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Analysis: Where Now For M-Rated Wii Games?
Analysis: Where Now For M-Rated Wii Games? Exclusive
September 14, 2009 | By Matt Matthews

September 14, 2009 | By Matt Matthews
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

What's the current state of the mature game market for Nintendo's Wii console? As part of Gamasutra's NPD U.S. console retail analysis for August 2009, we're looking at one particular upcoming M-rated Wii title.

As interest builds for Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the publisher is keeping an eye on the Wii market and experimenting with better, albeit dated, support. In early August a port of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for the Wii was announced, due simultaneously with its sequel on other platforms.

We think this will be an interesting title to watch. It carries a strong brand name, has been given the support of a prolific developer (Treyarch), and will likely benefit from all the market publicity surrounding the launch of the sequel. It is also a title rated M (for Mature) by the ESRB, putting it in a category of Wii software for which the sales environment has been considered difficult.

For example, Sega's Madworld launched with sales of only 66,000 units in March of this year. At the time some felt that sales might pick up over time. As of August 2009, total sales of Madworld have climbed to 123,000 or an average of around 11,000 units for each month after launch, NPD tells Gamasutra.

Another Sega game with a violence/action theme, The Conduit, also posted sales of only 72,000 units when it was released in June 2009. It should be noted that The Conduit is only rated T (for Teen) by the ESRB.

However, there is ample evidence that M-rated action games can sell well on the Wii, and we need only look at last year's Call of Duty: World at War for the proof. According to exclusive NPD Group data provided to Gamasutra, sales of World at War on the Wii have finally reached over 750,000.

This is clearly not in the same class as some of Nintendo's own first-party game (none of which are M-rated), nor is it in the same class as sales of the Xbox 360 for PlayStation 3 versions. Still, it is a very successful M-rated game on a system whose audience some consider ambivalent or even hostile to such content.

That bodes well for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on the Wii, and should prove an interesting case to follow at the end of 2009.

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Ken Masters
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Matt - I wish you would disclose NPD sales figures for Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. We know they sold well over a million worldwide, but the US totals would be interesting to see. I'm wagering around 500 - 700k for both.

But largely, I think these games will be hit or miss. I think Modern Warfare Wii is going to do nice numbers. Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles will post nice numbers as well. Deadspace: Extraction? Not so much.

Jamie Mann
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I don't think it's the M-rating so much as the... attitude of the target demographic.

Madworld is aimed at the young adult end of the market and doesn't particularly have a wide appeal outside of that. CoD: WaW also appeals to that market, but also attracted attention from another demographic: middle aged men.

Case in point: my dad. He grew up in the sixties and early seventies, when WW2 was still fresh in people's memories and displayed in glorious technicolour in the cinemas. He loves MoH and CoD - I'm actually rebuilding him a PC right now so he can go back to playing them both. He also enjoyed CoD: WaW on the Wii.

Apart from those, he hasn't touched any other PC games and the only other game he's played on the Wii (other than party-time Sports/Play) is Sega Bass Fishing.

With that example in mind, I wouldn't expect Modern Warfare to sell as well as World at War: the young adult demographic will pick up on it, but I doubt the middle-aged men will.

Matt Matthews
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Ken: Actually, let's just say that I wish I could disclose those figures. I don't have them.

My articles are written with public NPD Group data, data gleaned from other public sources, and the occasional special-request data point (or two) at the pleasure of the NPD Group.

I do try to follow-up on various games (Madworld and CoD:WaW here), but I simply can't do everything.

It is possible that I can do something similar to what I did for first-party games for the PS3 earlier this year: a table showing games and ranges of sales. That apparently went pretty OK with with the NPD Group (AFAICT).

Mike Siciliano
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Interesting. I'd love to see some more numbers on The Conduit.

I don't think it really has to do with the M rating as much as the overall quality of the game. Madworld was an odd, quirky title that really had no mass market appeal regardless of what system it was on.

Modern Warfare might do well. But I had no clue World At War sold 3/4 of a million. Not bad.

Uyiosa Iyamu
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Honestly, I think it has more to do with the games' branding then just the Wii not being able to sell mature titles.

Most of the mature games on the Wii are brand new or lesser quality (often just PS2 level) ports with better versions on the 360 or PS3. Although the fact is when not compared to heavily advertised and hyped blockbusters, the sales for MadWorld and The Conduit have done fairly well. Compare The Conduit sales to the recent Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood game on one of the other systems, the numbers probably aren't that far apart.

I personally don't think the Modern Warfare port will do as well the Wii version of WaW, because it is a two year old port. While it will get some unsuspecting consumers, most Wii owners that wanted the game on Wii probably have played it on one of the other systems. If it was last year or earlier in the year or it was a original side-story, it might sell but a straight port with less features unless bargain priced isn't going to be a good gauge of the mature audience this late in the system's life span. Will probably do half of WaW's numbers.

Tom Newman
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According to the numbers, Madworld sold 16% of what CoD:WaW, which I feel is pretty good considering that Madworld is a niche brawler appealing to the hardcore end of the M-rated crowd, where as CoD is one of the biggest mainstream franchises out there. I would only expect a niche title (especially one in black and white) to sell 10-20% of a mainstream hit.