EA CEO: $99 Nintendo Wii would 'see new life'

Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello thinks Nintendo needs to drop the price of the Wii to $99 if it wants to see a stronger sales resurgence.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor 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.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello thinks he knows what Nintendo needs to do to revive Wii console sales.

"I would say [Nintendo] did exceptionally well in 2007 and 2008, started tapering in 2009 and 2010, and...I think if they were to price [the Wii] down to $99, they would explode," Riccitiello told IndustryGamers in an interview posted yesterday.

Riccitiello told the gaming publication that Nintendo should also "promote third-party content better, as opposed to first-party content," in addition to reducing the console's price to give the Wii "new life."

As a top third-party publisher on the Nintendo Wii, Riccitiello is especially concerned about the popularity of games on the Mario creator's console. He told IndustryGamers that he's frustrated by Nintendo's penchant of doing "less to promote third-party content" than its own games.

"I can come up with a dozen titles in the last decade, but it's really tough to come up with a dozen great titles that have been platform-defining for them that weren't their own," Riccitiello told IndustryGamers. "I don't care whether it's 'Mario' or 'Twilight Princess' or 'GoldenEye,' it was their own content. I'm going back to [Nintendo 64], and I can go back to SNES if you want, but they've never really been a heavy third-party supporting system.

"It's not lack of trying," Riccitiello went on to say. "They start the morning thinking what's best for their own intellectual property."

This isn't the first time Riccitiello has sounded off on his disapproval of Nintendo.

Last year, the EA CEO said during an earnings call that "the Wii platform has been a little weaker than we had certainly anticipated." He told investors that "very, very few multiplatform titles are succeeding on the Wii so far, and collectively, Electronic Arts and Nintendo need to tackle that."

Those comments were followed by Lightning Fish Games CEO Simon Prytherch, who said last December that Wii owners "have been damaged by a lot of substandard software," causing them to "only trust big Nintendo brands."

But as Riccitiello pointed out, adding value to the Wii means also playing with its price. And a $99 price tag, while a substantial drop from its current $200 price point, might actually be what Nintendo needs to bolster sales.

In October, the game company announced that it lost $24.6 million on poor DS and Wii sales between April and September, prompting some to wonder if Nintendo would drop the price of the Wii to increase demand for the console.

That idea was summarily rejected by Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata. He told the Associated Press in October that he believed bundles, and not a price drop, would help drum up demand for his company's hardware. The company announced a "Mario-red" Wii bundle in October for $199.99 that went on sale in early November.

However, even with the help of bundles, Nintendo couldn't land the top spot in hardware sales in November, according to research firm NPD. The Wii's 1.2 million unit sales were handily beaten by Microsoft's Xbox 360, which enjoyed 1.37 million unit sales on the month.

Could a Wii price cut bring Nintendo back to the top of the console sales chart? It's anyone's guess. But along with Riccitiello, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter thinks it wouldn't hurt.

"Nintendo has to be the loser here, unless they cut the price [of the Wii] further," Pachter said in an interview with CNET last month.