Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
17 July 2006
Wii takes first place by being second? But will it sell exclusives?
Michael pointed me to this interesting interview at with corporate communications VP Jeff Brown from Electronic Arts. Brown makes a key observation about the Wii, but raises an interesting question that I don't see him address directly. The observation first, with emphasis added:
Here's another thing that I think trends well for both the business and for consumers: everybody's saying that the Nintendo Wii is so unique that it's going to be the second system people buy, meaning if you own a 360 or a PS3, you'll probably also buy a Nintendo Wii. The funny thing is, some people say that discursively, like it's some sort of dig at Nintendo - and what they don't get is that if you're second on everybody's system, you're first overall.
The logic here reminds me of mathematical discussions of voting methods and fair apportionment whereby someone who almost never gets selected first in a process ends up the big winner overall. Certainly that can happen mathematically, but the question is whether it will happen for real to Nintendo. I'm still skeptical, but I am intrigued by the possibility.

My follow-up question to Brown hinges on what he says next about the Wii's appeal:
If you look at what EA's doing with the Wii... Today we showed off Madden NFL on the 360 and I've seen it on PlayStation 3, and there are some differences between the two but they're largely the same experience. The Wii is a totally different experience, and if you like Madden NFL on 360, you still don't know what it's like on the Wii - it's a completely different experience.
My question is: Will that different experience truly sell cross-platform games like Madden on the Wii?

We've been hearing over and over that the Wii will be the breath of fresh air the industry needs because it offers such a different experience. However, I don't see big companies like EA, whose bread and butter is cross-platform games, being much of a help to Nintendo's Wii.

Sure, Madden may be a different experience on the Wii, but that doesn't a priori translate into huge sales of Madden on the Wii. Your typical owner of both an Xbox 360 and a Wii may care more about familiarity with the controller (for doing well against friends or in tournaments, e.g.) than whether the Wii's controller adds some gimmicks. Even if the Wii gains a reputation for being as good as a standard Xbox 360 controller, it still faces outside factors like Xbox Live functionality. Will an Xbox Live user want to give up his contact list just to play Madden on the Wii? (These strike me as questions Ruffin, the resident Madden player, could address better.)

While the Wii may well be #1, or a very close second, in hardware sales, I suspect that people will stick with Microsoft or Sony for big-name cross-platform games like Madden. That is, the new experiences that the Wii offers will sell primarily games designed with the Wii's controller in mind, not cross-platform games. Is EA promising to do more than just make a special version of its games for the Wii? Will it commit to making Wii-exclusive games?

The measure for success for Nintendo may well be whether they manage to entice everyone to make such exclusive games, or if all the must-have software on a Nintendo system will, again, be first party.

Incredibly timely reply from's resident Madden expert:

It would appear someone's mixing apples and oranges in an attempt to sell more consoles and, through consoles, more copies of the same game.

To begin, however: Would I, as a Madden gamer who spends most of my playtime in franchise mode, be curious about what's going on with Wii? Absolutely, and if I wanted "more Madden" and the Wii were free, I'd grab a copy. But rarely do I want "more Madden" than my first go at the new year's offering; I've not purchased Madden for Mac & Playstation, or N64 and PS2, or any of these and WinPC in the same year.

If I had a Wii and, say, a PS2 and/or WinPC, I'd probably grab my copy on Wii, which, as we've discussed, will probably play conventionally in addition to playing uniqueWii. Because even Madden 2000 on the Mac had a good sized online contingent, and I enjoyed playing the slightly nontrivial amount of multiplayer I did on that platform, finding opponents on Wii is not a concern of mine. I extrapolate that to imagine the number of people with blood enemies on a single "next-next-gen" platform is a small enough number it's not a big problem for sales.

Yet this would suggest that I'm Wii first, not Wii second. I think Matt's right by saying crossplatform games are probably not going to benefit from the uniqueWii (I'm pushing this horrible adjective) situated controller enough for Wii owners to buy a second game [without a push; see below]. My hope is that Brown's talking more about what's unique to Wii gaming than about selling crossplatform games. People will play conventionally on Xbox 360 and PS3 and buy a Wii to be different. Being crossplatform allows the Madden example to serve as a Rosetta stone, and is also one of the few, fairly understandable ways for us to picture how the Wii will be unconventional.

Though since he's an EA guy, he's obviously pimping Madden. I'm an idiot to think otherwise, and he's apparently hoping people will be buying multiple copies of the game. So we're back to considering the audience/market they think they're targeting. Is Brown's angle for people who find the expense of multiple consoles trivial? Originally I felt that this was starting to sound like a larger market than what I would have originally thought, since we've mentioned the overly affluent, mutli-consoled, multiple iPod-loving household on before.

Probably more insightfully phrased, however, is that the multi-consoled household is a market everyone in games, having apparently just discovered the possibility with the reasonably-priced Wii, is actively trying to create and grow. Who in particular stands the most to gain from multiple-consoled households? That's right, people who release slightly different versions of games on each of those consoles. Man, is on the freakin' bleedin' edge, ain't we?!

Me, I'm choosing Wii until the PS3 or Xbox 360 are more affordable. It's the only even partially defensible upgrade I have (other than a Radeon) as long as my old console is supported, and I assume the only choice for a number of less affluent citizens like me. (Okay, I'm likely waiting even on Wii and going with the Radeon, but that's splitting hairs.)

So here's what's going on -- EA is trying to sell you a second console so that they can sell you their crossplatform middleware twice. Clever girl.

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--Matt Matthews at 11:18
Comment [ 1 ]

Comments on this post:

"That is, the new experiences that the Wii offers will sell primarily games designed with the Wii's controller in mind, not cross-platform games."

At least, from what has been said so far, the Wii version of Madden does at least try to take advantage of the controller. Sure, some of it sounds gimmicky, but other parts sound like good improvements to the game.

Though I doubt it will have people chosing Wii Madden over Xbox Madden.

By Anonymous Baines, at 19 July, 2006 02:16  

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