Rethinking a Wii Strategy

Some developers seem to be struggling to create games for Nintendo's popular platform. Should they reconsider strategy?

After reviewing the impressive August NPD results, a few things struck us. While the Wii was easily the top selling platform, the best selling Wii software was primarily from Nintendo itself. Boogie, a game that leading publisher Electronic Arts promoted as part of its new focus on the Wii and casual titles, essentially tanked, selling only 68,000 units for the month. The game scored a 59 on Metacritic and a 60% on GameRankings, and thus far has failed to make a real impact.

Also of note is that the Madden NFL 08 juggernaut, which dominated the charts with well over 2 million units sold across all platforms, did not perform all that well on Wii. In fact the original Xbox version outsold the Wii version, despite the fact that EA attempted to make the Wii version more accessible with new "Family Play" controls.

So the question is: does EA need to alter its approach in some way on the Wii?

Not necessarily. Regarding Boogie, we may just need to give it more time. Unlike the hardcore audience that tends to jump on new titles during release month, Boogie may need time on the market for the casual audience and new Wii adopters to start picking it up.

"These people are also not in the mainstream gaming audience, so they may genuinely not know about Boogie," Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter told us. "Let's see if it changes at the holiday. You media types are too quick to reach a conclusion based on one data point. Let's give this some time."

Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian added, "I would characterize Boogie as an experiment, and part of their bigger plan to build share on Wii and grow the casual games portfolio. It seems that Boogie appeals to a fairly narrow audience, whereas titles like Playground or Spore could have broader appeal."

As for Madden's slow start on the Wii, analysts attribute the performance to the problems that all third parties face on Wii—first-party dominance—and the fact that sports gamers are probably better aligned with other more hardcore platforms.

"Nintendo first party titles are still dominating the charts for both Wii and DS, and third party publishers such as EA are having to fight hard to gain market share. Putting my gamer hat on, I have to believe that high quality games made specifically for the Wii and making good use of the user interface should be able to sell well," Sebastian said.

"Specifically on Madden, it seems that PS and Xbox are still the preferred platforms for sports gamers."

Along similar lines, Pachter said, "My guess is that Wii has expanded the market to non-traditional gamers (older demographic, women, etc.), explaining the Madden results… I would guess that Manhunt will receive a similar reception, but think that Guitar Hero will be a home run on the Wii."

In the end UBS analyst Ben Schachter told us, "EA is the first to admit that they didn't foresee the strength of the Wii (no one did). They have refocused their efforts, but it takes time and we won't see the results until next year."

EA was not available for comment as of press time.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.