Nintendo: First-party titles still reign supreme

Nintendo says a vast majority of top-selling Wii and DS games are published by the game company itself, not third-party developers.

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
NPD Group (via Nintendo)

Nintendo's own games continue to dominate Wii software sales, much to the chagrin of third-party developers.

Speaking during his company's earnings call on Friday, Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata unveiled the top 20 best-selling games of 2010 in the U.S. market, compiled by research firm NPD. Out of that listing, 11 of the games were available on either the Wii or the Nintendo DS. Nine out of that list were published by Nintendo. The remaining two games--Just Dance and Just Dance 2--were published by Ubisoft. No other third-party developer was able to break into the top 20 with a Wii or DS game.

For his part, Iwata seemed quite pleased with those results. "Unlike in Japan, Nintendo software titles were not the only titles for Nintendo platforms that were hits in the U.S. last year," he said.

In Japan, according to research firm MediaCreate, Nintendo's two hardware platforms secured 12 spots in the top 20 best-selling games. As Iwata pointed out, all the Wii games included in that list--seven in total--were published by Nintendo. Three of the five DS games that made it onto the list were published by Nintendo or Nintendo-owned companies, while the remaining two games were published by third-party Square Enix.

Nintendo games dominated Germany's top-selling software list too; only one title was published by a third-party. Just two third-party publishers saw strong sales on Nintendo's platforms in both France and the U.K.


Those results stand in stark contrast to other platforms. In the U.S., only one of the top-selling Xbox 360 games--Halo: Reach--was published by Microsoft. God of War III was the only Sony-published game on the list. All the others were published by third parties.

Of course, Nintendo's troubles with third-party development are nothing new. For years, the company has been the target of concerns from publishers that their titles don't perform as well on Nintendo hardware as on other devices.

That sentiment was echoed by Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello in 2009. He told investors at the time that the "Wii platform has been a little weaker" than his company has initially estimated. He pointed out that "very, very few multiplatform titles are succeeding on the Wii so far, and collectively, Electronic Arts and Nintendo need to tackle that."

Over a year later, it was clear that Riccitiello had little success in achieving that goal.

Speaking to IndustryGamers last month, Riccitiello said that Nintendo must "promote third-party content better, as opposed to first-party content." He also said that he's becoming more frustrated by Nintendo.

"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."

Lightning Fish Games CEO Simon Prytherch wasn't so quick to only blame Nintendo. In an interview in 2009, he said that gamers "have been damaged by a lot of substandard software." That has caused consumers to "only trust big Nintendo brands," he continued.

But third-party concerns pale in comparison to the other issues Nintendo faces right now. Last week, the company announced that through the nine months ended on December 31, its profit declined by 74.3 percent, compared to the same period in 2009. It blamed "slower sales and appreciation of the yen."