If people buy consoles for software, why is the Wii so popular?

Nintendo may be the world's most popular video game console right now, but as Don Reisinger explains, it won't last forever.

Wii
The party is over. CNET Networks

A new study conducted by Japanese site Kakaku.com asked respondents what their top concern was when they headed to the store looking for their next console.

49.2 percent of the 3,422 gamers polled indicated that their top reason for picking a console was "because it's compatible with the games they absolutely want to play." Forty-three percent of respondents said they buy the console that's most talked about, and only 6.1 percent care about price.

When asked which console they would choose next, an astounding 28 percent said they would choose the Wii, while 27 percent would choose the PlayStation 3.

Am I missing something here? Almost 50 percent of respondents to a survey, which could or could not have any real meaning, have purchased a console because of its software? If that's true, then why is the Wii such a popular device?

Of course, comparing Japanese buying preferences to North American preferences is extremely difficult. That said, there is one thing that we can derive from this study that easily applies to the U.S. market--very few people are buying the Wii in this country for its library of games.

Let's face it--unless you're a Nintendo zealot who can't keep your hands off everything your savior makes, there's not much to like in the Wii's library.

According to its most recent sales figures, NPD witnessed spectacular success for Nintendo, as both its Wii and DS Lite systems held the top two spots for yet another month.

Even better, three Wii games--Wii Play w/ Remote, Super Mario Galaxy and Mario Party 8--were among the top 10 best sellers for the year.

There's no debating the fact that the Wii has been an unbridled success, and as an owner of the console, I can say that it's easily one of the most fun devices I have ever used. That said, I just don't see its success lasting much longer, and most people will finally realize that it's nothing more than a novelty device.

Now, I understand that for the last 10 years of gaming, Nintendo zealots were forced to keep their mouths shut as Sony kicked them from one corner of the room to the other, and now that the Wii is a success, they're making up for the last decade. But is there really anything worth celebrating under the surface?

In recent years, Nintendo has been a victim of itself in the software space. Unlike Microsoft and Sony, Shigeru Miyamoto and friends have carried the flag for the company and third-party developers have been conspicuously absent.

Have Wii games sold well? Sure. But when you look at NPD numbers for December, Nintendo software is sitting alone in the top 10, and yearly figures reflect the same result.

So why do people really buy the Wii? I think it has everything to do with the second most popular response in the Japanese study--notoriety.

Over the past year, the Wii's scarcity and news coverage have created unforeseen demand for a console that most people play with friends and lays dormant for the rest of the time.

Save for Super Smash Bros Brawl, which is scheduled to hit store shelves in early March, the upcoming Wii release calendar is riddled with such winners as, Kawasaki Jet Ski, My Horse and Me, Kidz Sports: International Soccer and Pimp My Ride. Wow. Now that is what I call an upcoming release calendar that would make me want to plunk down $250.

Compare that abomination to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release calendars featuring Burnout and Devil May Cry 4 or the PlayStation 3's very own upcoming release of GTA IV, and I think the difference is quite apparent.

So what does the future of the Wii look like? Bleak. Sure, all of the Nintendo fanboys can run around and tell the world that their console is the greatest and they have the numbers to prove it, but they don't seem to look ahead when they do it. Do they even realize that the Wii's upcoming release calendar is crap? Do they know that the novelty is slowly, but surely wearing off and eventually Nintendo will be forced to show us some games to coax us into buying the console? Do they understand that the console needs to get away from mini-games and offer us some compelling single-player games that aren't just made by Nintendo?

As an avid gamer and Wii owner, I hate to say it, but I think they should enjoy the success while they can; it doesn't look like it will last forever.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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