Why Wii Sports is the best-selling Nintendo game of all time
It was the beauty of Sports Wii‘ motion controls. The decision to be made Sports Wii the rare sports game that required almost no button input may very well have been the secret to its success (and the Wii in general).
From the design of the Nintendo Wii, Shigeru Miyamoto wanted Sports Wii to serve as the console’s “flagship title”. The game was intended to be accessible to everyone, regardless of their previous experience with video games. This bold design decision came to life in the form of controls that naturally simulated the act of holding golf clubs, baseball bats, and tennis rackets. Essentially anyone who has played sports live or even seen them on TV would feel comfortable with Sports Wii‘ control regime, which lowered the barrier to entry.
In fact, while Nintendo’s rival consoles at the time, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, targeted hardcore gamers, the Wii cast its net as wide as possible and appealed to an audience otherwise overlooked by the gaming industry: senior citizens. . Sports Wii was an easy sell for them as it was quick to pick up and learn, especially if the older gamer didn’t have the finger dexterity for a DualShock 3. That wasn’t all the game could do for older people or even people with disabilities. Studies have shown that titles such as WiFi and Sports Wii had potential as a rehabilitation tool, and some senior wellness blogs espoused the benefits of using Sports Wii to keep seniors in shape.
On their own, these studies were perhaps only so appealing, but when they were based on a game that could be played (and genuinely enjoyed) by grandparents, grandkids and everyone else, they contributed to the growing cultural idea that the Wii (in particular, Sports Wii) was something you had to have in your household to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, this widespread sentiment of FOMO may have ended up being one of the biggest contributing factors to the Wii’s success…
The Wii was a “party machine” and Wii Sports was the centerpiece
Marketing can often be the difference between the success and failure of a video game (or any other medium). If a company spreads the word by spending thousands of dollars (often millions of dollars) on ads, more gamers are likely to buy the product. Well, at least that’s the popular idea behind the typical way marketing works. There are other times when simple word of mouth is even more effective than a full marketing blitz. This strategy helped PT become one of the biggest cult sensations in gaming history, and it helped Sports Wii achieve a level of success that no individual Nintendo game will likely ever achieve.
In 2008, GameSpot interviewed then Nintendo President Satoru Iwata about the Nintendo DS and Wii. During the Q&A session, Iwata claimed that the secret to the Wii’s popularity was, surprisingly enough, American house party culture. In his own words, his American friends constantly told him that the Wii was “the party machine par excellence”. Apparently, Wii owners invited friends and family over to their homes to play the Nintendo Wii, and they often gravitated towards Sports Wii. The resulting fun would convince guests to buy their own Wiis, which would also earn them copies of Sports Wii. From there, the cycle would continue with new groups of friends. The popularity of the Wii fueled sales of Sports Wii and vice versa.