the same manner there are a few third-party titles, both exclusive and multiplatform, which manage to make the console look legitimate as a gaming machine…and aimed at matching the quality of the software experience with the sales of the console hardware (e.g., Call of Duty 4, John Woo’s Stranglehold, Bioshock, etc.) Now there are a couple of upcoming titles for the Wii that stand out in the third-party fray, but the noteworthy games are still multiplatform games: Ferrari Challenge, Sonic Unleashed and Star Wars: Force Unleashed. Probably the most noteworthy third-party exclusive for the Wii this year is Skate IT by Electronic Arts. Despite Nintendo assuring gamers that their third-party sales are better than the competition, it’s troubling to know that the quality of many of the third-party games still aren’t getting any better. Seriously, the one thing we currently don’t need in the gaming industry is a continuous flood of below-average games that don’t sell very well for a very popular home console. Hopefully, in the near future Nintendo will bring back an Official Seal of Quality — not an Official Nintendo Seal — which may encourage some publishers to push past their bargain-bin aspirations and finally aim to make some quality third-party exclusives.…