Who is the Real Wii Audience?

Who is the Real Wii Audience?

I attended a wedding on September 11, which, to the bride and groom’s credit, makes for an unforgettable anniversary date. Vows were exchanged, rings were bonded to fingers. I celebrated by tucking into a couple of pints of Rickard’s Red. A gaunt werewolf of a man joined my husband and I shortly, and started talking about video games without any provocation. Interesting that, seeing as we didn’t wear our matching Zelda shirts for the ceremony. We must give off an aura. Maybe we smell like pixels.

The gentleman werewolf asked us if we preferred the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. We started chatting about the benefits and drawbacks of both. The Wii never came into the conversation and I didn’t bring it up, even though I’ve been playing my Wii recently more than anything else. I’m already familiar with the disgusted, pitying look I get when I tell self-proclaimed hardcore gamers that I like the Wii. I also have a stash of automatic answers to cycle through: No, I am not eight years old. No, I am not brain dead. No, I don’t just bust out my Wii when grandmother comes over.

My Wii gets plenty of exercise (go ahead and giggle at the innuendo), but I know that my affection for the system is not universal. The Wii has a notoriously low attach rate (amount of software sold per system). People buy the Wii, party with it, and then dump it for a long while in favor of the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. Even the highest-quality Wii games have issues with sales. Gamers know it. And developers, unfortunately, know it. They tread carefully where the Wii is concerned.

We’ve all seen the news footage of elderly citizens gathering for Wii Sports night in retirement homes across the continent. Are they still enjoying themselves? Probably. How many new games are they going to buy for their Wii if they’re using it to experience the fun and social bonding of bowling without having to travel far or run the risk of throwing out a hip along with the ball? Not many. They don’t need new games.

What about Mom? Is she still playing with the family Wii? Likely she is. Sales stats show that Mom is still down with the Wii. But why isn’t she buying new games? The answer is that maybe she is indeed buying new games – only on the Virtual Console. Like my mom.

When I showed off the Wii to my mother, she didn’t flip out over Wii Sports or Wii Fit, like the stereotype dictates she ought to. She was, however, absolutely floored by the idea that I had easy access to Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World and Super Castlevania IV to name a few retro classics. Once upon a time, my mother had enjoyed video games. But (bless her) she was never very good at them. When the playing field shifted to 3D, the complexity of games increased dramatically and she lost interest. However, she never forgot the games we all played while growing up.

So when I read the dark prophecies being written about what Wii neglect will mean for Nintendo, I understand why the system isn’t beloved by every demographic. But I still wonder about the audience that lies between the hardcore and the grandmothers. Once upon a time, our parents enjoyed the simplicity of side-scrolling adventures as much as we did. I don’t doubt that a few of them are downloading Sonic the Hedgehog 2 right this red hot second.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.


  1. Nice post, Nadia. Your second graf made me laugh.

    To answer your question, I’d say the “real” Wii audience is made up of the following:

    – People who play games for fewer than 5 hours a week total, regardless of genre
    – People who play games for fewer than 5 hours per *month* total, regardless of genre
    – People who used to like playing games, but feel overwhelmed by the 17 depressable buttons on both PS3 and 360 controllers or don’t care for complex 3D graphics.
    – And to a much lesser extent, people who play upwards of 4-5 hours a night (i.e. the ones that eat up anything Nintendo puts in front of them and any high-profile third-party game).

    Basically, the “real” Wii audience is made of up people that don’t play games as much as PS3, PC, and Xbox 360 owners. Less engaged gamers exist on those HD systems too, but it’s more disproportionate on Wii.

  2. The Wii is the only console non-portable console I own, and I am perfectly happy with it. I have two young kids, and they will see whatever I play. With that in mind, the Wii gives me more choices than anything else. I’m not about to play Red Dead Redemption, GTA, or even Halo in front of a three year old, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 is just fine.

    Lets look at the top Xbox 360 games on IGN: Battlefield Bad Company 2, Halo:Reach, Dragon Age: Origins, Mafia II, Mass Effect 2. I think all five are “M” rated. Is it really appropriate to play any of those in front of a 3 year old? Really? (Plants vs Zombies is #6. Not “M” rated but I don’t want to explain to the toddler what a zombie is.)

    The Wii list (which I don’t feel like typing) contains a lot more crap, but no “M” ratings. You have to watch out for the shovelware, but there is no shortage of good games that you do not have to hide from the kids.

  3. Though I love Mario Galaxy and No More Heroes and am I’m linking Metroid other M, I must admit that the most played games in my Wii are Castlevania, Contra and Megaman.

    When you talk about the gap between hardcore gamers and casual gamers [let’s call them average gamers], I couldn’t help myself of thinking about most browser games.

    And also, about wii audience, it’s so clear [and even, a bit sad] that even high-quality meant-to-be-hardcore games, as Metroid, end up being very casual. Don’t get m4e wrong, other M is quite beautiful and kind of challenging, but it really lacks the difficulty that were Metroid series trademark. That plus changing the game-play and also Samus Role made this game feel not quite Metroid, at least in my point of view.

  4. I love my Wii, which I purchased as soon as possible after its release. It has been a great system. Just last weekend my girlfriend had her grad student friends over for wine and cheese, and somehow Smash Bros. Brawl became the center of attention. The system helps facilitate a good time for everyone. What more can I ask for in a console?

    But Nadia, I have to say I am disappointed that you did not admit your love for the Wii when asked about games. What you did was help perpetuate the attitude about Wii gamers by not saying, “I play games seriously AND choose the Wii predominantly.” If more gamers were willing to say that, maybe perceptions of the Wii wouldn’t be what they are today.

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