More explosive than any other trend in the retail marketplace was the introduction of Nintendo Wii in 2006. It signalled a direct change in the videogame industry, an industry largely saturated at that time. The Wii, with it’s motion sensitive infrared controllers, known as “Wii-motes” and the Nunchuck accessory became attractive to soccer moms, seniors, young children, and plenty of other demographics previously untapped by an increasingly mature, hardcore gaming audience.
Great Wii Games – Mario Kart, Wii Fit, and Others
Many of the most popular titles for the Wii are first party names – Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart, Super Smash Brother’s Brawl, and Metroid Prime : Corruption to name a few standouts amongst the crowd.
In the past year, no other title has seen the raging popularity evinced by Wii Fit, a title that is marketed as an aide to an active lifestyle and as a fitness tool. Seniors purchase the game simply to have something fun and interactive to keep moving, mothers purchase it as a dietary aide or plan in many instances – the Wii Fit spans multiple demographics with great success.
This popularity stands in direct contrast with the hitherto established target audience for game developers and the video game industry – younger to middle aged men who enjoy shooters, role-playing games, or real-time strategies. Marketing their titles to newly opening markets that had never really considered videogaming before, Nintendo built a successful strategy in marketing the Wii console.
Plagued by Shovelware, Debate Over Casual Gamers Entering Market
One serious concern raised by this trend towards casual gaming and the rise of a new, novince gaming demographic is a quality control issue with the Nintendo software catalogue. Most established third party developers have remained on board with the Xbox 360 and to a lesser extent, the Playstation 3 due to their traditional control method, greater and more modern graphical and storage space capability, and larger consumer base.
While first party developed games – that is, games developed by Nintendo – perform very well on the Wii and DS, the systems are plagued with a tone of low-quality, budget priced third party software, endearingly termed “shovelware”. In fact, by simply including all titles released for the Wii in a metacritic search, a full 40% of said titles register a score of less that 50%, failing an aggregate critical review.
Many circles in the gaming community still debate the inclusion of casual gamers into the spectrum – whether that inclusion benefits or detracts from the quality of the community and the games that the developers will be focussing on in the future marketplace.
Some contend that the infusion of this new blood and cash flow will benefit the gaming community overall – others posit that the newcomers are responsible for the bevy of bad games with very little depth that are being churned out as budget priced moneymakers.
One thing is for certain, regardless of one’s personal stance. The casual gamers have arrived, and they’re here to stay. What remains to be seen, however, is how software and hardware developers adapt to meet the needs of this newly emergent demographic.