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Wii

Top Five Hits & Misses of Wii's First Year

by Jonathan Metts - November 21, 2007, 11:03 pm PST
Total comments: 31

Take a look back at Nintendo's triumphs and stumbles in the new generation.

The one year anniversary of Wii's launch seems like the perfect time to take a look back and assess how the console has performed in its early life. I'm not only talking about sales – obviously, the system has performed spectacularly in that respect. I would like to praise some of Nintendo's choices that may not be so obvious, and also point out some areas where the company could improve in the coming years of Wii's dominance. Let's start with the biggest, smartest decision of all…

Hit #1 - Wii Sports Pack-In

Prior to Wii, Nintendo has not packed in a full game at a system's launch since the Game Boy, which came with Tetris and also dominated its market despite more technically powerful competitors. Maybe there's something to be said for this pack-in stuff after all! One interesting fact is that Nintendo did not pack Wii Sports with the system in Japan, thereby reducing the price to roughly $200, and yet Wii Sports has gone on to be the best selling game for Wii in Japan. Some people think this is proof that Nintendo of America should also have separated the two products to make more money; this theory could not be more wrong. In Japan, Nintendo has sold millions of copies of Wii Sports for about $50 each. In America (and elsewhere), Nintendo has sold millions of copies of Wii Sports for $250 each. What we may have originally written off as a graphically lacking collection of mini-games has become such a desirable game experience that people associate it directly with the Wii hardware and often buy no other real games with the system. Wii Sports is so much fun that people are willing to spend $250 to play it. That's the very definition of a system seller.

Hit #2 - Blue Ocean Marketing

After the success of Nintendogs and Brain Age, there was no doubt that Nintendo wanted casual gamers and was starting to understand how to reach them. Wii is really the first major game system designed especially to attract a mass market, and the success of this strategy is nothing less than astonishing. A major factor in Wii's mainstream success is in how Nintendo marketed the system. Even before launch day, it was clear that Nintendo's marketing strategy would be a two-pronged attack: start grassroots word-of-mouth among non-traditional gamers, and go heavy on mainstream exposure. Rather than focus on EGM and IGN, Nintendo went straight to CNN and NBC. These two very different approaches fed upon each other, as many news stories and magazine articles were based on anecdotes and interviews from moms and grandparents, while the exposure from these mass market stories led to more people wanting to play Wii (often courtesy of a traditional gamer who got a launch system), and the chain reaction continued.

Hit #3 - Wii Play Pack-In

When the year-long sales totals are released early next year, the top selling games of 2007 will include Pokemon, Halo, Guitar Hero, and… Wii Play? This meager mini-game collection, widely dissed by critics and even casual gamers, has managed to sell millions of copies despite the fact that no one really likes it. It is, in fact, a brilliant Trojan Horse designed to sell more high-profit Wii Remotes and to spread the Wii's reputation as a multiplayer system. And, because the package is tracked as a software SKU, Wii Play helps to support Nintendo's dominance of game sales charts. A lesser effect, though perhaps still significant, is the opportunity for Wii Play's mini-games to expose new Wii owners to different gameplay and control styles that are not represented in Wii Sports. Perhaps far more important is the fact that, since Wii Play is a separate disc, it forces owners to realize that the system can play more games than just Wii Sports, thus lessening the risk of consumers buying a Wii as "that sports thing" and nothing more. Yet another consequence of Wii Play is that it encourages new Wii owners to buy extra controllers, which will eventually benefit multiplayer games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Hit #4 - Virtual Console Lineup

During the drought months of few game releases, Virtual Console was the only reason to turn on the Wii for many players. Nintendo has steadily released at least one VC game every Monday since launch day, and that consistency has led to a sub-culture of Wii owners who anxiously await each week's new games, even if they rarely download anything. Certainly, there are plenty of stinkers in the catalogue, but Nintendo and other companies have also released many beloved classics and a few obscure gems. In a rare attitude shift, Nintendo has actually bowed to popular demand and listened to the fans, allowing import games and even CD-based systems to be added to the service. Virtual Console has already righted one of the great injustices in game release history with Sin & Punishment… can the Mother (Earthbound) series be far behind?

Hit #5 - Channels & Firmware

It's safe to say that a high percentage of new Wii owners don't even realize the system has online features, since they aren't used in Wii Sports. But Nintendo has provided a strong hint for new users with the news and forecast channels' reserved spaces on the menu. A little investigation will lead to other free channels like Everybody Votes and Check Mii Out, and more channels have been promised for the future. Most of the current channels could be described as "neat, but not really useful". However, they do prove that Nintendo is interested in evolving the Wii experience over time, often at no extra cost to the user. Providing more proof of that is the upgradeable system firmware, a first for Nintendo. Online Wii owners occasionally discover that evocative blue light, signaling that an update is ready. By loading the newest firmware version on major first-party titles like Metroid Prime 3 and Super Mario Galaxy, Nintendo can reach even offline Wii owners with these updates. The added features have thus far been modest at best, but the fact that Nintendo is actively providing increased functionality holds great promise for meaningful updates in the future.

Of course, it hasn't all been rosy for the Wii's first year as market leader. Here are some points that Nintendo needs to work on in order to maintain and increase its extraordinary success.

Miss #1 - Hardcore Marketing

When unveiling the plan to reach out to the "blue ocean" mass market with Wii, Nintendo promised not to leave behind their traditional gamer fans and said they could effectively cater to both groups simultaneously. In terms of game releases, they have actually done an impressive job with this balancing act. With marketing, they have not. Simply put, Nintendo sorely needs an alternative to the "Wii Would Like To Play" campaign. These ads have worked wonders for Wii Sports, Mario Party 8, and Wario Ware. They are, however, inappropriate for traditional games such as Twilight Princess and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The latter game has been particularly let down by Nintendo's marketing strategy, as it is an extremely high quality experience that should at least be outselling a similar game like Red Steel, much less cross-platform competition. Corruption is exactly the kind of title that Nintendo should be pushing towards the potential "Wii60" consumer, an owner of multiple platforms who is attracted by both the traditional games abundant on Xbox 360 but also interested by the Wii's possibilities. With Corruption, Nintendo has an excellent, very attractive new game that combines the best of both worlds (traditional gaming and motion controls), and yet this game has sold far below expectations since its August release. Prior to the game's launch, Nintendo claimed they could market and sell it even to moms. Maybe the company should have focused more on selling it to the audience that already understands how to play such a complex and immersive game.

Miss #2 - Online Gaming

Wii excels in providing a number of unusual and enticing online features, but online gameplay cannot be counted among that group. Despite Nintendo's experience with the online service for Nintendo DS, more than six months passed before the Wii's first online game was released in North America. Sony, a company with similarly immature online gaming credentials, provided a marquee PS3 launch title with 32-player online support on dedicated servers. Some credit is certainly due to Nintendo for having any online gameplay at all, which they never achieved on GameCube despite the technical capability to do so. But the current state of online Wii gaming is so poor, in terms of game selection and feature support, that few players are taking advantage of the service at all. Every first-party online game has its own Friend Code that must be laboriously exchanged and entered among prospective players, even if they have already done so for other Wii games. Despite these hurdles, no Wii games to date have any online communication, making it extremely hard to play cooperatively in a game like Battalion Wars 2. You can send a message to a friend outside of the game… but that requires yet another Friend Code for the system itself! Insane. This maze of annoyances isn't protecting children or sensitive ears, it's just insuring that most Wii owners won't even bother trying to play online games.

Miss #3 - Third-Party Support

This isn't a complaint about support from third-parties but rather Nintendo's support for third-parties. There has been plenty of press about Sony's insufficient technical support for PS3 developers, but just as significant is Nintendo's poor support for Wii developers. Yes, the development kits are very cheap by industry standards, and the Wii architecture is a natural extension from GameCube. That doesn't mean much for large companies who could afford dev kits anyway and never showed much interested in the GameCube hardware. What these companies desperately need are gesture control libraries, pixel shader tools, and online gameplay modules. Wii developers need effective middleware solutions to help standardize some of these basic features, and Nintendo could be helping to provide such solutions, but they are reticent to do so because they are competing with third-parties as a game studio.

Miss #4 - Virtual Console Pricing

Ask anyone what they think of Virtual Console, and you're not likely to hear any complaint whatsoever… except when it comes to the pricing of games. Nintendo's pricing schedule for classic games regularly exceeds fair market value, and for proof of that, visit your local gaming specialty shops, who dramatically mark up used game prices from what they paid the former owner in store credit. There are definitely games on Virtual Console that are worth every penny (and more) of the download price, but games aren't priced according to quality. The truth is that Nintendo is selling old games, many of them hardly worth revisiting, for more than Microsoft and Sony are charging to download brand new games with online features and high definition graphics. The prices have turned what should be impulse purchases into a catalogue requiring some guidance to navigate, hence such features as our VC Mondays recommendations. Pricing for VC games will become even more blatant when the WiiWare service launches in 2008, with new games on the very same system priced comparably with the old software. Will Nintendo bow to market pressure when the competition hits so close to home?

Miss #5 - Media Relations

Working with the media is not a new problem for Nintendo. The famously impenetrable company has been this way since at least the GameCube era, and probably long before that. While Nintendo has done a better job of reaching out to the mass media with Wii (an achievement flaunted, obnoxiously, during the company's E3 2007 presentation), traditional gaming media have seen little change in the new generation. Nintendo still hands out debug systems (required to play pre-release game code) like Wonka's golden tickets. Interview requests are routinely ignored, or worse, promised and then retracted with no explanation. Press events are kept secret up to the last minute, even from the select few media outlets who are invited. Final review copies are being shipped later than ever, now often arriving just a day before release, if they are early at all. These actions don't just hurt the enthusiast press like Nintendo World Report; they hurt Nintendo as well. There is a significant segment of the market that follows event coverage, reads interviews, and depends upon reviews to make purchasing decisions. As noted earlier, these people have largely yet to be sold on the Wii's appeal, and Nintendo is doing very little – with marketing or media relations – to change the traditional gamer's mind.

If you have something to say about any of these topics, or if you think I left out something important, please leave a note and join the discussion in our Talkback forum thread.

Talkback

ShyGuyNovember 21, 2007

A solid list, I can't really disagree with any of the hits or misses.

The SailermanNovember 21, 2007

Didn't the Super Nintendo come with Super Mario World packed in at launch?
I know mine did, but I didn't get the console until 3 years after its launch, so I might be wrong.

I'm not exactly sure that Channels and firmware is a great point of success for Nintendo. Sure, I'm getting tons of mileage out of the Everybody Votes Channel and Nintendo is hoping that the Check Mii Out Channel catches on greatly, but generally the integration of these channels into the overall Wii System is lackluster, and the firmware updates seem comparatively slow and less ambitious compared to the firmware fun for the other consoles.

nickmitchNovember 21, 2007

Yeah, the internet channel is in need of some upgrades, and the firmware updates usually don't do that much. But, all-in-all, I'd call them a plus. There seems to be great potential still there.

If potential was a plus, then the PS3 should be sitting pretty!

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorNovember 22, 2007

I was disappointed - I thought the article was going to be about the top five hit and top five miss titles for the Wii's first year. face-icon-small-frown.gif

Good editorial though...

I think ranking the best and worst games would be trivial at this point; there aren't enough to choose from to make that an interesting list.

couchmonkeyNovember 22, 2007

There might be enough "worst" games for a bottom 5 list. face-icon-small-wink.gif

I'm not really disappointed with VC pricing. I only know of one store in my entire city that carries a serious number of last-century videogames, and they regularly charge $40-$60 for games like Super Mario Bros. 2. Granted, many VC games could be found cheaper on EBay or at just the right flea market/pawn shop, but VC is more convenient and not that unreasonable.

Otherwise, I quite agree.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterNovember 22, 2007

This reminds me, I should go back and update my thread...

wanderingNovember 22, 2007

Miss: Virtual Console games can't be shared or resold.

Miss: Most Wii games are ugly as sin.

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Originally posted by: wandering
Miss: Virtual Console games can't be shared or resold.

Miss: Most Wii games are ugly as sin.


Opening up the VC to any kind of sharing or resale would allow for all kinds of abuse of the system and cost Nintendo tons of money; sure it would be cool but we can't expect Nintendo to make a really bad business decision here and then call it a major mistake when they don't. And the second suggested miss isn't Nintendo's fault, and all of their games look at least good.

DjunknownNovember 22, 2007

I'd really like to know what they fix/added with each firmware update. PC games, OS's, and the other two systems spell out what's new, and what's fixed. USB keyboard support had to be discovered by the end user is a prime example.


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Despite these hurdles, no Wii games to date have any online communication, making it extremely hard to play cooperatively in a game like Battalion Wars 2.


Nintendo could fix this with offering a headset solution, but I won't hold my breath since, they want to protect us from colorful language...on Co-op. Because everyone knows the moment people put on headsets, their inner child molester comes out... face-icon-small-thumbsdown.gif

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Final review copies are being shipped later than ever, now often arriving just a day before release, if they are early at all.


AFAIK, Metroid Prime 3 was an isolated incident. Were there other examples?

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Originally posted by: Djunknown

AFAIK, Metroid Prime 3 was an isolated incident. Were there other examples?


Galaxy, for one. GameStop stores got final copies over two weeks before the media did.

trip1eXNovember 22, 2007

Yeah good list. I agree with all of it actually.




I maintain that their failure to anticipate the continued fervent pace of Wii sales, and adapting their production, is a massive failure that will cost them "hype-sales" in the end.

darknight06November 23, 2007

Online gaming is not gonna change because it's still arguably working in their favor. And Metroid Prime was never a huge deal to most people. Even with "hardcore" advertising those games still never beat out titles like Mario Kart, SMS, or even Nintendogs. Metroid is a niche, the game itself is great, but it is not cool, or IN to play it and truth be told it never really has been. Even with Super Metroid it's more the "hardcore" loop talking about it nowadays than anyone else.

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Originally posted by: Crimm
I maintain that their failure to anticipate the continued fervent pace of Wii sales, and adapting their production, is a massive failure that will cost them "hype-sales" in the end.


They fail because they're not making Wiis faster than Sony made PS2s?

Yes, actually.

GoldenPhoenixNovember 23, 2007

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Originally posted by: Crimm
massive failure that will cost them "hype-sales" in the end.


Yeah, because as we know the hype in America and elsewhere is suring dieing down. I mean they are only going for around $400 once again on ebay!

They shouldn't have to.

Remember "Blue Ocean?" The goal was to put Wii's in the home of a market far beyond that of any game machine before it. The hope was to reach people who have never bought a game system or have "grown out of it." Those people aren't going to pay $400 on eBay. They aren't going to call Circuit City, Best Buy, GameStop, Fry's, and Toys R Us every Wednesday in the hopes of "making the score."

I maintain that Nintendo has to move as many Wii units as is physically possible in order to fully force the hands of the developers. They need to prove that the console isn't a "fad" and that you can make major investments in the platform and expect dividends.

Nintendo should have been producing at a higher quantity than the PS2 because their goals were more ambitious than the PS2.

pSYCO-gAMER321November 23, 2007

Agreed on the list. Next! xD No seriously, only thing that Nintendo seems to try to "improve" is 3rd party support by smacking their face by "do better or GTFO!" Personally I love it, but that does not help them in the long run.

GoldenPhoenixNovember 23, 2007

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I maintain that Nintendo has to move as many Wii units as is physically possible


Which they are doing.

Infernal MonkeyNovember 23, 2007

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Originally posted by: pSYCO-gAMER321No seriously, only thing that Nintendo seems to try to "improve" is 3rd party support by smacking their face by "do better or GTFO!"


I personally like that Nintendo's letting any old crap heap on the Wii. Like the PS2 selection (especially in PAL regions), for every ten awful games there'll be one gem hidden that gets ignored. Years from now it'll be fun trying to track them all down!

KDR_11kNovember 23, 2007

Needs moar Earth Defence Force Wii.

Shift KeyNovember 23, 2007

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Originally posted by: Infernal Monkey
I personally like that Nintendo's letting any old crap heap on the Wii. Like the PS2 selection (especially in PAL regions), for every ten awful games there'll be one gem hidden that gets ignored. Years from now it'll be fun trying to track them all down!


Second'd. Choice is a wonderful thing, and third parties need to learn the hard way that some ideas shouldn't have been made into games.

TJ SpykeNovember 24, 2007

A little mistake, Nintendo bundled Super Mario World with the SNES at launch.

I sorta agree about the VC prices. The starting prices should be lower. While Super Mario Bros. 3 is worth 500 points, something like Tennis is not.

GoldenPhoenixNovember 24, 2007

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't a mistake one that has hurt Wii? If I recall VC games are selling VERY well, so I fail to see how that is a mistake. Yeah personal opinion of people may differ in regards to price, but is that truly a mistake if it isn't hurting it?

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Originally posted by: GoldenPhoenix
Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't a mistake one that has hurt Wii? If I recall VC games are selling VERY well, so I fail to see how that is a mistake. Yeah personal opinion of people may differ in regards to price, but is that truly a mistake if it isn't hurting it?


If you read IGN's latest news about VC sales, it seems that Nintendo is not terribly happy with VC sales. The average revenue per download is less than five dollars, meaning that downloads of the free channels are outstripping that of classic games.

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Originally posted by: Jonnyboy117
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Originally posted by: GoldenPhoenix
Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't a mistake one that has hurt Wii? If I recall VC games are selling VERY well, so I fail to see how that is a mistake. Yeah personal opinion of people may differ in regards to price, but is that truly a mistake if it isn't hurting it?


If you read IGN's latest news about VC sales, it seems that Nintendo is not terribly happy with VC sales. The average revenue per download is less than five dollars, meaning that downloads of the free channels are outstripping that of classic games.


Well, the exact line from IGN's story is:

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The Nintendo executive said of these figures, "We're currently unsure if this is a lot or low. They're not bad figures."


Also, I'm not too sure as to whether the numbers they give for downloads and revenue are up-to-date or even up-to-the-same-date.

I'm pretty sure those download numbers are VC only and don't include the other channels. As pointed out in the IGN article's comment thread, Nintendo has given out a lot of free points, like the large numbers given to GameStop managers (the poster says 7500, but I recall my store's manager saying he got 5000), that could explain the low average price-per-download.

NinGurl69 *hugglesNovember 30, 2007

Free sells better

DURRRRRRRRRRRRR

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