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.
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
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."