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By Conrad Hughes on 18.6.2023

Strange Devices

It’s November 19, 2006. After months of puerile jokes about it’s name, the Nintendo Wii debuted to great success and it’s really just kept on going from there. As of April 2009, it’s sold 50 million units worldwide, compared to 30 million Xbox 360s and 23 million Playstation 3s. We can see it’s been vastly successful, but why?

Most people would put it down to the intuitive motion control system Nintendo have put in place for controlling games- whether or not this is the case is another matter. With an incredible amount of advertising across all media penetrating the casual demographic, arguably this is the real reason why the Wii is so successful, and it’s about three figures cheaper than its competitors. It didn’t start out with fantastic software with Wii Sports, now the greatest selling videogame of all time, is certainly functional but lacks any depth and appears as a straight up, simple party game. It wasn’t until Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3 and Super Smash Brothers Brawl that the Wii had any truly great games. Yet, the addition of this fantastic software to the roster hasn’t really pushed the Wii to the hardcore gaming faithful- that is, the typical ‘make a headshot from across the map’ Call of Duty 4 players us regular gamers are frustrated by. Instead, it’s the casual gamer that doesn’t care about graphics or even gameplay that has driven the Wii’s amazing market share.

Fast-forward to December 1st, 2007, Japan. Wii Fit sells over 3 million copies in a month. Selling for about £70, it had similar success in all territories it was later released in. Again, this isn’t an amazing game, however the idea that you could get fit whilst playing a videogame and the bombardment of advertising that has followed has proven an extremely successful combination. EA are now following suit with their Active game, which comes with, instead of the Zen-like balance board, a couple of elastic bands and a thigh strap for the Wii-mote. Debuting at a lower price, it was almost guaranteed success. Activision will be releasing a skateboard peripheral with the new Tony Hawk’s game due out later this year. Guitar Hero and Rock Band continue to push the fake-instrument peripheral to new levels, you can even buy a £200 aftermarket drum kit for the games if you feel that the regular midi-enabled pads aren’t up to the job.

It’s abundantly clear that the gimmick peripheral sells, if it’s done right. The Nintendo Wii is an amazing success story, but it doesn’t really bode well for the industry. Sure, we get games like World Of Goo, but these are really anomalies in the system’s line up. Marketing executives and big publishers are happy to slap together a simple game and tie it up with a gimmick, give it a little bit of polish and it sells millions to bored, Peggle playing, housewives.

The problem with the Wii is the extremely poor attach rate. People tend to get about 3 games per Wii these days, compared with an average of 5.2 for the 360. The attach rate is useful to us, as it shows how often people will actively look for new games- you can expect a higher attach rate from the knowledgeable gamer, who reads magazines and gaming websites, who anticipates releases and goes to buy games on the day of release. This is correlative with the 360/PS3 gamer, as opposed to the casual playing Wii gamer, who might switch the console on once a week to check their BMI or have a quick game of bowling. The casual market is likely to be swayed by advertising, either on television or in lifestyle magazines, rather than an informed, critical opinion. We have seen Microsoft try to follow suit with their Netflix programme and casual gaming ads seen on primetime television.

All of this is great news for the executives at Nintendo, where the entire office is made from platinum and they can afford to make Wiis entirely from melted down coins and $100 bills – and still turn a profit; but it’s not such great news for us gamers who have been playing for years. Once everybody catches up to the idea that casual games sell better and are made cheaper (even with the cost of the prerequisite gimmick peripheral), we’ll suddenly have no great games left to look forward to.


  • Just got a Wii for my 21st and I half get the feeling my family bought it as much for them as myself!

    Definitely agree that the ‘gimmick’ aspect has had a considerable effect on sales – personally I would never have it as my only console as it’s more of a communal experience than an individual gaming one.

    Will eventually get a PS3 but at the current price they are wildly at odds with the much cheaper Wii…maybe Sony should learn something from their competitor?

    Really good read though, interesting take 🙂

    By Nick Gill on 24.6.2023

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