After three years of low-quality Wii software not moving from store shelves, retailers such as Target and Best Buy have had enough. According to Gamasutra, many retailers are refusing to pick up new Wii software if said games are mini game collections. This flies directly in the face of the common misconception that cheap-o Wii software sells in droves.
The article goes on to examine the current Wii environment and the on-going struggle of third parties to make a dent in the market. With hardware sales down 14% from 2008 and looking to drop even further, publishers are coming to grips with some hard truths. Chris Kramer, Capcom senior director of communications and community, notes that simple casual games hit it big in the beginning but not as much once the market became saturated.
“You can no longer say [the Wii audience] is solely casual gamers or that only E-rated games own the space,” mentions Kramer. “For any sort of solid statement you want to make about the platform or the audience, there are enough opposite proofs to show that it is extremely scattered and chaotic.” In a nutshell, the audience is too diverse for publishers to pigeonhole demographics and then expect decent returns.
There is also the issue that publishers are pumping out sequels to games that managed to satisfy consumers the first time around. “Sure, Game Party spawned Game Party 2 and Game Party 3, but is there any question why the sequels didn’t do as well? Who needs more mini games?” muses Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter. “The nature of the games that succeed on the Wii don’t lend themselves to sequelization and this business is all about creating franchises. Like Madden. Like Halo.”
So what can companies do going forward? Perhaps it is finally time to start employing the golden “less is more” strategy. Kramer points out that Capcom will be releasing fewer Wii games in 2010 but that they will be stronger and more high-profile, like Monster Hunter Tri.
What we shouldn’t expect is any massive turnaround in third-party success stories. If publishers still can’t read the Wii after three years, perhaps it’s time to cut their losses and plan for the future. If third parties want to hit it big on the Wii’s successor or, more immediately, with Sony and Microsoft’s motion controllers, they will need to reevaluate the type of content consumers are willing to embrace.