This month Nintendo acknowledged its year-to-year Wii sales are down 30 percent compared to 2008. Yes, one-third less sold. It shows what critics and analysts have been saying for years â€" Nintendo has made its niche both narrow and undernourished.
The niche would be the "non-traditional" audience: Potential gamers female or over the age of 50. Nintendo proudly trumpets having "80 percent" of the female gaming audience, a group that, in the previous generation, critics claimed didn't exist. Indeed, according to the Electronic Software Association, about 40 percent of gamers are female. The problem here is that the Wii titles have increasingly neglected the "hardcore" audience â€" many of which are women â€" with patronizing results. According to Metacritic, the Wii has the lowest Metacritic score of it, the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Microsoft Xbox 360.
The one Wii advantage is going away, too. By this time next year, Sony is expected to release its motion sensor controllers, providing a Wii-like experience on the powerful PlayStation 3 console, and Microsoft with its much-anticipated Project Natal control, which doesn't require an apparatus at all. Nintendo's unique Wii controls have made severely subpar games seem much better than they are. The faÃ§ade is starting to go away months before the competition even arrives properly.
Regarding the older audience, I actually helped launch the first video game column for AARP: The Magazine and have found that over-50 gamers are often more savvy than the media gives credit. A big part of the audience is part-time, if not retired, which gives more leisure time than the average young gamer. According to the ESA, the average gamer is 35 years old, up from 34 the previous year and so on. The older audience gets more sophisticated as each year that passes.
The bottom line? Nintendo better have a serious trick up its sleeve by the next Electronics Entertainment Expo this July. A Wii Grand Theft Auto. A new, better controller. Something! It's already looking like the game is over.