The market for video games is changing profoundly, and a comparison of two prominent titles’ recent sales figures shows just how much: Wii Fit, a game largely marketed to women, is outpacing the latest installment of one of the industry’s biggest franchises, Grand Theft Auto.
With some 8.7 million units sold worldwide, Nintendo’s Wii Fit has already grossed far more money than Take-Two’s Grand Theft Auto IV. (Roughly 10.6 million copies of GTA IV have been sold for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 combined, but that game retails at about $60 vs. $90 for Wii Fit.) And though both titles went on sale in the U.S. within three weeks of each other last spring, GTA IV has long ceased to be a top seller. Nintendo’s exercise game, meanwhile, continues selling phenomenally well– about 225,000 units a week for the last couple of months.
At that rate, Wii Fit will outsell GTA IV in absolute units before the end of 2008. Since I whipped up the rough forecast chart below with data from VGChartz.com, a valuable but imperfect reference, I double-checked my prediction with Wedbush Morgan’s Michael Pachter, who is considered by many to be the best gaming sector analyst around.
“Wii Fit is attaching at around a 30 percent rate,” he said via e-mail, meaning that nearly one in three owners of Nintendo’s console are buying Wii Fit, “so I suppose if that continues, it will outsell GTA.”
A blockbuster franchise for nearly a decade, Grand Theft Auto’s fantasy world of antisocial behavior has helped solidify a stereotype of gamers as 18-34 males, but the market has expanded far beyond that sector. Wii Fit’s success is the most prominent, emblematic example of that shift. And an ironic one at that: Every edition of GTA has aroused complaints over its portrayal of women. Yet this year, it’s women consumers who will help steal Grand Theft Auto IV’s thunder.
Michael Pachter characterized the notion of Wii Fit outselling GTA IV as “less of a comment on GTA than a comment on the potential for other games to thrive.” In that regard, he’s even more interested in the Wii Fit’s Balance Board peripheral, for which other developers are making new titles. “I consider Wii Fit more of a platform than a game,” he wrote me, “as I think the compelling feature is the potential for other games like Shaun White, Rayman, or even a new Tony Hawk game. And don’t forget Jillian Michaels Fitness.” Most of those titles (sports, family, and fitness games) come out this holiday season, and if Pachter is right, many more will follow. Then Wii Fit won’t just outsell GTA IV– thanks in large part to the women who bought the game in droves, its domination will drive much of the industry’s future development, too.