There is no doubt that Nintendoís Wii is a success. Itís been the best selling console (excluding handhelds) since it launched and there seems to be an endless demand for the little white brick. So the question is not whether or not the console is a success but whether it will continue to be. Will the bubble burst?
That is a question that will not be answered for many months or even years to come. At the end of the day, all consoles have a finite life span. This comes to an end at the point that either the manufacturer stops supporting the console (like the Xbox) or until consumer interest fades (like the Gamecube).
Following is a discussion on the factors that may be the Wiiís downfall:
You do not have to spend much time in the Wii section of your local EB Games to realise that the selection of good Wii games is very limited. You may also realise that the majority of those titles are developed by Nintendo themselves.The only 3rd part Wii game currently selling well is Guitar Hero 3 (which is selling well on all consoles). Though there are other 3rd party Wii games that arenít horrible (SSX Blur, Eledees, Resident Evil) they are not selling in high enough numbers when compared to the top tier titles on other consoles. Super Mario Galaxy is arguably the best Wii game available at this point and is deserving of its spot in many a top 10 software chart. The only other title consistently on these charts is Wii Play. Wii Play is in my opinion a horrible collection of rubbish. Many people buy it, but that is much more likely to be for an extra Wii-mote than for the disc.
The impression one gets is that while some of the Nintendo Wii games do very well, 3rd party developers arenít spending much time or money to put out worth while games for the Wii. Instead PS2 games are simply ported over, or horrible mini-game collections are stuck on a disc. Why is that? By all accounts development cost for the Wii are substantially less than that of its two competitors, so why is this the case? The only logical conclusion I can come to is that developers do not believe that they will see sufficient returns on their investment. That would suggest that while people are still buying Wiiís by the pallet load, they arenít spending a hell of a lot time actually playing on them.
What is the most attractive aspect of the Wii? It is the interesting, and some would say revolutionary control scheme. Unfortunately apart from Wii Sports and Metroid Prime, most games currently available on the Wii do not fully utilise its control scheme very effectively. Mario Galaxy certainly does for potions of the game. But for most of the games the Wii-mote controls seem tacked onto titles better suited without them. It is very worrying that the vast majority of Wii games are far more enjoyable and easier to control when using the classic controller.
Whenever anyone mentions anything negative about the Wii they will quickly point out the ridiculous numbers in which the console is selling in. Look we all know that, but just because a lot of people are buying it doesnít mean they are actually playing on it. Console sales figures donít really mean that much when the software sales donít match. Most Wii owners I know readily admit that their Wii gets very little play time. So if people are getting bored with it so quickly then where is the opportunity for 3rd party developers to make money?
Obviously the same can be said for other consoles, but looking at software sales charts the Xbox 360 software is consistently selling well. While the attach rates for the PS3 is not significantly higher than that of the Wii it has been increasing. In addition, looking at the upcoming PS3 games things will only get better for them. Apart from Smash brothers and Mario Cart, Wii owners do not have a lot look forward to. Software sales can to a degree be related to the demographic of the owners. Most Xbox 360 and PS3 owners fit into the 25-40 year demographic . These people tend have a much larger disposable income and therefore have cash to burn. They buy a significant portion of titles that come out and this is very appealing to the 3rd party developers. Due to the casual gamer slant that Nintendo are targeting with the Wii, they have also put themselves in a trap. Casual gamers do not spend nearly as much money on games due to it not being their main form of entertainment. In addition many Wii owners also own one (or even both) of the other current-gen consoles. In the case of multi-platform releases, consumers are less likely to purchase the Wii version if its available on one or both of the other consoles. And this is to be expected when the titles look dramatically better on them, in addition to fully featured online components.
Nintendo has really dropped the ball in the online arena. Not only does a fair portion of the games not have online play in any form, the ones that do involve the absolutely horrible experience of entering friend codes. One has to ask, who the hell thought that was a good idea? It is far too much of a pain in the neck. While the other two consoles have really tried to focus on building a sense of community and incorporated features that allow owners to be connected to each other at all times, Nintendo have done nothing of the sort.
In closing, the Wii has seen fantastic sales of its console, but has been very lacking in the software department. They have what is possibly the most innovative control scheme seen since the DualShock and yet it is wildly underutilised. Apart from those two factors Nintendo find themselves in the unenviable position of being completely dependant on their own software for their continued success and have made very little effort in the online scene. Unless these issues are addressed the Wii could very well be the most successful gaming fad in recent history.