News Article

Wii Is "Fool's Gold"

Posted by James Newton

Industry bigwigs all agree: review scores are immaterial on Wii

The Wii's well into its life cycle now, but it seems some people in the industry are still cottoning onto what makes a Wii game sell like there's no tomorrow - the magic word of "marketing".

Speaking to Eurogamer recently, one undisclosed "high profile member of an industry-leading developer" stated:

It's fool's gold, the Wii. It looks great, but it's very hard to get money out of it. It's an empty mine for most software developers, including the big ones. It's Nintendo games that people buy on those platforms, and a few others.

Of course, that could be due entirely to good advertising and branding on Nintendo's part, or perhaps the fact that nobody in their right mind would touch the majority of the content on Wii, but that's just our cynical side coming out.

It's certainly true that the Wii requires a different approach to creating awareness of its big titles than the other consoles do. In the past, Peter Moore has spoken out about the importance of Metacritic ratings to EA's titles on the company's next-gen titles, but recently said they're less important on Wii, where a similar amount of buzz can be generated with clever advert placement, particularly in women's magazines or on "lifestyle" websites.

What's interesting about this is that Boom Blox - and its recent sequel Boom Blox: Bash Party - are two of the Wii's finest games and both are published by EA, yet both have missed out on commercial success despite the size of EA's marketing budget and the name "Steven Spielberg" slapped right across the box. Maybe Peter just needed to put a few more adverts in Vogue or Hello!

It's not just Mr Moore realising that good advertising makes sales on Wii: everybody's favourite "industry analyst" and human soundbite machine Michael Pachter had to weigh in as well, showing off his crystal clear industry-analysing skills by saying "clearly, somebody's buying Carnival Games and Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum". Yes Michael - yes they are. He also said "I think that Metacritic scores are irrelevant for people who don't look at them - how's that for obvious?" That'll do us nicely.

Although we here at NintendoLife like to think our review scores are important, and we link to Metacritic scores as often as we can, do you agree with these industry leaders that it's less important on Wii than other formats? If you're a multiple console owner, do you approach your research differently on Wii to your other machines?

Clearly there is gold to be found in software sales on Wii, it's just some companies are going after it with a tiny pickaxe, whereas they might need a huge piece of dynamite instead.


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User Comments (59)



Nintendork said:

Of course it's fools gold. Almost no game besides Nintendo-made games are actually worth looking at.



Knux said:

Casual gamers ruin a lot of advertising on the Wii,they don't know what good games they are missing.



James said:

@SuperSonic1990 - surely the point of advertising is to make them aware of what good games they're missing? Otherwise, how are they to know what's out there?



Knux said:

@Prosody-That's true,but I feel like casual gamers ignore 3rd-party games altogether,like they are avoiding them. I also feel like casual gamers will only buy games made by Nintendo. Why,I do not know. The ironic thing is that even a certain game made by Nintendo [Excitebots] selled horribly. There are just a lot of good Wii games being ignored.
But,it could be just me.



LinktotheFuture said:

I think that there are a lot of good games for the Wii that people don't know about, you just have to be willing to do your own research, and find the games that you like. I am a big fan of MLB PowerPros, but I didn't hear much about it anywhere, I just went looking for baseball games on the Wii.



Roopa132 said:

Well actually I agree with them. The only good titles in my opinion where Metroid, Zelda and Super Mario: All Nintendo titles... that's why I sold my Wii it just had too few good games for me



Sean_Aaron said:

I don't think it's so much that new gamers ignore the 3rd-party games, but perhaps they aren't jumping out at them on the shelves.

I really think Nintendo would do the Wii and 3rd parties a great service by opening up a Nintendo Store, a la the Apple Store (and back in the day, the Sony store with the Playstation focus) where they could showcase stuff in a way that seems more approachable than the average GAME employee (no offense!).

Marketing is critical, but I think it depends on what and where. I know I saw lots of web-based marketing material for the new Boom Blox game, but was that promotion online-only? If so they're repeating the mistakes of the past because the new Wii-owners aren't people like us who obsessively read gaming websites looking for info on the latest games.

That means a broader ad market needs to be considered and that does mean spending more money on marketing.

I have no use for review scoring myself, but I do value reviews for their content. I read a review to get a feel for what a game is like, though first it has to catch my interest. If a game I have no clue about has a decent trailer, I can be hooked (Anno: Age of Discovery is a prime example), the hands-on aspect of reviews and previews can then tip the balance.

People who buy games based solely upon scores do games and themselves a great disservice; there's a lot more to a game than a single digit (or multiple ones separated by decimals) can tell you.



warioswoods said:

@Sean Aaron

"I really think Nintendo would do the Wii and 3rd parties a great service by opening up a Nintendo Store, a la the Apple Store (and back in the day, the Sony store with the Playstation focus) where they could showcase stuff in a way that seems more approachable than the average GAME employee (no offense!)."

Agreed -- as you know they do already have one of these in New York, so they just need to expand it from there. I remember seeing some games like Boom Blox at the little kiosks on the upper floor, which fits well with you're saying: spotlight some great games, not necessarily even first party, in a nice setting where consumers who don't follow these matters online can just try some things out and see what they like.

Nintendo stores in malls across the nation / world, just like Apple stores... it could be a great thing, if only they'd seriously consider it.



Sean_Aaron said:

They've got a similar design aesthetic so I don't see why not. Imagine the consumer juggernaut of a merged Nintendapple!



warioswoods said:

Except there would be some fights between their respective reps over the iPhone vs the DSi, so they should probably keep to opposite ends of the mall, just to be safe.

Would they have a "Genius Bar" ? I hate those guys at the Apple store -- never talked to them, mind you, but I've had to correct so many friends who were given completely idiotic advice by them, advice that would have cost them enormously to fix what is often a simple software problem -- but a Nintendo genius might be a cool thing, provided that he is required to wear a Mario mustache.



TourianTourist said:

That's simply because Nintendo creates quality games, most third party developers do not. Especially in the category of games like Wii Sports or Wii Fit. The third party developers thought "omg, look, it's a casual boom!!! let's make stupid cheap games for retarded people" not realizing the new customers on the video game market, that were attracted by Nintendo, didn't want stupid cheap games for retarded people, they wanted something different, something light, something quality, that is not a "super hardcore mature blood gore rape frag-fest". Because - and I don't want to shatter the reality of our 14 year old "hardcore" gamers here - not everyone enjoys complicated games, that waste a lot of time and that have sex and violance as the main theme. And Nintendo was the only one, who actually really knew, what the people wanted. And now they are making "bridge games" like Mario Kart to finally get their new customers more into their old franchises like Mario or Zelda. Good strategy.

But the point is. It's not Nintendo's fault, that third parties games aren't selling well. I mean, should Nintendo now stop making games, so the third parties stand a chance? They are already doing this on WiiWare and it sucks. How about the third parties just try to be a little better.

And it's all relative. I don't think the games would sell that much different on others consoles. It's not like a bad game on the Wii is actually a hit on the XBox, or is it? It just doesn't look that bad in comparison, because there's no big competition like for example... errrh... Nintendo on these systems.



Kid_A said:

The problem is that these guys don't advertise! I didn't see one advert for GTA Chinatown Wars, MadWorld, Boom Blox, or any other 3rd party Wii games.

Nintendo, on the other hand, advertises frequently. They had a nice ad campaign for Punch-Out!! and Mario Kart, and look--they've sold handsomely.

They can't blame Nintendo. 3rd party's have no-one to blame but themselves. They need to find a way to generate buzz about their games.



Typical. They make bad or sub par games on wii and when they sold poorly (duh) they blame Nintendo.

I don't understand 3d parties mentality this generation. They became too retarded and too short-sighted.

When they approach the HD twins, they use their best teams and marketing but when it comes to wii they use low budget projects and zero to few ads.

Also, they have a very strange way to approach us: or they give small, silly, watered games or extremely weird *cough*madworld*cough games that they wouldn't even sell on the glorified PS2... is it very hard to just make a good quality game on the wii?

Stop blaming Nintendo and just do good games!



pixelman said:

Yes it is a problem. Most of Nintendo's audience are completely new to gaming, and the people in said audience generally don't recognize good games.

Advertising would definitely help (especially TV ads). I've seen one Wii game ad on Spike, but most people in the Wii audience probably never even watch that channel.

It also doesn't help things that most people (including myself) generally rent games instead of buying them. It's very rare that I'll spend $49.99 on a game.

If you ask me, the real money is in WiiWare. You don't need a publisher, you can have minimal teams, and Nintendo more or less advertises your game when it's put up. You can also sell your games for cheaps, which = more sells, more money.



Modern_Legend said:

To be honest my take is that not enough developers make core games to appeal to hardcore gamers, allowing more casual developers to pump out continuous imagine______ games and then the casual games are being advertised more than the hardcore ones...resulting in really good hardcore games not getting any recognition. For example, Bwii2 which is not the hardest core game but is still a decent game for cores only sold 200 000 total so far. (roughly) I never even knew it existed until seeing it on gamespot when searching for third person shooter genres...Really, there are good games out there and there can be more, but the bigger problem is who the hell is gunna hear about them and buy them? Ratings mean nothing when no one knows or have heard of what you are rating, even if the game is good.



shogunhitokiri said:

It has to do with getting people interested in video games which "hardcore" titles do not reach out like a Wii Fit and even a Mario Kart Wii does. The customers the Wii is attracting are those who were disinterested in games which means that those epic adventures and shooters never interested them in the first place. The reason that the expanded audience is buying Nintendo games is because Nintendo is the only one who is making quality games for them. Don't get mad because people don't want to buy a bad game or a game they don't want. Core games on the Wii that don't sell shows that the core audience does not care for the game but the publishers want to put the blame on the audience instead of themselves for making a game people did not want in the first place.



accc said:

Mr. Anonymous Developer's excuse for not supporting Wii doesn't really work when you consider that 3rd party sales are higher on Wii than on any other platform.



vherub said:

many of the wii systems are sold to people who have no way of knowing what games are available, will be available, or are good.
They don't read videogame news online, post in message forums, have subscriptions to gaming magazines, or requent gamestops.
There are a ton of people out there who would love okami, or boom blox, zack/wiki or any number of enjoyable 3rd party games.
But how do you communicate videogames to people who do not actively seek out videogame news and info?



PiribroH said:

Please big 3rd party game makers, start to make more at least decent games for Wii (I don't mean that there would be any already, but more would still be nice).



dizzy_boy said:

in business, if you don`t spend money, you won`t make money.
developers need to spend more money on more advertising, and they`ll be reaping the rewards if they do so. which is certainly true in nintendo`s case.



Linkuini said:

To an extent, that's very true. Personally though, I can't help but put some of the blame on the economic crisis. With this much unemployment (and impending college fees in my family's case), there just isn't enough money to go around to third-party titles, even when they've got something good to offer. As it is, all I can afford to do is save for the big, must-have, triple-A titles, and yes, most of them are from Nintendo.



maka said:

Well, the 3rd parties are not doing that bad either. Boom Blox has sold at least 1m copies and that sems like a pretty good figure (btw, I did see advertisements for it on TV last year). Wii Ski sold about 1.5m (if the numbers I found are right).

The thing is, a large part of they Wii buying population doesn't read the reviews, and (most importantly) reviews are written with the "core" audience in mind. The "core" gamer isn't about to spend more than 5 minutes playing a balance board game, and the reviews of Wii Ski (and its sequel) got are pretty revealing. I've played the sequel and it is one of the most fun games I've played in a long time. Quite realistic (if you tweek the controls) and very open ended, but very challenging too, with lots of stuff to do and to discover. I wonder if any of the people that said the game lacks depth and challenge actually completed any of the harder challenges, especially the mountain slalom ones using the balance board.

That's a good example the reviews being plain wrong, because they're written by core gamers for core gamers. Another good example is Wii Music. An excellent game that really lets you experiment with music and which people are using to create original songs. But you've got to be interested in music beyond the mere Guitar Hero "arcade" experience. This is another game that got bad reviews because is not "core" oriented but still has sold at least 2.5m copies.

As skills needed to play and appreciate a game become more varied and go away from the "gamepad" hardcore philosophy, review sites and magazines are going to have to adapt, getting people that are more open to the new experience and connect more with the people that are actually buying the games...




Like Sean said, read the content of a revw, then decide. Don't just look at the score. Sean's first post was a good one and spot on.



Corbs said:

Industry bigwigs all agree: review scores (other than Corbie's) are immaterial on Wii




warioswoods said:


Quite right, and I'd also like to second the shout-out to Wii Music, a perfect example of reviewers missing the point.



brandonbwii said:

Advertising is definately a factor. They are a huge part of the Wii being "evergreen". COD:WAW, de Blob and even Boom Blox started with terrible sales. The new audience had let the TV ads sink before they think, "Hey, that game seemed pretty cool?" That makes Metacritic completely irrelevant while highly advertised games like Imagine sale by the boatloads.



Corbs said:

@ Maka - I'm not sure it's about "Core" gamers or not, but more about what is expected. With the popularity of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, they've set the standards for what people expect from a music interaction title. And to come along years later as Wii Music did, it's tough to erase those expectations and standards for a title that's trying to do something differently. I liked Wii Music, but the hype that surrounded it before release made it almost impossible to not disappoint.



maka said:

@Corbie: I'm not sure if "core" is the right word, but there's people that have traditionally played games and people that haven't. There are games tailored for people that have been playing for years, and games that are aimed at people that want to "play" with other skills. Reviews are usually written thinking of the first group.

Wii Music is a great example of the latter and even though it was hyped, in all the demos I saw, I never expected more than what the game turned out to be after release. Just, what were people expecting anyway? I can see small complains like the small library, etc... and expect it will get better on following iterations (downloadable songs and some sort of customization of the chords to create songs yourself would be amazing additions).



Burning_Spear said:

To me, the biggest problem facing third-party developers is the demographic. There are plenty of hardcore gamers on Wii, but there are also many more homemakers and, yes, grandparents than on the other systems. Those people are going to buy games based on word of mouth, whatever is on the top shelf at Best Buy or whatever a salesperson pitches them. They don't research games or check out sites like this one, which means that a significant portion of Wii's owners don't ever hear about most of the releases. I'm sure that's not the case for Playstation and Xbox. So third-party developers who don't have the recognizable franchises such as Mario or a professional sports league's endorsement almost have to advertise to be successful on the Wii. What they're missing is that advertising is necessary in almost any business. If you ask me, they actually get a boost by having their games delivered to people's homes via the Wii store and the Wii channel. My feeling is that any complaining developers are really just making excuses for their own inability/unwillingness to design games for a different audience.



derickw69 said:

This is really starting to sound like a broken record. During the N64 and Gamecube days, 3rd party developers were saying that they couldn't sell games because of Nintendo's games. Now we are hearing it again. Please stop complaining about not selling your games and make better ones and advertise them more.



Corbs said:

@ Maka, That's probably true, but what has to also be remembered is that the majority of readers on these sites are gamers. So it only makes sense to tailor reviews and aim them at that group. Now I try to always include enough game play elements to allow people of all skill levels to decide if a game is for them, but ultimately it's impossible for me to completely divorce myself from being what I am - a gamer of many year's experience.



Nintendophile said:

And here I was, going into this article thinking it was about some kick-ass special addition "Gold Wii". face-palm



Slapshot said:

1. I think Nintendo needs to value their seal of approval better in my opinion. Quit putting their stand of approval on crap shovelware and actually say NO to they crap.

2. As for Apple vs Nintendo. I say No to Apple and their iPhone apps myself because of the reason that most all of them are cash in shovelware itself with little to no qualifications to have a game released. Most Nintendo games released on the DS are quality games. Yes even some geared for very younger audiences are acceptable for that age group. The same cannot be said for the iPhone Apps.



maka said:

@Corbie: What you say sounds reasonable enough, and I'm not saying you should change what you are But it'd be nice if the person who reviews a game is the kind of person likely to enjoy that kind of game. Just as a shoot'em up hater will not write a very useful review of that type of game, someone that doesn't enjoy playing and understanding music won't really give a very informative review of Wii Music.

To keep up another example I cited before, I recently tried to research Wii Ski & Snowboard because I love skiing in real life and that title had slipped past me until I saw it by chance on a shop about a week ago. No review I read managed to convey the way the controls work when you invert them and the sense of realism the game manages to convey to someone that at least knows the basics of skiing. In the end I risked the purchase to discover that by myself, and while the game is not perfect, there's nothing quite like it on the market right now and I'm sure skiing fans will enjoy it a lot. I can see why the first game was so successful despite the bad reviews...

That's just an example, but there are many others. If people are not paying attention to reviews is not only because they don't know better, but because they don't "connect" with the way games are reviewed.

I think contacting with other people to write reviews of games that fall out of the scope of traditional gaming could really make a difference and be much more helpful overall...



Corbs said:

Oh I see what you're saying Maka, and we try to always assign reviews to those who have a good understanding of the type of game we're covering, but that's not always possible.



ToneDeath said:

I've got nearly 60 disc based Wii games now, and even more VC & WiiWare games. I know that's a bit much, but they're all decently reviewed games that interested me. While they're not all essential, most are definitely worth playing if you consider yourself a videogames enthusiast (or 'hardcore gamer' if you prefer).

As I see it, there are four main types of gamers that own a Wii: Well, of course there are the new 'casual' gamers we never hear the end of. Then, the Nintendo fans that stayed loyal throughout the 'dark days' of the N64 and Gamecube. Second hand Wii's are likely to come from what I call 'the Playstation Generation' (I know that, like the Wii and the NES before it, the PS was important for greatly expanding the market, but boy, they don't like 2D do they?). They're much happier playing their HD bald space marine simulators. Lastly,we have the dying breed of the unbiased enthusiast of all things videogamey.



Hawker said:

I love people blaming casual gamers for certain games not selling on the Wii. Let's face it people, since the N64, 3rd party games just haven't sold well on any Nintendo console. Call me crazy but I don't think casual gamers where really playing the N64 or Gamecube all that much back then.

I find that most people that buy Nintendo consoles, & I'm talking about the "hardcore" group, won't give anything that isn't made by Nintendo a chance.

How about this, let's stop trying to throw blame to others & tell 3rd party companies that the Wii will make money for them buy doing something radical..... if it's a good game, buy it. I myself have 14 games, only one I don't consider hardcore (Wii Sports) & I know of another 15 out now I want, & another 10 or so coming soon I want. & most are not made by Nintendo.

I'm sending the message I want to 3rd party developers...... are you?



SmaMan said:

Man, what's to say that hasn't already been said here... even that last comment about the gold wii... I was totally gonna say that!!

I dunno about you guys but down here in Texas they wouldn't stop playing those Boom Blox commercials. In fact, that made me not want to buy it. I thought, "When you have to find an excuse to slap on Steven Speilberg's name on a game, you must be desperate." But hey, that's why Nintendo has celebs like Beyonce' act like an idiot while playing Rhythm Heaven, because that sells the casual crowd most of which who are also into celeb-related, instead of going on great sites like this one and finding out for themselves. But I guess I can't blame these new gamers. When I first got really into gaming (when Santa finally brought me a N64 and GBC) I didn't know people reviewed games. Granted I was only like 10 or so, but still.

It's just not in the average casual gamer's mindset to check reviews. While for most of us the purchase hinges on that very thing.



Sean_Aaron said:

I have more than 30 titles on the shelf. Nintendo published seven of those and of those seven, four have the word "Wii" in the title.

Of course, I'm not a longtime Nintendo fan and I've never purchased a Nintendo console in my life until the Wii; what made me want a Wii was a 3rd party release from a small publisher. I guess that makes me a non-traditional Nintendo gamer!

Nintendo titles are selling well; you may have noticed they also market their stuff heavily, though not games like Disaster Day of Crisis, for some bizarre reason, which seemed like a title that could cross-over quite well. So, it's a broken record, but if 3rd parties expect a game sitting on the shelf amongst dozens of others to sell and try to blame Nintendo because it's their system; frankly they're fools. Nintendo has to market as much as anyone else!

Oh and the celeb thing works wonders in Japan as well -- World of Goo was practically out of the top 20 until that celeb spot on Nintendo Channel and then it jumped back into the top 5 for a few weeks -- Pole's Big Adventure got a similar boost from the same celeb in a similar spot.



Tsuchinoko said:

damn. maybe its right though, but there's a lot of quality, amazing games on the Wii. Smash brothers Brawl is on of my favorite all time games, Warioware, Zelda:TP, Mario Galaxy is a beautiful fun game, metroid, Pikmin...they are all Nintendo. I guess there is something to it, but the "Nintendo" games are the reason i got the Wii, and i love it. Plus the Wiiware is also what makes it worth the purchase. I'm a nintendo guy now.



JimLad said:

This really holds a mirror up to the industry showing how ugly it has become.
A top selling game system, which is easier & cheaper to develop for, while capable of producing graphics better than the shiniest of Xbox 1 games, with many different interface options available, has an audience that spans all genres, yet has massive gaps in its market, and is online capable, is being avoided like the plague by the 'bigwigs' of development.
It's clearly a matter of crossplatforming viability.
They have to pick between selling one game on two consoles vs one game on one console which wont look as good as rival games in HD.
It's a shame that Wii suffers this way, but that was price of opting out of the horsepower race. If they hadn't for the sake of more third party support we would have 3 identical consoles right now with no motion sensing at all and Nintendo struggling to survive off the tail of the Gamecube.
As usual, I think it again comes down to high production costs stagnating the variety of games we get into only a handful of genres.
Much like the rest of the entertainment industry, the distributers have too much power, and I eagerly await the mainstream movement to digital distribution to level the playing field.



ToneDeath said:

Okay, so I checked and I have 64 Wii discs, of which 23 were published by Nintendo.
Now, here's a quick list of ten 3rd party games I own that are not only very good, but also offer unique gameplay that (currently) can't be done on the HD consoles (and no ports!):

SSX Blur
Elebits (Eledees in Europe)
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
Zack & Wiki
No More Heroes
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
Boom Blox
Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip
House of the Dead: Overkill

So you see, if you look hard enough, there ARE Wiisons to be cheerful!



Sean_Aaron said:

@JimLad: "As usual, I think it again comes down to high production costs stagnating the variety of games we get into only a handful of genres."

I think you've hit the nail on the head. The games are so expensive a lot of these companies simply cannot afford to spend the money to market them beyond the free bones they get from dedicated gaming press; as a result they have next to no chance of realising their true sales potential.

I know people like to truck out Madworld and HOTD: Overkill or No More Heroes as examples of how 3rd parties cannot make money on the Wii, but the fact is that these would be niche titles even amongst longtime gamers so their sales are indicative of nothing general about the Wii.



EdEN said:

No More Heroes
Zack & Wiki
House of the Dead: Overkill
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
Kororinpa (and it's sequel)
Harvey Birdman
Sam and Max Season One
Little King's Story
Rune Factory
Let's Tap
The Munchables
Red Steel
Deadly Creatures
Call of Duty: World at War
Both Trauma Center
Boom Blox
Dewy's Adventure
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World
FFF: Chobobo's Dungeon

All 3rd party games worth owning (which I do) on Wii. And don't even get me started on all the VC and Wiiware games worth owning...

Purchase all of that. Finish them. Stop the bull about "I sold my Wii because there are no games for it".



PopeReal said:

There are so many good games that I don't have time to play. Maybe when I was younger I could get to all of them but I don't get the whole "I sold my Wii because there weren't enough games" thing.

Between Punchout, Tiger Woods 10, and Pro Evo Soccer 2009 I barely have time to do anything else when I'm not working or taking care of other things. And Conduit, Little Kings Story, Dawn of Discovery, Wii Sports Resort are on the way... not to mention I am going to get Virtual Tennis 2009 and still have a back catalogue of games to get.



mjc0961 said:

Metacritic scores, and any score for that matter, are indeed quite useless. You need to read an actual review. Just seeing a number is quite worthless in learning about the game.



Mabbit said:

I think i only own 2 non nintendo games on the wii:
Okami and Guitar Hero 4

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