Despite strong cumulative hardware and software sales for its Wii and DS systems, Nintendo's platforms have faced criticism as markets where only first-party, Nintendo-produced software can succeed. Nintendo addressed these concerns head-on in a recent press presentation, while also pledging to help third-party developers succeed further on the 3DS.
"We need to decrease the concern that only software from Nintendo can sell well on Nintendo platforms and third parties’ software cannot sell in the same volume," Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said at the presentation, which was largely focused on the upcoming Nintendo 3DS.
Iwata did acknowledge that third-party software represents a smaller portion of the total software market on Nintendo systems, when compared to other platforms.
Charts presented at the presentation showed third party software represented roughly 55 to 60 percent of cumulative sales on the Wii and DS, compared to around 85 percent of cumulative sales for other systems.*
But the data looks different, Iwata pointed out, if you look at total third-party software sales rather than ratios. From this perspective, the sales of over 200 million third-party titles on the Nintendo DS dwarf third-party sales on any other platform. (Four of Nintendo's charts are reproduced below.)
The effect is even more pronounced in Japan, where the massive installed base the Nintendo DS has led third-party sales on the system to outpace total
software sales on any competing system.
Of course, a flood of games made for Nintendo systems mean those total third-party sales are spread thin across many different titles. Despite the glut of releases, Iwata's numbers showed total third-party sales on the Wii running slightly behind those for the PS3 in Japan, and behind those for the Xbox 360 when Japanese and U.S. sales are combined.
Despite this, overwhelming sales of first-party software in both regions makes the Wii the largest overall console software market by a good margin. In Japan alone, in fact, Nintendo's software represents nearly three-quarters of the total Wii software market.
Iwata argued that strong sales of Nintendo software are actually beneficial to third-party publishers that make games for Nintendo systems. "Nintendo is trying to expand the installed base of our hardware with our own software so that each platform can have a solid base for third-party software companies to make lucrative businesses," he said. "We were tackling this mission as our responsibility as the platform holder."
But Iwata did seem to acknowledge that Nintendo's overwhelming position in the Japanese Wii software market may be too extreme, and said the company was working to change the situation for their next system.
"For the Japanese launch of Nintendo 3DS, so that we will not make a trend similar to the one found for Wii in Japan now, we feel a need to have closer ties with our third-party developers from the beginning," he said. "For Nintendo 3DS, we need to tackle this issue."
* - All charts and numbers discussed in this article were presented by Nintendo as cumulative sales data through August 2010 from NPD for the U.S. and Media Create for Japan. Unless otherwise noted, numbers refer to both territories combined.