Bare Knuckles: Some players buy only one or two games.

The dirty little secret about Wii's success

Posted: April 25, 2008

Nintendo's pockets are bulging these days. Money is just spilling out onto the sidewalk as the chiefs walk down the strip in the 'hood of video games. The entertainment tracking firm, NPD, reported last week that Wii did an early '90s Mike Tyson on PS3 and Xbox 360 in March with sales topping 720k units sold, to 252k PS3 and 257k Xbox.

A recent study says a Wii console spends an average of an hour on store shelves. An hour!

As for any knots of cash that spill out of their purple Crown Royal bag, well, they go back and pick them up.

In other words, for all of the success of the Wii, there is little money to be made by other developers making content for the console.

Besides Activision's Rockstar game, there wasn't another non-Nintendo game to reach the top 10 software list for March. Nintendo's Super Smash Brother's Brawl was No. 1, and even that title has dramatically tapered off in sales since.

So why is that? Why can't other developers get a little taste?

Well, a recent story in the New York Times points out what many have been saying since the Wii exploded in popularity among people who play games but aren't traditionally gamers, such as older people and women.

The difference between the two is simple. Gamers play titles on a regular basis, finish them, and go buy another game. People who simply play games are more likely to play the same game over and over. Think of those PC solitaire players.

"You don't see a lot of titles that reach 30 to 40 percent of the installed base," Colin Sebastian, analyst for Lazard Capital, told the Times. "My in-laws in Texas have a Wii sitting on their living-room floor next to the TV, which to me is kind of amazing. They have Wii Sports, a Brain Age game, Wii Play. That's about it."

And there are millions of people like that. Many just have to be in the mood.

That isn't good for third-party developers eager to put resources into game development for the Wii. Especially when the hard-core Wii gamers aren't the largest lot of Wii fans.

"The average Wii owner buys only 3.7 games a year, compared with 4.7 for Xbox 360 owners and 4.6 for PlayStation 3 owners," said Wedbush Morgan analyst, Michael Pachter.

All of this suggests some type of critical mass for the Wii. Eventually, the Wii will saturate the market and games will become paramount.

The question is whether most Wii owners will have become "gamers" by then.

Sony says you can't go Home, yet

When we saw the previews of Sony's online portal, PlayStation Home, at last year's E3 event, it looked cool. The Second Life-ish online world where people could meet, play and generally kick it together would be a first of its kind for consoles.

Well, the official launch of the service has been pushed back a third time, to late 2008. This is the third postponement for the service, and with current beta testers saying the thing still needs a lot of work, we wonder if even the latest launch date will stick.


Contact Bare Knuckles at knuckles@phillynews.com.

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