When the NPD Group released its October sales figures yesterday, one title was noticeably absent from the top 10--Wii Music. For weeks, cash-flush Nintendo has been heavily hyping the title, the last of the "Big Four" nontraditional properties--along with Wii Sports, Wii Play, and Wii Fit--conceived to appeal to nongamers. It even brought out legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto to show off his latest creation to the US press.
Unfortunately, it seems not even a media blitz aided by the charms of the creator of Donkey Kong could spark Wii Music fever. According to raw NPD data, Wii Music sold just under 81,000 units in the 11 days after it went on sale on October 20. The number is merely a fraction of the 687,700 units Wii Fit moved domestically in a similar period when it went on sale on April 19.
Though many will blame the discordant live jam session at Nintendo's E3 2008 conference for Wii Music's lackluster debut, there are two more likely reasons. First and foremost, the rhythm genre is saturated, with Rock Band and Guitar Hero duking it out for supremacy as Rock Revolution, Ultimate Band, and others struggle to catch up.
Secondly, Wii Music is the only one of the Big Four that isn't bundled with hardware. Thanks to being packed in with the normally $39.99 Wii Remote, the $49.99 Wii Play continues to sell well, moving 282,000 units last month. The Wii Balance Board's unique appeal helped Wii Fit sell 487,000 units in October at $89.99, while Wii Sports sold 803,000 units--by virtue of being packed in with the $249 Wii console itself.
Naturally, Nintendo executives tried to put a brave face on things. "We're predicting that it’s going to be an evergreen title," Nintendo executive vice president of sales and marketing Cammie Dunaway told MTV. "And if you look at titles like Brain Age, it's about the same as what ‘Brain Age’ did during it’s first few weeks and went on to sell 2.5 million copies. Wii Fit certainly had a larger launch than that. But I think that people are starting to understand Wii Music."