Wii gamers are said to have shorter "must have" lists than do hardcore Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 fans. So what does it take to develop a Wii game that's on everybody's short list?
It could be that it's less about the quality of the game itself and more about meeting the audience's expectations.
According to industry analyst Michael Pachter, a successful Wii game often scores big because it has a great concept, has a high recognition factor, and does a good job of utilizing the Wii controllers. Pachter is senior VP, research, at LA-based Wedbush Morgan Securities.
"The Wii audience isn't sophisticated enough to know whether the game they're buying compares favorably to, say Gears of War or LittleBigPlanet, because they probably don't own an Xbox 360 or a PS3," Pachter explains.
"They buy the Wii games that they buy for the same reason that people go to McDonald's. McDonald's doesn't win a lot of restaurant critic awards but they are approachable, they're consistent, and you know what they're going to serve you."
"I mean, who sells more food -- McDonald's or Ruth's Chris Steak House, which certainly serves better meat? Nintendo has become the fast food machine. Sony is very much the high-end restaurant. And Microsoft is somewhere in between."
The executive producers of three successful Wii games -- Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip, Game Party, and Game Party 2 -- don't necessarily disagree, but have their own take on why their titles won over their audiences.
At Midway Home Entertainment, Game Party -- a collection of seven mini-games -- has shipped over two million units since it was released on Nov. 27, 2007, while its sequel, Game Party 2 -- with 11 mini-games -- has shipped one million units since its release on Oct. 6 last year. On February 12th, Midway's Matt Booty noted that the franchise "has sold close to three million units in total."
Those are impressive sales, especially since critical reviews were less than stellar. Metacritic.com gives the initial game a 25-out-of-100 score, the sequel a 29-out-of-100. And GameSpot opines that Game Party 2 is "a completely unoriginal minigame collection just waiting to take advantage of uninformed casual gamers."
But Joel Seider, the executive producer of both games, says that the public's interest in them stems from the developers giving them exactly what they crave.
"We leveraged one of Midway's historic strengths and the fact that I had been at Midway way back when it was making the old coin-op games," he explains. "When you design and build an arcade game, you're trying to get someone to have a lot of fun in a short period of time; you're not trying to make some big, open-world MMO."
"And that concept translates well to the type of person who is a Wii gamer, a large percentage of whom would call themselves casual gamers. They may play Game Party for an hour or so, but in fact they will probably play a few of the mini-games in the collection for just 10 or 15 minutes each. So we had to design for a very short gameplay experience."