Depending on who you ask, third-party games either sell just fine on Wii, or are substantially squeezed out by popular first-party Nintendo offerings.
Ubisoft admits that competition from Nintendo franchises can be tough, but publishers have to carefully plan out release strategies, and of course, release products with quality competitive with Nintendo software.
Speaking at the UBS Global Media Conference this week, Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez explained, “We saw that at the end of this year, there were not so many Nintendo products, and we thought there was a window of opportunity, especially on the Wii [Balance] Board.”
Ubisoft expects holiday Wii releases Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party and Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip to sell 1.5 million and 1 million units worldwide, respectively. Both games are Balance Board-compatible.
However, a well-planned release strategy isn’t enough to be successful on Wii, Martinez said.
“…Still, I think that publishers have been lagging behind in terms of innovation versus what Nintendo has done.”
He drew comparison to the Wii’s handheld sibling, the Nintendo DS, saying the current third-party market share on the handheld is encouraging. “I believe to date, Nintendo is about 30-35 percent market share. So that means if you are aggressive, and if you come up with the right products, you can gain market share there.”
Martinez continued, “It’s possible. Nintendo is surely not making it impossible for people to make good games [on its systems]. They’ve been helping us make games. So it’s up to us.”
Ubisoft is well aware that its main competition on Wii is Nintendo itself. In November 2007, CEO Yves Guillemot said in 2008, the company would have “Nintendo-like quality” on the Wii.
At the time, Guillemot said, ““[Nintendo’s mass market strategy] is very profitable for Nintendo, and very profitable for all third-party publishers.”
But some publishers are having a more difficult time finding an audience on Wii. On Tuesday, after announcing that Electronic Arts would be missing its fiscal guidance on lower-than-expected sales of holiday titles, CEO John Riccitiello said, “It’s a really unusual thing [for “two-thirds” of unit sales to go to a first-party console maker]. We haven’t seen that since prior to PlayStation 1. For those of us making console games, that’s a challenge that we certainly have to contend with.”
And even Nintendo of America has called out some third parties, accusing them of not delivering triple-A content to the Wii. “I will be able to say our licensees ‘get it’ when their very best content is on our platform,” said Nintendo of America president Reggie File-Aime in November. “And with very few exceptions today, that’s not the case.”