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Nintendo: From RPGs to mini-games
Posted on Thursday, March 4 2010 @ 04:49:35 Eastern

Every so often you'll hear someone remark, in typically condescending fashion, about how the Nintendo Wii is for casual gamers, or is filled with mini-games, or is the "Home of Shovelware". Usually I ignore such remarks. I own a Wii, and I've greatly enjoyed it. Even if the remarks are true, I think, "So what? Consumer preferences are consumer preferences," and try to only concern myself with what I buy.

But this morning, in an IGN article about how bright the Wii's first-half lineup is, I read the following:

"Nintendo has, with the launch of Wii, found a brand new audience and it's potentially bigger and more lucrative than the old one. It is precisely why many new Wii games are so casual-friendly, from winners like Wii Fit Plus to losers like Wii Music. Seeing Nintendo's success, third-parties followed suit. As a result, many traditional players have felt dissatisfied by the first and third-party lineup if not altogether abandoned by Nintendo and its partners. I don't think I'm exaggerating the situation, either."

(Side note: Really, look at those games coming out. The Wii should have a pretty good year.)

And after reading that I wondered just how casual-friendly the Wii is compared to, say, a more-hardcore Nintendo console like the Super Nintendo. You always hear such remarks but you never see any data to back them up. Wikipedia is here to help with a list of all the games that sold 1 million copies for the Super Nintendo and the Wii. The results aren't surprising and back up the derogatory remarks, but it's interesting to look at the actual data.

Here's a rough breakdown:

Top-selling genres

For the SNES, three genres accounted for approximately 82% of the 43 games that sold 1-million copies—RPGs: 33%; Platformers: 26%; Fighters: 23%

For the Wii, one genre, loosely termed "mini-game games," accounted for a whopping 47% of the 40 games that have so far sold 1 million copies. The other half? A loose hodgepodge of fitness and rhythm games and others.

What's notable: In less than 20 years Nintendo's console has gone from a plurality of RPGs to mini-games.


Top developers

For the SNES, three developers held the market on the number of 1-million-copy-selling games—Nintendo: 23%; Square: 19%; Capcom: 16%

For the Wii, one developer held the market, and that's Nintendo, having 22 out of the 40 (55%) "top-selling" games.

What's notable: (1) Square is nowhere to be found; (2) Capcom dropped from 19% to 3%, with no fighting games for the Wii, a genre that dominated the SNES; and (3) Midway had about as many mini-game games topping the Wii's topsellers as they had fighting games topping the list for the SNES.


Top 17
One of the most striking parts of the 1-million club is the difference between the Top 17 on each.

For the SNES, again, Nintendo, Square, and Capcom populated the Top 17. Nintendo had 7 out of the top 10, and only the top 3 before Capcom came in at #4. Out of the top 17, Nintendo had 9 out of 17.

For the Wii, Nintendo holds the first 12 spots and 16 out of the top 17. Really, we could say they hold every spot because of Mario & Sonic at the Olympics, but Sega did produce that game.

What's notable: Um, Nintendo, where have your friends gone?


Closing comments

Again, the breakdown is .. interesting. Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm not a Nintendo hater. Nintendo makes a lot of great games, as evident by their stranglehold on the Wii's Top 17. From this breakdown, and overall sales of the Wii, it's apparent a larger, broader audience is now gaming, and that's good, even if a lot of the Wii's games don't fit what a so-called hardcore gamer claims is a "good game".

But seriously, Nintendo, what has happened to your friends? Also, the SNES as more 1 million sellers than the Wii. Kind of interesting, when Wii Play has sold more than Super Mario World. (Obviously the Wii has plenty of time left to get more big sellers, which will probably happen this year with all of the great games on the way.)

And to quickly defend the Wii as a "home of shovelware": Did all of the RPGs, platformers, and fighters on the SNES, really differ much from each other and new, video-game-redefining features so much that we can easily denigrate all of the "shovelware" on the Wii for being filler? This isn't an argument I'd seriously defend, but, along with the rest of the data, it's just something to think about. Make of it what you will.

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