The Nikkei Business Daily (via IGN) reports that unnamed developers are very concerned about sales prospects for their games for two reasons: 1/ only Nintendo seems to be able to make games that sell on the Wii. 2/ Wii sales have slowed down, casting concerns for long-term market share dominance.
#1/ This isn’t new. Nintendo has always been the best software developer for their own platform because they have a mix of talent and first-hand information (as the hardware, documents and development kits creators), which is critical for the first generation of games. It might just be a little worse this time around. When I saw this in IGN:
“Several developers claim that Nintendo has been the only beneficiary of Wii’s success as it was able to predict demand for the console, while other publishers were forced to catch up quickly producing titles – some of which ended up as flops.”
It sounded to me like developers who rushed to make crappy games because they didn’t believe in the console in the first place, while Nintendo was focusing on making fun games. So, yes that would a recipe for flops, so what do they complain about? Nintendo’s president said in 2005 that the Wii (then called Revolution) would be “hard on developers”. That was a fair warning.
#2/ Indeed, the Wii has outsold every other console, but isn’t that normal, given that it is so much cheaper than the others? It is so cheap that I might buy one just to see if the white plastic is really as shiny as in ad, however, the low price comes from somewhere: it uses Last-Generation hardware that makes it hard to compete in the long run.
I’ve seen people on forums saying that games need to look as good as xBox 360 or PS3 – it’s not going to happen. Nintendo’s master plan was to “out-fun” and “out-price” the competition, period. They just don’t have the firepower to compete on graphics, AI or physics. The industry itself (consumers and developers) has been focusing on eye-candy for years. I know it very well: games have to be fun, but people do like bumpy-shiny stuff, that’s the way it is. At some level, it is also easier to create better graphics than create new game genre.
What’s missing in this discussion is the average number of games bought per console. From there, we could tell if the game platform works as a software seller and if the console generates as much gaming hours as one would hope.
Also, don’t forget that nothing prevents Sony or Microsoft from coming up with a joystick similar to Nintendo’s. We could potentially see equally fun and casual games, with much better graphics, on more powerful consoles. That said, very few developers seem to be able to pull this off.
As competing platform gets more games (Halo3 on 360, MGS4 and GT HD on PS3), the pressure will increase. Are Wii in troubles? Not if users continue to buy and play Wii games. It doesn’t matter who makes them, they just need to be good.
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