wii-third-party-myth

Another Hardcore Lie Exposed: Third-Party Sales Actually Improved on Wii

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.

rune-factory-wiiYeah, 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:

Capcom

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)

mh3-wiiMonster 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).

Sega

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

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.

Activision

SkylandersWii’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.

Others

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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/morty.hoeben Morty

    Nicely done. This puts it all into perspective again. It’s both funny and sad how the voices of the loud minority can completely skew the image of succes of a console or game (ignughuh).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Olav-Hundstad/1286194626 Tom-Olav Hundstad

    “Activision also noted that GoldenEye even outsold Modern Warfare 2‘s Wii version.”

    I’m pretty sure it did, yeah, considering Modern Warfare 2 sold exactly zero copies on the Wii. Bweheheheheh.

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      Just pulling it from the transcript:

      “This title has only been out for a few days, but it’s already out selling last year’s Modern Warfare 2 as Wii skew for the comparable period.”

      Though, in hindsight, they’re probably talking about the Wii SKU for GoldenEye vs. the DS SKU…or the original Modern Warfare.

    • http://twitter.com/MovieReviewrspo MovieReviewrsports

      Yeah it did because Modern warfare 2 is not on the wii

  • Tensei

    Nice follow-up article.

    Actually EA had massive success on the Wii. If Wii Sports sold the Wii, then that also extended to EA’s early Wii sport titles. Before Ubisoft, it was EA that was capitalising big time on Wii. Sales started to dip for EA around 2009 and EA threw a temper tantrum. Started accusations of NIntendo cannablisation etc. While they were doing that, Ubisoft were innovating and trying to understand the Wii market. Just Dance was a massive success while EA faded into obscurity.

    I am not one for conspiracy theories but EA has had a institutional grudge against Nintendo since the SNES era (opting to preference Sega’s hardware instead).

    Tom Mcshea said something that is very salient about EA. They are the least innovative publisher around. The last fresh original idea they had was Mirror Edge. Not understanding that it takes time to grow a blockbuster franchise, they abandoned it. Where would we be if Ubisoft had done that with the original Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft is far from perfect but if you read the ZombiU Iwata asks interview, they were willing to accept the challenge of the Wii U. I’m sure they will find success on the Wii U due to to not shying away from innovation.

    It all comes down to if you want to sell well in Nintendo’s market, you must be innovative and you must have polished games. Nintendo’s audience is use to the creme de la creme. If you bring your B game, well sorry, that’s not gonna fly. At this point in time, Nintendo is better rid of stagnant third party developers and publishers.

  • K2L

    Some of the third party games for Wii were awesome. It may still not compare in number to the PS360C stuff, but it was surely an improvement over the GCN offerings, which in turn were an improvement over the N64 catalogue.
    Also, can you please send me a link to that TLS image, pleeeeeaassseeee? I’m making a collection of wallpapers and this one would do very well on my PC!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000101915455 Micheal Holloway

    dumb question but: what is the game from? the one at the very top of this page, the one with the girl and guy and all the shooting stars.

    • http://twitter.com/MK_Langley Adventurer of Hyrule

      The Last Story. Great game, go buy it now. Go, go.

    • Big Boss

      The Last Story

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      The Last Story. Incidentally, one of the most original RPGs this generation gameplay-wise. Don’t expect a massive world, but it’s a great experience through and through.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jj-Barrington/22605751 J.j. Barrington

    There’s a difference between the “core” in gaming, and the Wii’s target audience, which would be considered ITS “core.” You seem to be not making that distinction, and even going so far as to offer your own conditions so that they SEEM to be doing better than they are.

    The Capcom section, for example, is telling when you consider install bases: the Gamecube has nearly 1/5th of the hardware sold that the Wii has, yet the Wii version of RE4 increased by just 300k. Similar increases are noted for the Sonic games you quote.

    One or two million, in general, isn’t bad sales for ANY game. But when you compare the install bases- whether you compare them to the other consoles of the same generation, or its predecessor- the sales of third party core games are not all that great.

    That aside, you’re painting Nintendo’s gamers as not being core gamers by saying that the core titles that perform well elsewhere may not necessarily be enough to catch the eye of Nintendo gamers. Rather, the audience Nintendo went after with the Wii wasn’t the core gaming audience, so it’s no surprise that core games didn’t do as well.

    • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

      The audience that buys Sonic doesn’t multiply by five just because console ownership does. Whether a certain game sells is based on other factors. Otherwise Zelda would have sold 10m or more and Mario Galaxy would have sold at least twice as much. As it stands, these core audiences still GREW compared to GameCube in the cases where there were noteworthy games to serve them, which is the opposite of what most Wii critics claim.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jj-Barrington/22605751 J.j. Barrington

        They’re not going to multiply by five, necessarily, but that they grew by such small amounts is telling.

        The criticism is about core games- that is: games that appeal to the core gaming audience; generally, that excludes Sonic and Skylanders, among others- and how they sell poorly on Nintendo consoles as opposed to on the competition’s hardware. A real comparison would be how various core franchises sold on 360 and PS3 as opposed to Wii, not just in number, but also in ratio. Call of Duty, Madden, Need for Speed… on some levels, I’m struggling to come up with comparable core titles, because many franchises like Mass Effect and Bioshock weren’t even released.

        To use the numbers you gave (and VGchartz for what’s missing; I hate using it, but in lieu of official numbers…): one copy of RE4 was sold for every 13.6 Gamecubes; for the Wii, there was one copy per 52.3 consoles. Adding in The Umbrella Chronicles for the Wii cuts the franchise down to one game sold per 31 consoles, just under half the sales rate of the Gamecube iteration, and that’s BEFORE adding in the 1.35 million for the RE remake.

        Despite being some years late and having NONE of the marketing- and being on a system with a smaller install base- No More Heroes sold about a quarter on PS3 what it did on Wii.

        Meanwhile, the first party titles are selling many millions of copies.

        THAT’S what the critics talk about. The third party user bases didn’t grow anywhere NEAR what they should have for a console with such a large install base.

        Your article paints a pretty picture, but it’s missing a few colors.

        • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

          “A real comparison would be how various core franchises sold on 360 and PS3 as opposed to Wii, not just in number, but also in ratio. Call of Duty, Madden, Need for Speed… ”

          That actually WOULDN’T be a “real comparison,” because pretty much everyone was aware that the versions of these games on Wii were far and away the inferior versions of the game, and that the full versions were on 360 and PS3.

          When Wii did get a “full version” of a game, it sold well. In many cases (like Okami and Resident Evil 4), they were remakes. But in others, like Monster Hunter, they were entirely new “flagship” entries in certain franchises.

          Incidentally, even though the Wii install base was SMALLER than the PS2 install base in Japan, MH3 actually sold SIGNIFICANTLY better than MH1 or MH2. Like, we’re talking over 50% better.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jj-Barrington/22605751 J.j. Barrington

            You’re fond of “factoring” things so that they show what you want them to show.

            Here are the FACTS, sans factors:

            The Wii currently has the largest install base of any console this generation.

            The Wii has roughly five times the consoles sold that its predecessor did.

            In both cases, the sales rate of core franchises on the Wii is worse than elsewhere.

            You can try and tailor your comments so that they reference some imaginary people, and so it makes my responses seem irrelevant, but the hard truth is that core third party games did poorly on the Wii, and in respect to the install bases of other consoles, did even poorer.

            By the way, much of those third party sales that supposedly did so well on the Wii: shovelware and casual stuff. Titles like four different Hasbro Family Game Nights, Carnival Games made by two or three different companies, and so on. I mean, have you SERIOUSLY looked at the list of releases for the Wii? There isn’t much outside of what you’ve listed that ISN’T shovelware or something casual, yet there are HUNDREDS of other titles that are considered thus.

            In the end, the primary point is this:

            The Wii did not cater to the core gamer, and the sales of core games reflects that. You can spin it however you want from that point, but that simple truth isn’t something you can avoid.

            • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

              You keep citing Wii’s performance relative to other consoles, i.e. Sony and Microsoft.

              I’m talking about Wii’s performance relative to other NINTENDO consoles, i.e. N64 and GameCube.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jj-Barrington/22605751 J.j. Barrington

        Also, I should clarify that it’s not that the audience is EXPECTED to multiply five-fold automatically, but the massively larger install base should mean a significant increase in relation to that, which can’t be seen with ANY of the games you list, or those you didn’t.

        • http://www.gengame.net/ Alex Plant

          I’m not saying Wii’s third-party sales should have increased five-fold. It’s clear that because Wii reached to non-traditional customers that a large part of its growth was due to customers that DO NOT BUY THOSE KINDS OF GAMES.

          Nonetheless, the sales of “core” titles still tended to grow on Wii over N64 and GameCube – as opposed to declining, as many have suggested. That’s all I’m suggesting here. Not that Wii was a better place for core gamers than Xbox or PS3 – but that it was better than N64 or GameCube.

  • Kaihaku

    There were a few high quality Wii games that seemed to get buried in the flood of “shovelware”. Some that come to mind are Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, Boom Blox Bash Party, and Muramasa: The Demon Blade.

    However, in general, I agree with this article. High quality third party games sold and sold well on the Wii.

  • http://flawedgaming.com/ Ryan Fanus

    Nintendo can still win the eighth generation of consoles if they really try. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t always deliver on the fluff with its console which is why people over look performance numbers. The fact that the Wii U isn’t exactly the console people were hoping for is enought to drive them over to PS4 and Xbox One. But after reading this, i have new found hope that Nintendo will still do well — if not the best — in this generation.