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Wiiís  Excitebots  Sells Just 13,000 In The U.S.
Wiiís Excitebots Sells Just 13,000 In The U.S.
May 15, 2009 | By Kris Graft

May 15, 2009 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Despite message board buzz and strong reviews, the Wii-exclusive Excitebots: Trick Racing sold just 13,000 units in the U.S. for its April debut, research firm NPD Group told Gamasutra on Friday.

The Nintendo-published game launched in the latter half of NPDís retail calendar on April 20, so the game has yet to reach even a full month of availability on store shelves. (NPD's retail calendar for April ended on May 2.)

But the amount of units sold is still low, considering the popularity of the gameís predecessor, Excite Truck, the strong reviews, and the buzz amongst the press and hardcore fans.

NPD said the game wasnít even able to crack the top 100 games by unit sales during the month of April.

In name, Excitebots also has heritage in the classic franchise started by the 1980s NES classic Excitebike.

Developed by Monster Games, the same studio behind the well-received Wii launch title Excite Truck, Excitebots took the fast-paced, motion-controlled arcade racing formula and added robot vehicles. The game has so far garnered an 82 percent review average on Metacritic.

News of Excitebotsí initial sales comes after NPD said that the M-rated Wii exclusive Madworld from Sega sold 66,000 units in the U.S. in its March debut. In February, Sega's other gory M-rated Wii game, the light gun shooter House of the Dead: Overkill, sold 45,000 units in its debut month in the U.S., according to NPD.

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Matt Ponton
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What games were there to compete with Excite Truck at the system's launch? It could be that Excitebots just got lost in the shuffle.

John Flush
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Strong reviews? it has an 82 on metacritic... While I personally find lower ranked games that appeal to me more entertaining than the AAA titles reviewers say I 'must' play, this game is just doesn't look like full price ($50) game material for myself. I might get it for my son after it hits the price point of $20 though...

Matt Matthews
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Excitebots is $50 with a wheel attachment for the Wii remote and $40 as a game-only.

Ian Fisch
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I think part of the problem is an identity crisis. A truck drives. It's safe to assume a game about trucks will have you racing. What the hell is a bot? It could be anything.

The first few times I heard about this game I thought it was some kids game based off a lego brand. I think they would have been better off making excitetruck 2 or a new version of excitebike. Or keep the damn game with the bots but call it excitecars.

Ken Masters
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Why are Wii games singled out for first month sales like this lately? And mentioning Monster Games in an attempt to allude some sort of 3rd party status for the game is just pathetic! The Excite series is a Nintendo IP and this game was published by Nintendo.

The only common denominator between Excitebots, MadWorld, and HotD:Overkill are that they had lower numbers than most would've liked to see in their first NPD showings.

Kris Graft
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Hi Ken,

I approached NPD to find out about Excitebots specifically because it was a game that seemed to garner quite a bit of buzz from supposed Wii supporters, both on message boards and in the games press. I wholly expected it to do better, even in the short time it was on shelves. It's apparently a good game (and yeah, I consider an 82 percent review average quite strong). I'm starting to think these Wii supporters who get all hyped over games like this, Madworld and HotD simply aren't backing up their alleged excitement at retail. Even NPD was surprised when I contacted them.

As for your accusation about me trying to "pathetically" "allude some sort of 3rd party status for the game" by having the audacity to mention the developer... well, I think your comment speaks for itself. :p

Ken Masters
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@ Kris,

I didn't buy Excitebots yet, but I was extremely hyped for MadWorld and HotD:Overkill and bought them both day one. What is being exposed here is that the people who frequent Gamasutra and all the other enthusiat game sites like I do are not the movers and shakers of the market any longer. In essence, internet hype and hoopla =/= real life. It's just not Wii games either. The same is happening with game systems. Visit kotaku or joystiq and do a content analysis and you'll see plenty of PS360 praising and Wii trolling. Using those sites as a barometer, you'd think the Wii would be a horrible failure, but that is not so in retail. Again, internet =/= real life.

As for the accusation, I wouldn't have inferred such had other Nintendo published games with "low" first month sales had been used - such as Wario Land: Shake It! or Wii Music.

Aaron Knafla
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Before I begin, the low numbers are newsworthy. That much is true. But...

I think the nature of the Wii market is firmly established. It's clear that Wii owners are not in a hurry to buy software; steady sales over long periods of time have become habitual for Wii software. Frankly, I'm sick and tired of hearing how shocking that is. It's not shocking anymore; the way the Wii consumer operates has come into focus.

Honestly, is anybody really suprised when Wii software doesn't make a fast splash on the NPD and disappear?.. I'm not anymore. Wii owners aren't reading Metacritic. Wii owners aren't geeks; they behave differently. (That's right. We ARE geeks.)

I (also) find it difficult to classify this as a third party title. Nintendo signed the checks; and Nintendo set the bar--both on the quality and content. From what I've read about the title, the project was backed and funded by "Big N" from beginning to end. I have not played the game; but I (strongly) believe it meets similar standards to Nintendo's own first party games--with fast accessability and in-game tutorials... A game that is commissioned, funded, and personally fine tuned by Nintendo just doesn't meet my standards for "third party". Nintendo's hands were all over the development.

For a variety of reasons (some mentioned already), this game had "sleeper" written all over it from the start. Nintendo should have anticipated that from the beginning.

Personal opinion: this game can score points with the younger set. A holiday release would have been better. I'm expecting another long arc of steady sales. After all, it is a Wii game.

The low sales are newsworthy; but they aren't shocking. This game didn't look like a blockbuster to begin with. Add in the way Wii consumers behave, and you know the game is going to operate under the radar. As for the Metacritic references, I don't believe most Wii owners read that stuff. At one time, that was shocking news; but it's been going on for years now.

Russell Carroll
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The numbers are very interesting and very low. I wonder if any other Nintendo published game has done so poorly in its first month.

However, Nintendo did sort of budget release the game at $40 and with no advertising to speak of. The game was only announced 8 weeks or so before its release. My 45 minute play at the GDC left me thoroughly unimpressed with the title (I am an owner and fan of ExciteTruck for whatever insight that may provide). Still, based on internet buzz, I had thought it would sell better than that. An 82 is pretty respectable.

I would guess sales will improve for the title, especially as it includes the wheel, as we move on towards Christmas.

In this light I'm now interested to see Punch-Out's numbers. That one I pre-ordered after seeing and playing it at the GDC, I would expect that it will fare much better, in part b/c it isn't competing against other similar Nintendo product. (If you were buying one game with a racing wheel would it be MarioKart or ExciteBots)

I do wonder though Kris if you have numbers from Rune Factory for last month and this. MadWorld is definitely where all the hype was at, but Rune Factory is more the type of game I'd expect Wii-lovers to like (spinning off from Harvest Moon and having a little bit of 'core' to it with dungeon crawling). Of course it received not 1% of the hype/advertising of MadWorld. Another one to wonder about is Klonoa, which has been rumored to have sold just 1,000 copies, which if true is absolutely tragic and causes further wonder about the current market conditions.

Aaron Knafla
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I agree that low sales for Klonoa are tragic--in a way. After all, it is based on a solid title. No doubt, it's a fun little package.

On the other hand, it is a Wii-make. Even worse, it's a rehash of a very old game. Worst of all, the Klonoa franchise has never seen much success in the west.

Klonoa Wii was a recipe for failure from the beginning.

Wii owners don't want geeky niche games from Japan. Metacritic scores won't convince them to buy; because they don't read that stuff.

Russell Carroll
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Yeah you may be right, but I always call it tragic when good games that are fun are missed out on. Regardless of the system or the creator. I love to see good things appreciated by the masses.

1,000 sales to a market of 20,000,000, just seems really sad :(.

Simon Carless
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Russell: someone mentioned to me that Klonoa's 1,000 sales in April was based on incorrect (or at least, unclear) pre-order data because the game didn't actually come out until May 4th, officially.

Robert Farr
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How many non-core/part-time/casual gamers read games news/review sites or publications anyway? I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of them are just looking at the boxes in the shop (If it all) any making their decisions there. Are games adverts reaching the right people for this system (Thats adverts for games, rather than just for the Wii itself or its first party games)? For instance, I may own a Wii but I'm primarily a PC Gamer and don't follow Wii related games sites, partly because it doesn't even occur to me to do so. I saw mention of excitebots on twitter and my first reaction was "Who? What?". I didn't even know it was in production.

Vince Dickinson
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So, a cartoony-giant-robot-insect-racing game didn't sell huge numbers? Wow, I'm shocked. SHOCKED! Almost as shocked as I was when a black and white beat-em-up and grindcore light gun game didn't sell millions in the first month. Say it with me folks, niche games don't sell blockbuster numbers (especially in the first month).

Russell Carroll
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Thanks Simon, that's encouraging.

I think some of the arguments are that the Wii doesn't have a core audience. That may be true, but weren't there like 2.7 million copies of Smash Bros. sold in the first month of its release (just one year ago?) It seems like the audience is there, or was there and the trouble has been connecting the audience to the games. I do agree though that ExciteBots and MadWorld were niche. That leads to some interesting thoughts about who the audience is and how to reach them. I tend to believe Rune Factory would have appealed to the core Wii audience (that's not an antonym!), it's perhaps just a victim of limited marketing.

So I guess the interesting thing would be to guess, based on what you believe that audience of Wii players to be, what the sales of the 'big' games of this month for the Wii will be. There are 3 next week that are very key I think:

Boom Blox 2 - which looks like everything last year + aspects of little big planet

Punch-Out - which isn't niche like ExciteBots and has gotten some advertising

EA Active - which will be dismissed by the 'core' audience

Based on what we have been seeing, is this group going to out-perform MadWorld & ExciteBots? Which does the best and why? Do any come out of the gate as a disaster?

(my guess is that Boom Blox 2 will b/c despite what it has done, I think the Wii is suffering from a lot of negative bias that will keep core players away who would have otherwise given it a go...and that same bias, which I've blogged about a lot, I think has been and remains the biggest struggle for the Wii - not the lack of games that the core audience would like, but a lot of negative peer pressure)

Mark Nelson
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Excite Trucks is the only game for the Wii that I still own. Not a very polished game, but supremely high replayability. Haven't felt this good playing a racing game since Wipeout XL on the PS1.

I was hoping for an Excite Trucks refresh and was planning to purchase on day one. Sadly, the new game mechanics displayed in Excitebots pushes all the wrong buttons with me and makes me very wary of purchasing.

I'm also tired of paying Gamestop for Wii game demos (read: purchase borderline interesting Wii game at full price - demo - sigh with disappointment - sell for absurdly low price).

Jason Weesner
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When I first heard about the game, all I could think about was that scene from Big:

JOSH: "I don't get it."

PAUL: "What exactly don't you get?"

JOSH: "It turns from a building into a robot, right?"

PAUL: "Precisely."

JOSH: "Well, what's fun about that?"

PAUL: "Well, if you had read your industry breakdown, you would see that our success in the action figure area has climbed from 27 percent to 45 percent in the last two years. There, that might help."

JOSH: "Oh."

PAUL: "Yes?"

JOSH: "I still don't get it."

PAUL: "What?!"

MR. M: "What don't you get Josh?"

JOSH: "Well, there's a million robots that turn into something. And this is a building that turns into a robot. So what's so fun about playing with a building? That's not any fun!"

PAUL: "This is a skyscraper."

Tom Krausse
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To me, the biggest thing that the Excitebots numbers tell me is this: You need to advertise games, especially on the Wii. Why companies expect to reach blockbuster sales numbers with no advertising, I don't know. If people don't hear about the game, they are almost sure not to buy it. Good advertising does actually move sales, but no one seems to want to advertise on the Wii. Given the earlier made point, that the Wii audience has the largest portion of people who don't frequent game sites, traditional advertising is a must.

And don't worry about Klonoa's numbers just yet. The NPD session evaluating its sales ended the day after it came out. So, we're looking at the day one sales. Not first week or first month, but first day. And I think I should point out that Klonoa's release wasn't that good, as I heard about a dozen different dates in the weeks leading up to it.

Sean Parton
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This game should garner far better sales; it's criminal that it's so low. I bought this game after hearing how fun it was, and I've not been disappointed, and neither have my friends when I took it to a friends house and we took turns playing through and unlocking everything. The only real flaw the game has is that it's incredibly grind-tastic (you want a certain colour? Pay for it. Want a new robot? Pay for it! What some random useless trophies or icons?? PAY FOR IT, all with the same pool of credits used for useful things!!).

Still, since the game encourages you to race again for a better grade on each individual track, it sort of works. And since the individual tracks (and minigames, and poker races) are fun and replayable anyways, it at least has the necessary hallmarks of a good racer, even if you can win the highest grade while still coming in last if you do enough tricky stunts.

@Aaron Knafla: I believe Monster Games' relationship with Nin is fairly close to what Next Level Games' is. Nintendo certainly has their say, but they choose quality outside studios that know what they're doing to begin with. Maybe Nintendo had more of a say compared to Mario Strikers or Punch-Out!!, but I wouldn't count these guys as completely first party (from what I've been reading, Next Level sounds like they're a bit more independent, and like to make sure they can do things there way as long as they hit schedule/budget). I believe the not-often-used term "second-party" would be appropriate.

@Russell Carroll: Out of all of the soon-released titles you've mentioned, I'm hoping to support Punch-Out!! more than anything. Not only are they a local company for me, but their prestigious stance on doing without crunch (see recent Gamasutra articles) is inspiring, and worth supporting at any cost. That and I really enjoyed Mario Strikers Charged, so I know the developers deliver quality.