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STACEY VANEK SMITH: Not so many Christmases ago, Nintendo’s Wii was the hot gift. Simplicity was one of the big selling points. You could play tennis or bowling just by moving the controller. Everyone from toddlers to seniors got on the Wii-wagon. It was the game system for non-gamers. But sales are way off for the Wii this season.
And as Sally Herships reports, the Wii’s attempt to get gam-ier may be part of the reason.
Sally Herships: Elizabeth Bewley’s husband hibernates in winter. Bewley is 57 and lives in Arizona. She just wrote a book about health care. But she says rational arguments about the benefits of exercise don’t work on her husband.
Elizabeth Bewley: I was hoping to find something that would make exercise seem less like brussels sprouts and more like ice cream.
So she bought a Wii and Wii Fit — it’s an exercise game. She and her husband started playing every night for at least an hour. After six months, they got tired of the workouts, so Bewley figured she’d just get a new disc for Christmas.
Bewley: But we were really disappointed because all the ones I saw are really like video games.
Did you hear what Bewley said? The new Wii games are too game-y. Stephen Totillo is deputy editor of Kotaku, a video game blog. He says the Wii has been really popular with people who aren’t typical gamers, like the Bewleys. It just seems so un-intimdating and easy to use.
Nintendo has sold has sold over 34 million Wiis. It’s one of the best selling video game systems of all time. But Wii sales are down 25 percent from last year.
Stephen Totilo: The Wii’s problem is that the Wii did something really cool in 2006.
But now, Totilo says, other companies are doing really cool things in 2010. Sony’s new Move game system has a controller it says is better than the Wii’s. Then, there’s Microsoft’s new Kinect. Your body is the controller.
Another problem is because of the Wii’s great success. Totilo says the market may be tapped out.
Totilo: I don’t know how many grandmas and grandpas need a Wii, who don’t already have a Wii., who haven’t already given it back to their sons or daughters or whoever got it for them.
But Totilo says this is just part of the natural life cycle of video game systems. They can only live — at the peak of their popularity — about five years. And he says, Nintendo knows this. They’re already focused on the future: 3D gaming without glasses.
In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.
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