The video game market finds itself in a rather interesting place. Its consoles are still selling exceptionally well, some of the best games released in a long time hit store shelves in 2010, and yet, consumers, pundits, and analysts are wondering when Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo will be announcing new consoles.
The calls for Sony and Microsoft to offer up new consoles aren’t as loud as those for Nintendo. Last year, Sony released its PlayStation Move peripheral to capitalize on the wildly popular motion-gaming space. Microsoft released the Kinect to do the same. And at least for now, it’s expected that those companies will be spending 2011 doubling down on those technologies with their current consoles.
But Nintendo is a different case.
Since the Wii’s launch in 2006, the game company’s platform has been performing extremely well. Nintendo says that it has sold over 34 million Wii units in the U.S. alone since the console’s launch, and each of the last three years, it has sold at least 7 million Wii units. It’s a feat that five years ago, few thought possible.
But Nintendo’s platform is slowing down. In 2010, it sold 7 million units, but the company cashed in on nearly 20 million consoles between 2008 and 2009. And there is speculation that the Wii will see even slower sales in 2011.
Realizing that, the timing seems ripe for Nintendo to launch a new console.
Historically, console launches jump start sales. It’s why the gaming business has seen console updates around every five years after a respective device launches, and it’s why speculation abounds that Nintendo will announce a new version of the Wii this year.
Of course, some Nintendo fans don’t see the need for their favorite game company to launch a new console. They point to the fact that the Wii is still tops in hardware sales, and it still has solid software to appeal to customers. Consoles should be replaced when they start to become obsolete, those folks reason, and the Wii is far from that.
But I’d have to disagree. Yes, the Wii is still the top gaming console this generation, and I do believe that it will sell reasonably well in 2011. But the console is obsolete. And the key factor that made it so popular — motion gaming — isn’t appealing as it once was.
Let’s take a look at the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Those platforms deliver far more graphical power than the Wii. They also have robust online gaming experiences that continue to captivate gamers each and every day. Perhaps most importantly, they have proven to be far more popular with third-party developers that welcome that extra power and capability.
The Wii, with its standard-definition support and general lack of popular third-party games, looks awfully less appealing than its counterparts. And it gets even worse when one considers that the PlayStation Move promises functionality with more “hardcore” games and the Kinect delivers motion gaming without the need to hold a controller.
Now, I’ll admit that many of the complaints about the Wii have been swirling in gaming circles for years. But declining Wii sales and compelling motion alternatives make them more relevant than ever.
The Nintendo Wii needs to be replaced with hardware that can at least match the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. And it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Don Reisinger is a technology and video game columnist. You can see what he's up to each day on Twitter by following him @donreisinger.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SlashGear