Is the Wii a fad?

Although the Wii has performed quite well, third-party developers are starting to feel the Wii may just be a fad. Is it true?

Nintendo Wii
The Wii fad? CNET

IGN News is reporting that Wii developers are becoming 'nervous' about the console's prospects and believe the device may be nothing more than a fad.

Nikkei Business Daily is reporting that anonymous developers are concerned that the Wii is only benefiting Nintendo and third-party developers are forced to play catch up in the hope their games will become a success. So far, some are claiming their games have been nothing more than expensive flops.

In fact, one developer explained that, "The Wii is like the 'Billy's Boot Camp' weight-loss program on DVD. People bought it out of curiosity, and it's likely a lot of them haven't used it."

So which is it? Is the Wii really a flop in the waiting? Or is it the video game savior we've all been waiting for? It's neither.

The Wii Flop

To call the Wii a flop is pure nonsense. Not only has the device been able to outsell every video game device (except for the DS) each month since its release, it has easily overtaken the sales lead in the industry and Nintendo has engineered the single most successful viral campaign the industry has ever seen.

If you go to a local store, chances are you'll be hard-pressed to find a Wii on the shelves. Last holiday season, people were waiting in lines for hours just to get their hands on a Wii and almost one year later, it's happening again. Is the device's popularity slowing? Possibly. But shouldn't we expect a cooling of support once the device has been out for over a year and most of the people who want one already have it?

After such a successful year, I think it's impossible to call the Wii a flop. That said, there are still a good three or four years left before it's replaced and quite a bit can happen in that time.

The Wii Savior

Regardless of your loyalty towards the Wii, it's difficult to argue that the device is the savior to gaming we have all been waiting for. Is it refreshing and a breath of ingenuity the industry has needed? Sure. But to call it the greatest thing in gaming is a misnomer.

The Wii is a fine device, but I need to agree with the developers here -- it has the possibility of becoming a party console, or worse, a fad. Nintendo is right -- the Wii shouldn't compete against the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3 because they all do such different things. But in the world of game development, those words are a kiss of death.

For years, game developers have made a boatload of money supporting consoles that take graphics and gameplay to another level. Sorry to say, graphics still matter, and because the Wii is lacking, some walk into a room, play with it for an hour, tell everyone how fun it is, and go back to their PS3 to marvel at the look of a game.

A formula for disaster?

If you take an objective look at the Wii, a few things will immediately hit you -- games are few and far between, first-party franchises still rule the Nintendo console, and sales figures don't mean anything unless people play games.

A quick glance at theGamestop Wii page tells you everything you need to know about this console right now -- five out of the eight top sellers on the Wii come from Nintendo. And if it weren't for Guitar Hero III, that ratio would probably be higher.

Next, if you take a look at the NPD sales figures for August, you'll find that only one Wii game in the top ten didn't come from Nintendo -- Madden NFL 08.

Once again, Nintendo finds itself in the unenviable position of a console manufacturer that has trouble with third-party developers. We saw it happen on the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube, and now it looks like it could happen with the Wii. If so, that's step one in what could become a Wii disaster.

Every time someone says something to put a damper on the Wii's success, people are quick to point out lofty Wii sales numbers. Listen, we all know the Wii is selling well, but that doesn't mean people are actually playing the console. And it is this fact that scares the developer community. If people decide to buy a Wii because it looks nice at a friend's house and proceed to play it until they get bored with it, where are the opportunities for third-party developers to make money?

I understand the same can be said for any console, but if you look at game sales figures, it seems people are buying third-party titles for the Xbox 360 in droves, which suggests to me that they're still using the consoles. And while people may still be using the Wii to play Wii Sports or any number of Mario games, where does that leave third-party developers that rely on strong sales to stay in business?

Maybe the Wii isn't a fad and it probably isn't a flop. But if Nintendo continues its stance as the fun alternative to other consoles, it will find itself in third-place once again for one reason -- third-party developers won't jump on the bandwagon.

 

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