Console Wars: The Casual Market

The Wii is outselling its competition by leaps and bounds.  It is the most mainstream console of all time.  The system has sold over thirty-four million units worldwide.  But this success may very well be to the determent of the system’s growth, at least amongst the hardcore gaming community.

This seems like a contradiction.  The Playstation 2 succeeded by simply outselling its competition.  There are six times more PS2s than Xboxs.  Because of this, it became the de facto standard for all multiplatform games, despite being technically inferior. The main reason the Xbox 360 got released early was to attempt to prevent the Playstation 3 from replicating this success.  So why is the Wii different?

It has to do with who is buying the Wii.  The system has been embraced by the public consumer such that it continues to have shortages two years into its life cycle.  Everyone from little Susie to Grandma want to play it.  What game is their favorite?  Wii Sports, which comes with the system, followed by Wii Play, which comes with an extra Wii Remote.

This causes two problems.  One is that Nintendo has no incentive to develop more hardcore games; they can make a ton of money on hardware alone.  This is because the system itself is a money-maker, unlike the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360.  I would not hold my breath waiting for another Wii Zelda or Mario game.

The second is third party support.  There are lots of third party games for the Wii that sell well.  They just happen to be clones of Wii Sports: simple, low skill mini-games that anyone can play.  Hardcore games like No More Heroes sell extremely poorly.  This drives hardcore third party developers to make games on the Xbox 360 or the PS3 instead.

Because of this lack of quality games, the Wii may will the sales battle, but lose the console war.  Those hardcore gamers are the foundation of any console’s success.  It is the hardcore who line up on launch day.  Without the hype that hardcore gamers cause, the casual market never picks things up.  Nintendo may find that when the Super Wii comes out that their core fanbase is gone, and success is a truly fleeting thing.

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