Over the weekend, I delivered an extensive breakdown of some of the biggest myths about the popularity of “core” Nintendo titles on Wii. Many of you expressed that you would have liked me to focus more closely on the performance of third party titles in my discussion, to give a better picture of how Wii performed as a whole, not just on the first-party side.
I’ll admit: it’s very hard to put together a totally-accurate picture of Wii’s third-party performance because, in many cases, there just isn’t adequate data. However, I’ve extrapolated what I can from the known data to put together the best picture I can of the third-party situation on Wii. The results may surprise you.
It’s commonly said that third party companies couldn’t find good sales on Wii. While I won’t bother to dispute the idea that third-party titles were definitely more prevalent on HD platforms, one of the suggestions of this idea seems to be that those companies also struggled on Wii relative to past Nintendo consoles. However, that simply isn’t true.
The Mean Average Sales for Third-Party Titles Improved on Wii
Because it’d take a lifetime to round up all the sales numbers for third-party titles on Wii, I decided to work in the other direction: I gathered exact sales numbers for the best-selling first-party titles, put together some rather liberal estimates for the rest of the first-party catalog for which finer statistics aren’t exactly available, and subtracted the result from the Wii software sales total to calculate a rough estimate for third-party software sales.
It’s not an exact science, to be sure – these are far from laser-accurate numbers. But being intentionally generous in my estimates of Nintendo’s first-party sales – I’m talking rounding up at least to the nearest million or half a million copies based on the most recent sales figures – can only mean that I’m being fairer to the notion that third-party sales performance was poor. The bigger Nintendo’s slice of the pie is, the less is left for third-parties.
What I came up was this: the top-selling first-party Wii games – those that have sold in the ballpark of 3 million copies or more – make up somewhere around 320-325 million of all Wii games sold. The remaining 30 or so first-party games – the ones whose sales figures are generally a bit harder to pin down – make up another 30-40 million sales, with games like Super Mario All-Stars, Metroid Prime 3, Mario Party 9 on the higher end, and games like Disaster: Day of Crisis and most of the Wii Play Control! titles on the low end. That’s a total of about 350-365 million first-party Wii games sold.
Yeah, Nintendo owning about 42% of software sales despite publishing fewer than 1% of released Wii retail games is definitely rather skewed. Third-parties are definitely spot-on when they say that Nintendo totally dominates sales on its platforms.
But it’s not as though third-party titles simply didn’t sell on Wii, and that’s especially true when Wii sales figures are compared to those of other Nintendo platforms. After you cut away first-party Wii software sales, the remaining 500-510 million software units belonged to third-party titles. From there, calculating the mean sales for third-party titles is as simple as dividing the number of third-party Wii games (around 1,200) from those remaining sales – yielding an average of about 415,000 copies per third-party title.
That’s better than the rate for Nintendo 64 and GameCube: N64 averaged less than 250,000 sales per title; GameCube did even worse, with an average of less than 90,000 copies sold per third-party title. In fact, in the case of GameCube, Wii’s record is better even before you factor in Nintendo’s unchecked dominance.
Core Third-Party Titles Achieved Strong Sales on Wii
Okay, so third-party games sold well on Wii. That doesn’t mean “core” third-party titles sold well!
As it turns out, most major third-party Wii games that weren’t mediocre versions of multi-platform titles tended to do pretty all right. Unfortunately, there weren’t all that many of those to be found amid a whole lot of shovelware and dumbed-down ports. What few standout titles there were, however, tended to shine. Let’s look at some examples:
Resident Evil 4 sold 1.6 million copies on GameCube. Its Wii remake sold 1.9 million copies. The Umbrella Chronicles also sold 1.3 million copies, in the same range as the Resident Evil remake for GameCube, which sold 1.35 million copies. (Source)
Monster Hunter Tri sold 1.9 million copies on Wii – the best sales for any console-based Monster Hunter title so far, even beating out the first two numbered titles, which debuted on PlayStation 2. (Source)
Ōkami, which released for both PlayStation 2 and Wii, achieved close to 270,000 copies sold between its original April 2006 release date in Japan (September in the U.S.) and March 2007 (source); between the release of the Wii version in April 2008 and Capcom’s earnings call in July, the Wii version had sold 280,000 copies in North America and Europe (source).
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and Sonic Mega Collection became million-sellers on GameCube, eventually going on to sell 1.73 million and 1.45 million copies respectively. (Source) However, Wii also saw two million-seller Sonic titles: Sonic and the Secret Rings sold over 2 million copies (source), and Sonic Colors sold over 2.18 million copies.
As an added bonus for Sega, the more casual-oriented Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games franchise has sold a whopping 14 million games between its three Wii releases.
Ubisoft had actually not achieved any million-seller titles on either Nintendo 64 or GameCube. However, Red Steel, which was a launch title for Wii, went on to sell over 1 million copies. (Source)
Ubisoft also happened to embrace many of the non-traditional gamers that hopped on board with Wii with their best-selling Just Dance franchise, which has sold well over 10 million copies on Wii alone, and with the Rabbids series, meaning they were able to tap into a large extended audience.
Wii’s “remake” of GoldenEye 007 managed to outsell HD platforms’ 007: Blood Stone by a factor of two-to-one when it launched in 2010. (Source) Activision also noted that GoldenEye even outsold Call of Duty during a comparable timeframe. (Source)
Meanwhile, the Skylanders series – currently Activision’s best-selling game franchise – has performed best on Wii since it debuted in 2011.
Disney Interactive’s Epic Mickey for Wii became one of the few best-selling Disney games to appear on a Nintendo platform since SNES, with over 2 million copies shipped. (Source)
Grasshopper Manufacture’s No More Heroes sold well enough that PAL distributor Rising Star Games’ managing director Martin Defries said, “We are weeping with delight. Especially as sales should improve further with the TV campaign moving up a gear from tonight. It is a verification of all the posturing and ambitious claims made these past months. I think a ‘told you so’ would be apt at some point. Thanks to Nintendo and the Wii console. Thanks to Mastertronic for their sales efforts and all our retail partners. Most of all thanks to Grasshopper for the greatest of products.” (Source)
Rising Star Games said of Little King’s Story that even months after its release, “is still selling well to this day, [which is] something [that] doesn’t happen often to video games.” (Source)
XSEED Games recently announced that The Last Story, which released for Wii in 2012, was their most successful title to date. (Source)
Now, am I saying that Wii’s third-party performance for “core” titles is at all comparable to the performance of Xbox 360 and PS3? Of course not. Only the most exceptional Wii games and those that are best tailored to Nintendo’s audience manage to perform particularly well, whereas third parties make up a much bigger part of the million-seller lists on other platforms while making the “hardcore” games they love to create.
However, therein lies both the problem and the solution: it’s not that Nintendo fans don’t buy third-party games, it’s that third parties have to really knock the ball out of the park to reach Nintendo’s audience. Unfortunately, most of the time they seem content to develop “hardcore” titles that don’t really line up with Nintendo fans’ needs, even though in the end their most profitable titles just as often wind up being non-hardcore games on Nintendo platforms. Funny how that works.