Will Wright knows a thing or two about developing games and building new businesses. He is an industry veteran, having founded game shop Maxis in 1987, later sold to EA. Now he runs an entertainment think tank called Stupid Fun Club.
At the 2010 Game Developers Conference, he gave an interview with IndustryGamers which included his thoughts about the Wii. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
The Wii’s success, he said, is based on its uniqueness:
I think the Wii provides very fun experiences for the most part, but it’s kind of a different level of experience; it’s not like these 40-hour involved RPG games as much as it is like these fun toys to pick up and start playing in five minutes. And it’s really fun with a group of people sitting around… It really is more into what I would call the toy market, because most of the Wii games I’ve enjoyed felt more like toys than like games.
The press is all over this quote. Is the Wii really destined for the toy aisle, next to Pokemon and dusty boxes of Trivial Pursuit? In fact, Wright is talking about the creation of niche markets among the consoles.
I think if you have a hardcore gamer that’s 22 years old and he wants to play a first-person shooter, he’s going to go buy an Xbox to play Halo. Microsoft has done a great job of covering that market. So Nintendo said, ‘Ok, we’re not going to go head-to-head with that.’ So Nintendo decided to lean younger and they took the industry in a really interesting direction, where we have games appearing on the Wii that people never would have dreamed of five years ago. And that broadened the market in really interesting ways.
Wright himself is no stranger to creating niche markets. He is best known for making Sim City, the first city-building simulation game, and the many games afterward, including The Sims and Spore. Almost single-handedly, he created a game that spawned an entire industry, one that is still entertaining to this day. Collectively, The Sims line is the bestselling PC franchise in history. Last month was the ten-year anniversary of the first Sim City; since then it has sold 125 million units and generated over $2.5 billion for EA. Figures like that make Avatar seem like a Lego set from 1985.
At Stupid Fun Club, Wright is working on three unannounced projects. They’re not just games though — “the projects span from the world of toys to the information superhighway we all know and love.” Well, he certainly loves that highway: “Every product that we are working on has a web component,” he said. Maybe there will be a new DLC for that classic Sim City on your PC.
It is not entirely clear where the Wii is going to fall in all of this. Sony and Microsoft have defined niches for the PS3 and Xbox. “Each of these platforms is kind of finding their specialty,” Wright said. “It’s just that Nintendo kind of tripped over an unexpectedly larger void.”
Whether Nintendo tripped over anything is open for debate. If the void Wright mentioned was, for instance, the female gaming community, Nintendo knew exactly what it was doing. According to a recent report, Wii has an 80% dominance in the market among women gamers. That’s a stronger showing than Apple in the portable music player market.
Does Wii seem like more of a toy to you than a gaming machine?