Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 21, 2014

Email: Do system sellers exist?

Gengame.net had a discussion about “system” sellers.  Now Gengame is a site run by volunteers so they don’t parrot as much industry rhetoric as the other sites like IGN, Gamespot and so on and I’m convinced some folks there have been reading your blog.  This video is them discussing system sellers.
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First off they mentioned how Wii Sports was a system seller and how many non gaming masses wanted it.   Had this been an IGN discussion, they would’ve just said it was all about “marketing” (check out ignorant hardcore comments below) though these guys complained about how Wii owners didn’t buy a ton of games after they bought the console.  Never mind the folks who bought PS2s or 360s and mostly only played Call of Duty, GTA and various EA sports games.  Yet as you pointed out Wii owners had a lot of games when you look at sales.  The bought New Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart Wii, Wii Fit, Guitar Hero, Skylanders and Just Dance not to mention any sort of kid’s game like the Lego series sold very well on the Wii.  Of course hardcore gamers and industry folks blow them off as “stupid casuals.”
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When they discuss the “system seller” of the PS2 and don’t seem to know, yet I recall GTAIII being the game everyone wanted and after that, everyone was bending over backwards to make exclusive PS2 games. But at least they cite sales figures.  We all know if it wasn’t for Halo, the original Xbox would’ve been another Dreamcast or Saturn.
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A lot of this comes up because with the PS4 and X1 there’s yet to be a “system seller” game.  Sure MS enjoyed a slight boost when Titanfall but that came and went pretty fast.  Most people with PS4/X1 are either playing free indie games they got from services like PS+ or up res versions of last gen games (hence why I haven’t bothered to get one of those yet).  And now MS and Sony, instead of utilizing their first and second party studios to make system selling software, they simply buy timed exclusivity to stuff like Rise of the Tomb Raider or have timed DLC which is more of an annoyance than anything.  I know the 360 towards the end of its life took a lot of criticism for not having unique exclusives and just letting CoD and Madden carry the system.  This was mainly due to their first party studios being forced to make crappy Kinect stuff.
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Their discussion of Nintendo was interesting.  We know Mario Kart sold units, but wasn’t going to have some Wii size boom.  They admit that even the next Smash will sell some units but once again not going to double sales numbers and of course having the 3DS Smash may hurt the WiiU version sales.  They also point out that Zelda is no longer a system seller.  Skyward Sword’s sales were dismal but they seem to think Twilights Princess sold because it was a launch game and it wasn’t.  People just don’t want cartoony, anime puzzle Zelda.  They want a Zelda that looks like Skyrim that focuses on intense combat.  I do agree with their 2D Mario fatigue.  It’s not that people don’t want 2D Mario games, they just don’t want half assed 2D Mario that rehashes levels.  Of course they laspse into the same internet nonsense about “naming” and “marketing.”  They also say Wii owners come into their stores and “don’t understand” that they have to buy a new system.  I don’t think it’s ignorance as they allude to rather people upset that Nintendo stopped all support for the Wii after Skyward Sword.  I remember that the NES kept chugging along with titles long after the SNES and Genesis came into the market.  Clearly Nintendo despised the expanded audience that bought stuff like Wii Sports but didn’t want to gravitate to their Anouma Zelda, 3D Mario and Sakamoto Metroid.  I wanna see what happens with Splatoon because I hear nothing but positive buzz and excitement over that.  Everyone wanted Nintendo to make a new IP, as well as a shooter and even more are happy they didn’t just make a shooter that was some CoD or Halo knockoff.
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But yet the hardcore gamers fail to realize the purpose of first party software is to sell the hardware.  I tell this to Sonic fans all the time when they start gushing over the Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure to which I say “if Sonic Adventure was so good, why did the Dreamcast still die?”  They always claim it was because the PS2 having a DVD player or bad marketing or the Dreamcast being too expensive.  The original Sonic sold the Genesis and Sonic Adventure couldn’t do the same.  What it comes down to is that we haven’t seen any “system sellers” because the software is poor.  It’s sad that the PS4’s best selling game at launch was CoD:Ghosts and most people bought that namely because they were like “well I bought a new console, gotta buy something to play on it.”
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But I’ll let you watch the video and make your own assumptions on it.

 

Dreamcast had to sell like the Wii in order for Sega to survive. The Saturn was such a disaster (and remember that Sega’s president discontinued every non-Saturn property of Sega to focus on the Saturn which ended tons of cashflow. It is perhaps the worst business decision in gaming). Sega just had too much financial baggage going into the Dreamcast. I do know that Nintendo was huge fans of the Dreamcast. People at Nintendo loved, loved, loved the Dreamcast. Then again, Nintendo and Sega have much in common being integrated hardware and software game makers.

For system sellers, here is a rough guide to them:

Atari 2600 – Space Invaders. Without Space Invaders, home game consoles would have been died at the market. Space Invaders caused people to buy the Atari 2600.

ColecoVision- Donkey Kong. People bought the ColecoVision in order to get to Donkey Kong.

NES- Super Mario Brothers for sure. I think the NES had many, many system sellers. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II was a system seller. Legend of Zelda and Metroid may have been system sellers (they actually sold many units on the NES). Tetris was also a system seller for the NES. Look at the sales numbers and see. I think the system seller for the NES everyone misses are the sports games. These sports games sold the NES to older adults. Nintendo studied the NES, understood this, and developed a sports game to attract older adults for the Wii (the game being Wii Sports. It is why Wii Sports Golf has the NES Golf designs).

Genesis- Sonic was huge, of course. But what really killed Nintendo was the Sega sports games. If you liked sports games, you got a Sega Genesis. No doubt about it.

Super Nintendo- Super Mario World wasn’t that much of a system seller. The SNES got in sales trouble and SMW didn’t have the longetivity in sales to keep pushing it. I’d say Street Fighter 2, Super Mario Kart, and Donkey Kong Country were the system sellers of the SNES. Let me check the top selling SNES games… Yep, right on the money. The top selling games are Super Mario World, Street Fighter 2 (various editions) and Donkey Kong Country and sequel and Super Mario Kart. Link to the Past sold extremely well too coming in next.

Saturn- Not as familiar with the Saturn. Let’s see what the top selling games are. That’s right. Virtua Fighter 2. I forgot about that one.

PS1- Gran Turismo, Final Fantasy VII and other incarnations, and strangely Tomb Raider were likely the system sellers of the PS1.

N64- Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time of course.

Xbox – Halo 1 and 2

Gamecube – I know this without looking. Smash Brothers Brawl, Mario Kart, and Super Mario Sunshine.

PS2- Grand Theft Auto games, Gran Turismo, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, etc. A Nintendo executive said concerning the Wii’s software strategy prior to the console launching that ‘you never know where the next big game can come from. Grand Theft Auto started off as a PC game and I and II were good games but nothing earth shattering. Then III comes out and rockets the PS2 upward. Therefore, the Wii must have as much software as possible because you never know where the next big game will come from.’

Xbox 360 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare of course. However, that is not the really big system seller for the Xbox 360. The really big system seller for the Xbox 360 is… hold your breath… is Minecraft. I’m serious! Minecraft is selling Xbox 360 to kids which Xbox couldn’t really sell to.

PS3- Who cares? Probably Gran Turismo and Call of Duty.

Wii- Wii  Sports was a HUGE system seller. So was Wii Fit and NSMB Wii (look at December NPD 2009 to see what NSMB Wii did to Wii hardware!). Mario Kart Wii was also a likely system seller.

 

I forgot the handhelds.

Gameboy- Tetris and Pokemon. Mario too.

DS- I was studying the DS momentum as I was the Wii. DS started selling once Nintendogs came out. Then Mario Kart DS and NSMB DS really turned the DS into a monster. Animal Crossing DS and Pokemon of course were big too. Brain Age was a system seller for the DS.

PSP- Monster Hunter. Monster Hunter is solely responsible for saving the PSP in Japan. It was so effective that Nintendo spent a ton of money to get Monster Hunter on the 3DS. Note how aggressive Nintendo is on the handheld market and how cheap Nintendo is on the home console market. Nintendo views the handheld market as its priority cashflow market since Nintendo has dominated it every generation.

System sellers will always exist. Consoles are trying to differentiate themselves by offering a different ‘experience’ than one another, but in the end it always comes to games. People buy consoles to play games. As Yamauchi said, “The game console is just a box people buy to get to Mario.” Always true.


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