Continuing the popular 'New Wii = New Danger!!11!" season, this opinion piece should be of particular interest for anyone keeping tab on a common trait of humanity; flip-flopping revisionism. The ever entertaining joys of watching people re-write history to their needs.
It's a tad harder these days because the internet makes a good old fashioned book burning less effective than it used to be, but there's plenty out there who would use our beloved interweb to alter facts and spin things more to their liking (alas, poor Wikipedia).
Although staying away from the more serious examples of history revisionism -this is a Wii site, after all- it's a hilarious thing to watch staunch attackers of Nintendo's console chop and change their tactics as each monthly sales report comes in, showing the machine's consistently strong retail performance. We've gone from:
"Nintendo doesn’t stand a chance!"
"Well, of course it's going to sell; it's a new console."
"No one said it wasn’t going to sell well at first, it'll have the couple million GameCube fans buying, but once they're done, sales will drop."
That was before we got:
"Nintendo fans will buy anything. Now it's just some of the DS owners buying, but once they're done, sales will drop."
"It's a fad, innit? People like fads. Fad power + the new console effect are bound to give good sales for the first couple months. They'll get bored of it soon."
Eventually leading down to a slightly defeated statement of incredulity…
"Who's buying these things? Surely everyone has one by now?"
And then, more recently:
"Demand will eventually decline. They can't be like that forever"
Finally stumbling into the circular:
"Nintendo always sells well; anyone was stupid to think otherwise. See! Wii's losing sales, it only sold 10 million this month unlike the 40 million it did last month! I told you sales would drop!"
This, my friends, is more back-peddling than a confused superhuman sports cyclist.
You'll have likely noticed the subtle history revision in the last example, as well. Almost a last ditch attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It happens all the time. Time dilutes the memory, especially when it wants to forget pain. Better this than alcoholism, I guess. But it's only going to get much worse if Nintendo continues its fine vein of form… and the following is the sort of stuff you can already expect to encounter on an average week and quite likely the next few years.
ESPECIALLY the next few years.
"Wii was bound to do well - Nintendo always does well in Japan."
No. The very fact some people are even going near this is laughable. Nintendo has got a strong and vocal fanbase in the land of the rising sun – of course it has. But to even suggest the big N gets an instant bye off the strength of its name for the sort of sales Wii is getting is almost the very definition of gaming-mired revisionist history. Because seven months ago, GameCube's poor performance there (where it got POUNDED by Sony's PlayStation2 and only came second by default of Xbox being pretty reviled in the territory) had many believe Nintendo should maybe just stick to handheld gaming. Third-parties in Japan had wavering confidence, publishers had to change exclusives into multi-format titles to make a larger profit, and generally that little purple cube became somewhat of a lost opportunity despite sterling software.
In fact, Nintendo LOST market share in Japan during GameCube's lifespan, but was helped significantly by the ever-increasing market growth in the industry.
Nonetheless, last year people were ready to write-off Nintendo in nearly all regions, with Japan being labelled as somewhere that the company could only hope to come second at best through Microsoft not getting a foothold with Xbox 360. Taking a look at the software charts in 2005 you'd be inclined to agree; the only truly consistent presence Nintendo had was via DS, otherwise it was a massive PS2 lovefest. And even before that? Well, many were saying Nintendo was going to end up being a third-party because GameCube's prospects were so shaky.
Don’t let revisionists fool you – Nintendo has been an unstable force in the Japanese market since N64 started the company's market share decline. Wii is currently doing better than any non-portable Nintendo format in both hardware and software, EVER. Certainly better than both GameCube and N64; that's around ten years where the company hasn’t been as Teflon-dominant as these people would have you believe. Because the reality is, had Wii only been outselling PS3 by a much smaller ratio those same people wouldn’t be saying Nintendo "always does well in Japan"; they'd be saying "it's the same old story: Wii may be doing well now, but PS3/game sales will eventually outpace it just like it has the past few years".
"Bu-bu-bu but Nintendo's selling well off the DS, it always had a chance!"
Which again goes contrary to what many disbelievers were saying barely half a year back. Disregarding the aforementioned "Nintendo is going third-party lolz!" mantra that became commonplace for a couple years, the runaway success of DS was seen as merely a continuation of the company's dominance in the handheld sector. Fair enough, it's seen off just about every single competitor since the original Game Boy came out in 1989. But many had said DS was going to be wiped out by PlayStation Portable (which was going to bring us "out of the handheld ghetto" remember) simply from the force of Sony's brand power. When the dual screen machine steamrollered everything in its path, doubters went back to their default stance – see the earlier argument, mixed with the birthing of this one; its brute strength in the handheld market. So with that, some have declared Wii is piggybacking DS.
Shame they were also saying neither home nor handheld territories were analogous before, then.
Both DS and Wii use similar Blue Ocean/disruption strategies where they basically aim for something outside the current market's grasp by offering a new slant for a new audience. But while they work together towards that, many were quick to dismiss DS' success would have any bearing on Wii's fortunes. Until recently, where now DS' dominance has made Wii's super-sales an obvious correlation. Of course! They're both Nintendo products! Hey, nice flip-flops!
"Okay, but it had a Zelda game at launch, so, like, whatever."
One of Nintendo's most successful franchises it may be, but it may surprise you that The Legend of Zelda has historically sold below expectations in Japan. It's a unit mover in the West, but the Japanese are slightly more apathetic to Link and his adventures. It did well, but not enough to say Wii is surviving off it for as long as it has. Wii Sports (sold separately from the machine in Japan) and Wii Play are much more powerful brands worldwide at the moment, which may seem ridiculous given they didn’t exist to retailers until six months ago, but they're the ones breaking the million barrier easily, and by far and away the most successful Wii games to date.
As for Zelda's influence which is now trumpeted as a big saviour by revisionists, it must be pointed out that before AND after Twilight Princess was launched it was declared by them as merely 'a GameCube game with tacked-on waggle' and thus not really a 'valid' Wii title. Can't have it both ways. And even without Zelda, it seems Wii would have done more than well enough off Sports and Play anyway. It would have less hardcore gamers, no doubt, but as we all know, it's not the hardcore audience that spikes sales (don’t worry; we're still very important though. No bitter tears now).
There's likely to be many more excuses, changes and re-writes over time and the cyclical nature of the industry just means come ten years time we can usually replace one name with another and expect pretty much the same results. It's almost as fun to watch as it is to play the games themselv
Ack. Sorry. Had to revise that last part. Wasn’t happy with it. Let's just pretend it didn’t happen, okay?
Now, what was I saying again? Ahh, forget it. Anyone seen those official April NPD figures for Wii? Pfft. Predictable. Inevitable, even. I mean, Nintendo always does well in America.