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Iwata: 'We Need To Evaluate'  Wii Music 's Mixed Response
Iwata: 'We Need To Evaluate' Wii Music's Mixed Response
February 5, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

February 5, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata admits Wii Music hasn't achieved what the company hoped -- but also suggests that it's such a subjective experience that the negative feedback of a few might have colored the opinion of many.

"I feel that Wii Music is a software that elicits largely two extremely different reactions from consumers," said Iwata, speaking during a briefing that followed Nintendo's third quarter results. "There are people who highly appreciate it and those who do not appreciate it at all."

"Usually for other software, if there is a fair amount of people who evaluate the software positively, the appreciation level of that software becomes slightly skewed toward a positive note," Iwata said.

"But on the other hand, if a number of people evaluate it poorly, the overall reaction to the software is bad. For Wii Music the impression seems to completely depend on each individual player."

Iwata said it's "unfortunate" that Wii Music didn't immediately appeal to some consumers -- but Nintendo has far from given up on the title. He pointed out that the original Brain Training in Japan had lackluster sales until the second installment, More Brain Training, launched at year's end.

Similarly, Iwata said Wii Music still has yet to reach its full potential audience. "We do not like to think that we failed with Wii Music nor that we should abandon sales support," he said, suggesting through the comparison that perhaps a related supporting title launch or other further investment might be useful to bolster Wii Music's userbase.

"If we had approached Brain Training with that mentality, the software would have not achieved the current sales situation," Iwata noted, stressing that certain titles' sales potential can't be judged on its first week or even its first month.

Iwata admitted, however, that it's hard for software to become popular if it isn't easy to understand immediately, and suggested that the success of many of Nintendo's more divergent kinds of products can be credited to the spread of favorable opinions from those who do understand them right away.

"Something good can spread when a cycle is born where people who have hands-on experience can immediately understand its appeal, easily explain the positive experience they had to those around them, who then spread that information to the others," Iwata said.

"Nintendo was blessed with certain products that created this positive cycle, which has made Nintendo what it is today. In that sense, I feel like we need to reevaluate why [Wii Music] has not been able to clear that hurdle."

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Ian Fisch
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I think a big difference between Wii music and other nintendo titles such as Brain Training and Wii fit is that Nintendo was first and best with the latter two. Nintendo was the first to release a fitness game and a brain training game and is still the standard bearer for both genres.

Compare that to Wii music. Here you have a product that is years late to the music game party and far from the best. Guitar Hero has licensed songs, online multiplayer, and downloadable tracks. Nintendo has lame midi renditions of mostly public domain stuff and no online anything.

Maybe Nintendo should do the one thing they hate to do in this case - actually pay other people (music copyright holders) to raise the quality of their software.

Mike Lopez
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I have not played the game but I find it interesting that Nintendo is pretty much alone in the software arena as a publisher who sticks with a franchise past a single disappointing release when pretty much all other 1st and 3rd party publishers abandon ship. They seem to look towards long term potential a lot more and own up to execution shortcomings rather than toss all the blame on the a crowded genre of established licenses which likely all other publishers would do.

Of course, with silos of cash filling their coffers it is easy to be able to take some lumps on a single new franchise but still kudos to them for putting additional efforts in hopes of getting the execution right and recognizing new large upside potential.

Carl Chavez
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And of course, the definition of "disappointment" is quite vague in regards to the sales of Wii Music, considering it has sold at least two million copies worldwide so far, and the development cost was probably not relatively high.

In terms of entertainment value, I count Wii Music as a success _because_ its level of enjoyment is up to the individual player or group playing it. Unlike with other rhythm games, which force every player to follow a rigid rhythm and/or note scale, Wii Music performances become unique and personalized. Just look at the thousands of Wii Music videos on YouTube, each with their own styles, embellishments, and improvisations. Depending on one's creativity, one might even use it as a tool for applicatinos such as machinima, like the guy who synched up Metallica's "Master of Puppets" to his Miis. It's like Dwarf Fortress... most people don't appreciate it or the gameplay, but the people who do appreciate it build amazing fortresses that even a non-player could still appreciate for its architecture, or even unforeseen artifices such as the guy who made a calculator out of flood gates. Even DDR: the most entertaining DDR players still follow the given steps, but they use the time in between steps to add their own flourishes to their performances.

The way I see it, people who enjoy crafting games like Wii Music, LittleBigPlanet, or Dwarf Fortress are generally people who tinker with things, and the people who don't like it generally prefer to consume or interact with entertainment, rather than create. (However, I'm not saying that the groups are mutually exclusive, either.)

Ciro Continisio
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I agree with Ian, Nintendo does a great job at curing his franchises (although Wii Music is the first chapter). I also like the overall humble tone of Iwata's statements, whereas some others would have said things like "everyone will surely understand it in the end" "because it will surely appeal to everyone"...

Tom Newman
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I like the way Nintendo thinks of every new ip as brilliant, and if it doesn't sell, it must be the consumers fault of not understanding their genius.

Bottom line is that while Nintendo has had some brilliant ideas, Wii Music is lame. It's a joke in today's market of quality music games.

Miguel Posada
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The problem may be precisely people comparing Wii Music to games like Guitar Hero, when they definitively should not, they are completely different experiences. Guitar Hero games are more about following sequences of buttons than creating music. On the other hand, no one compared Brain Training to lots of puzzle games done before, even if both are about "braining".

Sean Parton
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The funny thing for me is that I don't enjoy the game for two reasons: one, the tutorial starting up the game is ridiculously slow and monotonous (and unskippable), so playing it on a new console from one that has things already unlocked is a painful experience. Secondly, as a person who has played instruments in the past, I cannot play this game with my friends, because they want to act ridiculous and make garbage come out of the screen instead of making actually pleasant sounding music.

I agree greatly with Carl Chavez, and even Iwata's statement above: this game is very hit-or-miss with people who pick it up. For the people who love it, great, I'm happy that Nintendo had the chance to give you this experience. It's a miss for me though, and I don't think there's anything that could be done to interest me with that core gameplay intact.

Aaron Knafla
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Music games are all about sound. That's obvious.

Notice how I didn't say "music games are about freedom" or "music games are about tinkering"?... There's a reason I didn't say those things. It's probably because music games are about sound.

Nintendo released a title that sounds mediocre--with a mediocre track list; the mediocre results aren't suprising.

Glad we cleared that up.

Ciro Continisio
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I feel that the whole interview (and especially the last paragraph) is not really 'arrogant' as most of you seem to think.