Is the Nintendo Wii becoming a “must have” domestic appliance?


I have put the case on here in the past that the Wii could be a bubble that will inevitably burst. So I thought it only fair to give voice to the opposite arguments. Go into virtually any home and there are certain electronic devices you will find. A TV, a radio, a DVD player, a phone and so on. Is the Wii destined to join these in becoming ubiquitous in Western homes?

The enormous success of the Wii thus far (it has sold something pretty close to as many as the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 combined) is down to just two factors. The first is the great man/machine interfaces, the hand held motion sensor and the balance board. These overcome the barrier that the traditional game controller presents to most people who are not in the core game playing demographic. The second factor is first party Nintendo games. There are a surprisingly small number of these titles but they are some of the best video game entertainment that has ever been created.

As a little aside here it is well worth mentioning game polish. This is something the movie industry takes for granted. After you have finished making the content for a movie/game you then need to work away, perhaps for months, to finesse every detail, no matter how small, so that the finished product is a perfect as it can be. Nintendo are one of the very few game developers in the world who polish their games properly. Which is amazing when you consider that it can easily double, triple or more the sales of a game. Even more amazing when we have the example of the movie industry and our products need it more than theirs do.

Back on track. The two Nintendo success factors had the effect of massively broadening out their customer demographic. Traditional game consoles were mainly used by 20ish males, the Wii is used by everyone. So the potential for the traditional console was limited and there were only so many homes that it was likely to end up in. The Wii could, and does, end up in just about any home.

It is amazing how few actual games titles are behind the success of the Wii. For the broad demographic it is principally Wii Fit, Wii Sports and Mario Cart. (Interestingly non of these make the Wii top 20 on Metacritic which just shows how out of touch game reviewers are with reality). Nintendo have not forgotten the core gamer with titles like Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Legend of Zelda. These are such superlative games that any true core gamer should own a Wii just to access them, even (as is most likely) their main gaming machine is an HD console.

But third party developers have, by and large, missed the boat. Most of what they have produced is cheap and nasty shovelware with low production values that is destined for failure. Way back in 2007 I wrote the following “rules” for Wii development:
1) Don’t do shovelware. You are just damaging your brand(s).
2) Write Wii specific titles. Don’t port. You have to respect the interface difference.
3) Understand that most Wiis live in the lounge. And most other consoles live in the bedroom.
4) Polish, lots. Then polish some more.
5) Realise that you have to provide entertainment for the population at large. FPS titles are not a good idea.
6) You need to market completely differently. PR in women’s magazines will work a lot better than adverts in game magazines.
7) Talk to your wife/girlfriend. They understand the Wii better than you do.
A lot of game developers would be a lot richer now if they had taken heed of these.

So we are left with a number of questions that need answering if we are going to understand where the Wii is going (sorry, it’s another list!):
1) Is the very small catalogue of really big games on the Wii enough to keep sales momentum going?
2) Will Nintendo release any more games of this stature on the Wii platform?
3) Will third party developer ever “get” what the Wii is about, mostly they haven’t yet?
4) When will Nintendo pull the plug on the Wii and move on to the next model (this could be as soon as this year)?
5) What effect will the recession/depression have on casual video gaming?
I haven’t the faintest idea what the answers to these are but, as ever in this industry, it will be interesting finding out.

Of course Microsoft and Sony have missed out massively. They misread the market by targeting the core gamer and didn’t realise that the potential was there to bring video gaming to  a far broader demographic. Of the two it is Microsoft who have adapted best, as the recent changes to Xbox Live demonstrate. Sony seem to be just sailing on regardless, totally oblivious to the new paradigm the industry is working in.

Amongst third party developers there are some green shoots of understanding about what the market has become. Guitar Hero and Rock band being two of the best examples. But overall it is amazing how sclerotic the brains of many industry decision makers have been. I could name names but some of the recent company results give you a fair idea.

So to answer the original question, will the Wii become a ubiquitous domestic appliance? It would have to jump through a number of difficult hurdles to do so. Perhaps a video game console more likely to achieve such an accolade is the upcoming HD Super Wii. We will see.


  1. Wow an article that supports the Wii. Whats going on Bruce. Could it be that you are finally admitting defeat and that the Wii might actually do well.

    Anyway one thing wrong with the article.
    4) When will Nintendo pull the plug on the Wii and move on to the next model (this could be as soon as this year)?

    Aint going to happen. Why stop selling a console which you cannot keep on the shelves and is outselling the competition combined. Why would any sane company do such a thing. It isn’t going anywhere and with the awesome games coming out this year will probably sell even more than last year.

  2. I don’t “support” any gaming platform, hardware manufacturer, publisher or anyone else in the industry.
    All I do is pass informed comment on events.
    Hence my articles on the slow motion trainwreck that is the Sony Playstation PS3.
    I have said what I think of Nintendo and the Wii for a long time. The development rules list in this article is from 2007 and is just as true now.
    If you want to understand Nintendo try reading this article (also from 2007):

    As for when will Nintendo pull the plug on the Wii, they have replace platforms that were selling well in the past and they will do so again. It is a way of preventing the bubble bursting. And as the Super Wii will almost certainly be backwards compatable they can introduce it at any time that suits them. Just as the DSi is replacing the DS Lite.

  3. How would Nintendo benefit from making the Wii hardware more costly to manufacture? You chastise other people in the industry for working on old assumptions, but assume that there is an automatic benefit or demand for increasing the Wii’s hardware specs.

    If it’s already the fastest-selling home console of all time with what you characterise as ‘ugly’ SD graphics (can’t see it myself, perhaps you should invest in an RGB Scart cable?), would upping the resolution have much of an effect on sales?

    The DSi doesn’t make any changes to the core functionality of the DS – surely any revision of the Wii in the short term would be more likely to bump up the limited storage than to completely overhaul the machine.

  4. Bruce, you are very serious, but I must disagree with you, Just I have another list you must see and after you tell me your opinion:

    1.- Nintendo Works only on theirs Systems, Never port a game form DS to Wii or bacwards with some exception, exclusive works gives as result more quality, meanwhile other companies are making multiplatform games, that translates as less quality for every system choosen.

    2.- A name, all companies aready have a “Name” before the begining of this generation, but the introduction of new gamers just erased those names, they don´t care what games has made those companies in the past. The companies must remake their names with quality tittles for the most sold system.

    3.- You said don´t port and respect the interface. I say don´t make ports of old games. Resident Evil 4 was just good luck, The godfather, Driver PL, can´t have any succe, because nobody want to play games already played recently. Some remakes as Klonoa or the rumored remake of Resident Evil 2 are most justified, because the new gamers has never watch them.

    4.- It´s right, there are a lot of casual games on Wii, but, ¿how much of them are million sellers? just some of the first released, because were a big first contact to the public, but not anymore, just wacth EA trying to copie Wii Sports succes and it´s a fact: they can make a game 1000% better, but casual games are not impressive anymore. Just never will sell a lot anymore, except the ones made by Nintendo, because they put theirs best development effort on every game, not like EA, who contract minor studios for make Wii tittles.

    5.- The effort, all 360 games make use of both layers on every game, because the companies just work a lot on the game extension. ¿How many games on WII make usage of both layers? Just one, I use Need for Speed undercover as a very bad example, ¿Why? Less cars than others versions, lack of options, graphics worts than the previous game. And EA repeats this actitude for all theirs games on WII: Fifa, Madden, NHL, and next Need for Speed will be an arcade racer, meanwhile others systems get the driving simulation. ¿players decition? don´t buy Wii version because only takes one day or two finish it.

    6.- FPS games don´t work on Wii? Maybe you must say “make FPS with some effort for WII” and the public will buy it, just look COD WaW on Wii, more than 850.000 units sold, and still selling, very good for a Port, just watch the list of most sold games for Wii and they have three common factors:
    .- Most of them are made by Nintendo.
    .- Another more of them are exclusives for WII.
    .- Not any EA expendable game is listed.
    .- The “new” best seller have functional online or just have it.
    .- Most of the casual games listed are form the first year of system release, most of the new ones are jus ignored, but low cost of development ever make them a good invest.
    .- Just for fun, most people said that wii´owners are totally new, but the best sellers are not new IP, except those who include some perifal.

  5. Hi Bruce,

    Allow me to respectfully disagree with your opinion that game reviewers are out of touch with reality. Because a game sells like crazy doesn’t mean it’s a good game (entertainment for value), it only means it’s well targeted and advertized. I remember reading somewhere (maybe it was here, not sure) a list of wii games sorted by average playing time per buyer, and this lists matches the metacritic rankings, that makes sense to me.

    Also, could you point me to data supporting the clain that polish doubles or triples game sales? Does that apply to the industry as a whole or more particularily to the wii consumer base?

    Thanks for all the time you put in this blog, I really enjoy reading your posts.

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