Tumbling Wii hardware sales and
analysts' comments about whether the Wii bubble is deflating have some
third-party publishers re-examining and re-jiggering their strategies.
Wii console sales in the U.S. slid
27.5 percent from January to November 2008, when they were 8.0 million, to 5.8 million
for the same period in 2009, according to the NPD Group. The tracking firm has yet to reveal full 2009 sales figures, but with an estimated 3 million Wiis sold during December, Nintendo sold about 8.8 million units in the U.S. last year, versus 10.2 million in 2008 -- a 14 percent year-on-year drop.
Some of the most troubling concerns
about the possibility of waning enthusiasm for the Wii include whether there
are too many Wii games on the market, whether gamers have had their fill of
so-called Wii casual or party games, and whether publishers have a handle on
the moving target that is the Wii audience.
Take the case of third-party publisher
Capcom, whose stock rose to a five-year high in September, 2007 due to
increased support for the Wii, according to the company.
At the time, its CFO
spoke enthusiastically about Capcom's Wii portfolio -- which had doubled from
three to six games -- and was poised to publish Zack & Wiki: Quest For
Barbaros' Treasure the next month.
But Chris Kramer, Capcom senior director of communications and community, said even though
"it was one of the highest-rated Wii games and was beloved by the media,
it sold abysmally -- about 120,000 units in 26 months -- for no apparent
Similarly, Japanese publisher Marvelous
Entertainment focused heavily on Wii and PSP releases in 2009, but the company
found a considerable difference in its success on the two platforms. Four out
of its five PSP games in its first fiscal half were profitable while three of
its four Wii games during the same period lost money.
According to Kramer, "If you're
not Nintendo, it does seem harder to make money on the Wii today compared to
the PS3 and the Xbox 360. It's a very tough market to crack and is
He recalls that when the Wii first
launched in North America in November, 2006, simple casual or party games did
so well that they soon saturated the market. "Now, I don't even know what
the market is," he says. "
One thing's for sure -- the focus has
changed. Stores like Target and Best Buy have reportedly told game publishers
not to even bother approaching them with collections of mini games, which they
will no longer pick up.
"Third-party publishers are having
a hard time determining who the Wii audience is," Kramer adds. "You
can no longer say it is solely casual gamers or that only E-rated games own the
space. For any sort of solid statement you want to make about the platform or
the audience, there are enough opposite proofs to show that it is extremely
scattered and chaotic."