What Today’s Top Games Reveal About Us

What Today’s Top Games Reveal About Us

Earlier this month, the UKIE–that’s The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment–published charts of the best-selling video games of 2010. Obviously, the tastes of UK audiences are going to differ slightly from those of an American audience (or a Canadian audience, as Canada slumps between the two cultures like a bastard child). But by using these numbers, we can make some generalized observations about the state of the industry in English-speaking countries.

First and foremost, the UK’s best-selling game was Call of Duty: Black Ops. Yes, the shock is overwhelming, isn’t it? Better sit down for a few.

As for the rest of the industry’s top-sellers, we can determine this much: People are still getting active with their Wii, Japan’s relevance is sadly dwindling, and, as pointed out by TheSixthAxis, new IP’s aren’t getting much love.

The Wii’s 2010 performance tells a strange tale about Nintendo’s console: Through the year we heard about how badly the Wii was selling, and how retail success seems to elude third party developers (a phenomenon we’ve written about ourselves). But four of 2010’s top sellers are Wii games, and two of those are Just Dance and Just Dance 2, games by UbiSoft. The other two top sellers are Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus.

Mind, Ubisoft’s success on the Wii is deserved, but feels hollow to a traditional gamer who backs the Wii. It’s not as if the Wii’s most popular 2010 offerings are from a wide range of genres and developers: They all pretty much sell the same idea. Get off the couch and move your butt. Not a bad thing, but definitely a handful of anticlimactic examples for anyone arguing about the Wii’s success.

Still, we have confirmation that people still love their Wii’s (giggle giggle). Nintendo set out to widen the definition of video gaming, and no one can argue that it hasn’t succeeded on an enormous level.

Besides, Nintendo’s continued success is important if Japan wants to cling to its influence in the English-speaking half of the games industry. If you look at the 2010 sales roundup across all the current game consoles, you won’t see a lot of love for Japan’s offerings, aside from Nintendo’ work.

The big exception is the Nintendo DS: All its Top 5 sellers come from Japanese studios. 2010’s best seller on the DS was Level-5’s charming puzzle game, Professor Layton and the Lost Future–better known as Professor Layton and the Unwound Future in America. This is notably one instance where UK and American sales charts might diverge, as the behatted professor is wildly popular in Japan, Europe and the UK, but enjoys a quieter life as a cult hero in America. Either way, we have some confirmation that Japanese game studios are still making great games. Hopefully, the country is just going through a bit of a dry spell and will surge back to life in 2011 and beyond.

Finally, we have to throw a frown at the non-presence of new IP’s on the chart. We hear a lot of yelling across the Internet about how we need some fresh new faces and ideas in video games, but when the time comes to show support, our money usually goes to old comforts. We can’t be blamed, really: Money doesn’t grow on trees, and we’re hard-wired to be suspicious of new things. But then we can’t turn around and mouth off to developers and publishers when we snatch up games with Mario, Kratos, or Master Chief on the box. Maybe this is one aspect of the player/developer relationship that both sides really need to work on.

With any luck, we’ll be able to look back on the industry this time next year and make remarks about 2011 being the year that Japan’s industry surged back to life thanks in part to the widespread adoption of its neat new ideas. For now, only this much is certain: We like moving along with our video games just as much as we like sitting back and vegging out.

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.

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