While the Wii’s affordable launch price, must-have buzz and innovative motion controls have turned the video game industry on its head, perhaps its most interesting legacy is the way it’s defined the idea of the hit game.
Nintendo’s “Wii Play” (rated E), for example, may very well end up going down as the best-selling video game of all time. Yet stack its gameplay up against past big sellers like “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” “Super Mario Bros. 3” and “Halo” and it comes nowhere near those games in quality or replayability. No, “Wii Play” sells because it comes bundled with an extra Wii remote for just $10 more than it costs to buy a Wii remote on its own. Additionally, everyone who buys “Wii Play” knows they’re getting a collection of minigames similar to those found on “Wii Sports,” the console’s biggest draw.
If you own a Wii and no other consoles, though, you’ve surely noticed that many of the industry’s heavy-hitting critics’ darlings pass over the Wii and end up on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. That’s not to say the Wii doesn’t have hits, but outside of Nintendo’s games (which are nearly always commercial and critical successes), the Wii’s roster of million sellers includes a lot of headscratchers.
If you’re curious about this phenomenon, the blog Gamasutra has an interesting feature up on what makes a hit Wii game. As you might expect, this is less about eye-popping graphics, great voice acting and compelling characters and more about simple-to-grasp gameplay and concepts, clear marketing and consistency. What I found most interesting were the comments from Joel Seider, the producer of “Game Party,” a franchise that’s garnered terrible reviews but has sold 3 million copies of its two games:
“We focused on our customers. In my mind, they
are eight-year-old kids and their 40-year-old parents who are more concerned
about getting good value for their dollar than photorealistic graphics.”