Screen Digest has been collecting data in relation to the release of console games since the launch of the Xbox 360 back at the end of 2005, but we’ve waited until Christmas 2007 to release our first analysis of the data trends. It is an appropriate time: all three consoles are going head to head for consumers’ attention and publishers are looking to generate up to half of their annual revenue over the Christmas season, so having an understanding of the competitive climate for games is pretty much essential for these companies.
Many of the trends we have uncovered make for interesting reading. The big story is how publisher support for the Wii has increased steadily following its very successful sales run since launch. If some increase in recent support has been as a direct result of the growth in the Wii installed base – there have been some high-profile announcements this year from the likes of EA and Take-Two detailing a turnaround in platform strategy to produce more Wii games – this platform shift has also been unquestionably underpinned and encouraged by the massive success of Nintendo’s other platform, the DS – shorter development times for many Wii games and lower development costs allowing publishers to make changes fairly rapidly.
As a result, of the 178 console game SKUs being released in Q4 (this includes counting multiple SKUs of the same title on different consoles), 92 are finding their way on to the Wii, compared to 48 on the 360 and 38 on the PS3. As only four of the Wii titles are published by Nintendo itself, the depth and extent of thirdparty publisher support represents a significant change from the GameCube.
Whether this strategy pays off for publishers is another matter, however. Although Wii content on the face of it may represent a lower investment risk, there are multiple factors publishers need to assess beyond the cost of development, including the need to match content and licenses to the different types of Wii user, the challenges of producing successful multiplatform titles across the PS3, 360 and Wii, and also heavy competition on the Wii platform over the Christmas period, not least from some of the most historically successful franchises that Nintendo itself has to offer. If game sales on the Wii are badly hit by these factors, we will see the thirdparty publishers once again diverting their investment to other platforms.
So which publishers are most active on the Wii, and does quantity result in quality for the gamer? Well, it would seem as though some lesser-known publishers are seeking to muscle in on the growing Wii opportunity, perhaps while a few of the bigger publishers are caught napping. Data Design Interactive, based in the UK, is expected to release ten Wii titles during Q4, more than many of the largest thirdparty publishers including EA, Activision, THQ and Midway, while other smaller publishers such as Destination Software and Oxygen Interactive also have multiple titles planned for Q4 release.
More notably, Data Design Interactive has established a line of budget Wii titles in an attempt to take advantage of the more casual Wii gamer. This is the first time that budget titles have been introduced to a console at this stage of the cycle, and this really illustrates how far the introduction of the Wii has gone to turn console content convention on its head. The release of these type of games is of significantly less interest to the ‘traditional’ gamer, of course, yet the wide and even spread of gender and ages using the Wii and its relatively high proportion of casual gamers suggests these budget titles will find a market.
Of the established publishers, Ubisoft has been ahead of many of its rivals with its substantial support of the Wii. Its decision to invest heavily at an early stage, perhaps convinced by the potential of the Wii following the success of the DS, puts the publisher in a strong position for Christmas with the release of 12 titles for the Wii in Q4. Notably, even though all of these titles are multiplatform releases (mostly handheld and PC-based), many are actually console-exclusive to the Wii.