Since the Nintendo Wii debuted in 2006, it has been the console to beat in the next-gen console wars. According to the Associated Press, the Wii has sold over 10.1 million units worldwide and shows no signs of slowing down. Kotaku.com reports that Nintendo is planning to ramp up Wii shipments next year, but if Nintendo continues on its current path, it’s setting itself up for a fall in the near future.
Part of Nintendo’s success lies in its innovative design and motion control gameplay, but the real secret of the Wii’s stranglehold on the market is the casual gamer. Nintendo has done an excellent job tapping into the large portion of the population that wouldn’t necessarily define themselves as gamers let alone hardcore gamers. Let’s face it: it’s very unlikely that you will see a 35–year-old woman pick up a copy of Madden for herself, but brightly colored rhythm game Samba De Amigo is right up her alley. It’s simple to master, fun to play, the whole family can join in, and it’s cheap. The game itself costs $35. Throw in an extra $14 if you want the maracas.
The problem is that Nintendo has found the sweet spot with games like Wii Fit and Rayman Raving Rabbids, so much so that they’re beginning to rest on their laurels, flooding the market with substandard games known as shovelware. The basic tenant of shovelware goes like this: Wii Fit was a hit, let’s repackage it, put Jillian Michaels’ face on the cover and call it a whole new game.
And while Nintendo is hot in pursuit of all things casual, it’s all but forgotten the people who helped make it great, the people who were with them through thick and thin – the 80’s babies. Kids like me who cut their teeth on Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metal Gear. We were there for the NES, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and for better or worse Nintendo Gamecube. Sure Nintendo throws us a bone with every console release by way of Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Super Smash Bros., but after we’ve finished playing the last big release, our consoles are left to languish with no hope of a worthwhile game in its future. This coupled with Nintendo’s notorious reputation for being extremely difficult when working with third-party developers all but guarantees there will be a serious lack of worthwhile original content in the Wii’s future.
So why then does the Wii continue to sell? The simple answer lies in the overall easy accessibility of the console and an undeniable fun factor. A more pragmatic answer might be that the casual gamer doesn’t know better. However, Nintendo would do well to start getting to work on creating more challenging titles. In reaching out to non-gamers, Nintendo has essentially created a new generation of gamers. It won’t be long before these new gamers have finished the game and demand what any good gamer wants – a bigger, better challenge, leaving Nintendo scrambling to keep up.