Nintendo Thanksgiving Sales Drop; Developer Cites Software

Dennis Faas's picture

Thanksgiving weekend proved a huge success for many retailers, particularly those with web sites -- and cleaned up on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as techies proved unwilling to brace the long lines and nasty parking lot traffic jams.

Unfortunately, not everyone fared well this past weekend, including previous holiday season heavyweight, Nintendo.

Nintendo Console Sales Dip 31%

Nintendo's problem is its Wii console, which between Christmas 2006 and Christmas 2008 virtually swept aside all other toys and tech devices in stocking-stuffer popularity. However, it appears that this year the Wii's allure has begun to fade, and Nintendo recently admitted that sales of the console dipped to 550,000 for the Thanksgiving weekend, a big drop from last year's 800,000. (Source:

To its credit, Nintendo did sell 1 million of its Nintendo DS and DSi portable game devices, beating the previous handheld record set by its Game Boy Advance during Thanksgiving 2002.

Developer: Wii Suffers From "Substandard Software"

And yet, it's hard not to wonder how the Wii's popularity has dropped off so significantly in the past year. Offering up a fresh perspective is Simon Prytherch, CEO of game developer Lightning Fish Games. According to Prytherch, Nintendo "have been damaged by a lot of substandard software," meaning consumers "only trust big Nintendo brands."

For non-gamers, this means that only Nintendo itself is making halfway decent games. That's a huge problem, since most consoles thrive on the hundreds of smaller game companies that only make games. (Source:

For example, the recently released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is made by Infinity Ward, a company that only produces games and has nothing to do with Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft. By comparison, Nintendo itself produces both the Wii hardware and game titles like Mario Kart or Metroid Prime.

Poor Software Tied to Poor Hardware

So, according to game developer Prytherch, Nintendo's slide in popularity is simply because it doesn't have any staying power -- after all, no one is going to want a console that only boasts a handful of entertaining games.

The Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 have that staying power because many, many independent "third party" developers make games for those consoles. The reason? Both systems boast very impressive hardware, and developing for them is comparably easy.

Scalability of Modern Hardware

Because the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have advanced hardware, developers can make games for both without developing exclusively with one console in mind -- that means they can make one game and have two console audiences pay them money for it. This is exactly how Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 broke sales records around the world -- Infinity Ward took advantage of the hardware capabilities of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and then marketed to gamers owning those systems.

Not so with Nintendo. Because its hardware is so backwards but at the same time complex -- the motion sensitive gameplay is what makes it popular -- producing a game for it is a special project for developers.

In essence, what makes the Wii so popular for gamers has made it extremely unpopular amongst game makers, and their collective disinterest in producing titles for the Wii helps explain why it is dangerously close to fading off into oblivion this holiday season.

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