Sales of original games on the Wii (Part 1)

One of Nintendo’s major reasons for not supporting HD and keeping the Wii’s specifications conservative was to make it a viable platform for original IPs. The argument was that developing games on machines with multi-core processors and complex architectures was increasing development costs to such a degree, that the appetite for risk was rapidly diminishing within the industry resulting in endless sequels and me-too titles. Two years have passed since the Wii was released and it has since gained many original IPs that allow us to see if Nintendo’s decision has borne fruit, or whether it was just an excuse to limit R&D expenses.

Red Steel

VGChartz estimated worldwide sales:1,006,000

As of April ’07, Ubisoft reported that Red Steel had sold 950,000 copies, and VGChartz has current sales of the game at just over a million; likely well short of the true number. The success of Red Steel cannot be in doubt – a game that was hyped to be sure, but one that also ended as being a pretty mediocre shooter made enjoyable because of the Wii Remote. The question of why Ubisoft has not tried to replicate its success with other Wii FPS games can be explained with other successful Ubisoft games from the Petz/Imagine series. The latter required smaller teams and shorter development cycles, so that even minor sales resulted in strong profits. Nintendo’s own strategy seems to have backfired in this case, as Ubisoft has since become reluctant to release anything other than mini-game compilations, albeit quality ones in the form of Rayman Raving Rabbids, and expanded audience games on the Wii. Motion Plus seems to have provided Ubisoft the impetus to make the sequel that so many expected this year: Red Steel 2 should see a release in the ’09 holiday season.

Boom Blox

VGChartz estimated worldwide sales:560,000

Initially deemed a failure at retail, Boom Blox sold a paltry 60,000 copies in its first week. Many worried that gamers would simply see a glorified version of Jenga and balk at the $50 price tag. Though, like many Wii games, despite not having the front loaded sales so typical of games on the 360, it’s shown real legs due to a solid advertising campaign and strong word-of-mouth buzz. EA stated that the game had sold 450,000 copies in their first fiscal quarter, so VGChartz current estimate of 560,000 copies sold is likely well short of the actual number. It’s tough to determine just how much cash EA plowed into Boom Blox; Steven Spielberg’s influence and the superb level design can’t have come cheap, but ultimately it didn’t feature the lavish visuals and presentation that are known to really elevate development costs. If its sales approach 750,000 worldwide, it will surely represent a very good return for EA who are also strongly rumored to be preparing a sequel.

Zack & Wiki

VGChartz estimated worldwide sales:450,000

Capcom clearly lavished a lot of time and money on Zack & Wiki – the game’s art direction, level design and sheer length show that the company also invested a lot of its top talent on the project. In February ’08, 4 months after its release, Capcom announced that it had sold 300,000 copies of the game in the U.S and Japan. A surprising figure as it had sold a mere 35,000 in its first week on sale in the U.S. VGChartz has current sales for the game at 450,000, but once again this seems a conservative estimate, and shows the site’s general inability to properly track sales figures for games that fall out of the top 20 yet still maintain consistent sales. Despite this, Capcom has not seemed eager to announce a sequel. The success of both Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles seems to be at the heart of this. Both games have sold over a million copies each despite one being a direct port and the other reusing art assets from earlier games. This is further proven by Capcom’s decision to port the 360 title Dead Rising to the console. Compared to Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition’s sales and development cost/time, Zack & Wiki appears to be an apparent failure. Judged on its own however; with its niche point and click adventure gameplay, high difficulty and kid friendly sound and visuals, its sales begin to look a lot more impressive.

And a few that didn’t make it

Perhaps the best game to have completely flopped on the Wii is We Love Golf. Capcom acknowledged in a press release that its performance was ‘sluggish’ and VGChartz has its current sales at 40,000, though this does not include Europe. Quite why it sold so badly is a bit of a mystery – Camelot, the game’s developer, has been responsible for numerous golf games that have been successful for both Nintendo and Sony in the past. Konami’s overly cute Dewy’s Adventure and Leftfield’s poorly designed Nitrobike are other notable failures of original IPs.

In part 2 of TVGB’s look at how original IPs perform on the Wii; De Blob and Okami will be covered, as well as a look at whether the high sales of ports and spin-offs could be shaping developers’ release lists a little too strongly.