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Finally, the mainstream press uncovers the problem with the Wii

The Nintendo Wii has been incredibly and unexpectedly successful, outselling its more capable Xbox 360 and PS3 opponents. There's just one problem, and this is what I've been pointing out all along: When you target the non-gaming market as Nintendo is doing, you're not attracting real gamers. You're attracting looky-loos. And looky-loos don't buy games. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the dark underbelly of the Wii platform: No one is buying any Wii games. That doesn't make for a healthy market for anyone but the console maker.

Nintendo sits atop the home video-game market. Its Wii, though less technologically advanced than Microsoft’s Xbox 360 or Sony’s PlayStation 3, continues to outsell those machines and is now in more than 20 million homes.

So why are retailers having so much trouble selling Wii games?

Take Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It was one the most hotly anticipated video games of the year; it sold more than 1.4 million copies during the first week of its release, in early March, and broke records for Nintendo of America.

But sales dropped more than 90 percent over the first four weeks ... Some major retail chains — including Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us — have already begun bundling the Smash Bros. game with Wii machines for sales online, a sign that the base of hard-core gamers who went looking for the game has been depleted.

"We sold a couple thousand copies in the first week," said Xavier Pervez, assistant manager at a GameStop in Fairfield, Conn. "It’s dropped off significantly now, maybe 100 in each of the last couple weeks."

Over the first three months of the year, only three other Wii titles broke the list of top 10 best-selling games ... Guitar Hero, for example, sold 2.2 million copies for the Wii, but 2.8 million copies for the Xbox 360 and almost 5 million for two versions of the PlayStation.

[Wiii] gamers are content with the games they have, often going no further than the Wii Sports game that comes with the machine. They don’t buy new games with the fervor of a traditional gamer who is constantly seeking new stimulation.

The average Wii owner buys only 3.7 games a year, compared with 4.7 for Xbox 360 owners and 4.6 for PlayStation 3 owners.

When I deride the Wii, I do so as a gamer, not as a mainstream consumer who must buy whatever is hot at the time and then never actually use it. The Xbox 360 certainly has its problems--I'd point very quickly the Red Ring of Death reliability issues that have dogged the hardware--but it's a real gaming machine, as is the PS3. The Wii is not. So it's successful, obviously. But that doesn't mean it's any good. And in my opinion, it's not any good. It's a toy.

Update:  VGChartz, the source of the Wii game title sales mentioned above, says the NYT misinterpretted their data. This doesn't change my central point, however: The Wii is a toy, not a serious video game machine, and is not of interest to real gamers.

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