Wii Sports Screenshot

According to at least one source, the Nintendo Wii has already surpassed the XBox 360 in worldwide sales, despite the 360's early launch. Not only is the Wii a really fast-selling console, it's the fastest selling console ever. Pretty impressive for a company that many gamers and pundits had written off after the merely decent sales and software lineup of the GameCube.

This article from UK rag The Telegraph really hypes up the Wii's success, saying that Nintendo has cornered the "casual gamer" market with a console that is seeing a lot of success with kids and families. Yet, Nintendo faces a pretty big challenge with the Wii, one that the article only briefly touches on—the challenge of turning casual gamers in hardcore gamers.

First, let me clarify—I do not think "hardcore" or "casual" has anything to do with the kinds of games people like. It is simply a matter of business. I consider myself a hardcore gamer because I play games on a regular basis and, more importantly, I purchase a game or two a month. I also pay subscription fees to a couple of MMORPGs, which I'm sure counts for something too. A casual gamer, on the other hand, doesn't play games regularly, and most importantly from a console makers' perspective, doesn't purchase games regularly.

The Wii is doing a great job of capturing people who are either non-gamers, or people who don't play games on a regular basis—maybe at a friends' house here and there, maybe they have an old PlayStation collecting dust under the TV. It's capturing kids and, for the first time, parents who want to play games with their kids. That alone is a big accomplishment.

A lot of people seem skeptical of the Wii's long-term success, and it's precisely because of the challenge Nintendo faces of turning those casual gamers into people who play and purchase software on a regular basis. In the Telegraph article, the family interviewed notes that they "love playing Wii Sports." That's great, except that Wii Sports was a free game that has been bundled with the console since its release last November. Will these kids and families be interested in new software? Will they be purchasing a game or two a month, like me? If so, the Wii is poised for huge success; third-parties will flock to the machine because of the potential market there.

But if casual gamers turn out to be more fickle about making that transition into hardcore, the Wii will ultimately end up like most other Nintendo consoles, with a limited selection of software driven primarily by Nintendo's own IPs. Sales of the console will slow as software selection begins to pale in comparison to that of Nintendo's competitors. There are a lot of hardcore gamers out there already, and they love to spend their money on new software.

With the PlayStation back in the 90's, Sony not only captured the hardcore market, but dramatically expanded the market to bring aboard many casual gamers, and the market hasn't been the same since. Can Nintendo really expand the market by retaining these casual gamers for years to come? Or is the Wii just playing its cards early? Time will tell, but the road ahead won't be easy for the big N.


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Adam Brown
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Adam Brown

Mike Doolittle: It’s important to bear in mind that the number of consoles sold is only part of the equation. The final tally has more relevance for fanboy pride than a genuine evaluation of a company’s success. Adam Brown: I think you are downplaying the relevance of the final tally. Correct me if I am wrong, but the fact that Playstation 2 has sold over 100 million units not only says more about the success of that console (and the division of the company which produced it) than any other single measure, but has the most to do with the… Read more »

Mike Doolittle
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Mike Doolittle

[quote=Anonymous]I think you are downplaying the relevance of the final tally. Correct me if I am wrong, but the fact that Playstation 2 has sold over 100 million units not only says more about the success of that console (and the division of the company which produced it) than any other single measure, but has the most to do with the rate of any other supplemental measure like profits, sales of controllers/memory cards, and ultimate shelf life.[/quote] Well no kidding. I am saying that right now, since Microsoft is having high failure rates on the current build of their console,… Read more »

Adam Brown
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Adam Brown

That was me, by the way.

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Anonymous

It’s important to bear in mind that the number of consoles sold is only part of the equation. The final tally has more relevance for fanboy pride than a genuine evaluation of a company’s success. I think you are downplaying the relevance of the final tally. Correct me if I am wrong, but the fact that Playstation 2 has sold over 100 million units not only says more about the success of that console (and the division of the company which produced it) than any other single measure, but has the most to do with the rate of any other… Read more »

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Mhh, i can´t imagine that the Wii will be as successfull as other consoles over a long period. Many kids and families buy the Wii because it´s “new” and “cool” but when kids get older I think they will be more interested in shooters or adventures on Playstation 3 or so. The games are funny for families, but older people won´t buy them. So it´s really difficult – if not to say impossible – to turn casual gamers into hardcore gamers. If there were more interesting games for older people, Wii could become a strong alternative to other consoles. Best… Read more »

Mike Doolittle
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Mike Doolittle

It’s important to bear in mind that the number of consoles sold is only part of the equation. The final tally has more relevance for fanboy pride than a genuine evaluation of a company’s success. Particularly since Microsoft and Sony have models based on selling hardware at a loss and recouping through software, I think it’s safe to say that Microsoft would rather have a high attach rate than simply sell tons of hardware. Microsoft’s summer slump is pretty normal. They haven’t released many major titles, and likely won’t have a major system mover until Halo 3. Given the high… Read more »

Adam Brown
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Adam Brown

A lot of people seem skeptical of the Wii’s long-term success, and it’s precisely because of the challenge Nintendo faces of turning those casual gamers into people who play and purchase software on a regular basis…There are a lot of hardcore gamers out there already, and they love to spend their money on new software. According to Microsoft’s spin of NPD data, it has, by a decisive margin, the most consumer spending and highest attach rate of either of its competitors–a feat which is not doing much to drive actual hardware sales at the moment. We ultimately cannot know how… Read more »