Mar 15, 2007

Wii's High Online Usage Stats Misleading

A number of articles are beginning to surface, heralding the high spike in online users experienced by the Wii in the last couple months. (here's one such article.)

The stats quoted show the number of unique online users on the Wii has risen to 1.6 million. A number higher than even those put up by the 360's XBOX Live users, at 1.2 million.

Taken at face value, these reports inject a lot of false hope into the hearts of those rooting for the success of Nintendo's David underdog at the expense of the other two goliaths in the market.

A couple of flags go up immediately, however, as soon as these figures are quoted - since no industry-journalists covering this latest stories seem to be analyzing what these "unique" users are doing while "online" with their consoles.

Not one of these writers bothered to point out that the Wii is yet to have produced for it, even one game utilizing online capabilities. Had this question be asked... then certainly someone would have realized that obviously no one among the 1.6 million of these users are actually playing games while they're online.

The number of Xbox Live users spending their online time is much easier to calculate since Microsoft charges for the service. And although I'm certainly not advocating that approach for Nintendo, it has to be remembered that the Wii utilizes a feature called "Wii Connect24." Those familiar with the feature while understand that the Wii not only is the Wii extremely simple to get online, (built-in wireless modem can pick up a variety of signals from your existing network, your neighbour's, etc...) but it's constantly exchanging information and updates with the Nintendo mothership. Hence the name, "Connect24."

So theoretically, it's possible for Nintendo to count as a "unique user," a Wii owner who has never used the Opera web browser, downloaded a virtual console game, or allowed a Mii to travel. However, as long as their Wii is picking up their neighbour's internet connection, their Wii is having a round the clock discussion with Nintendo headquarters.

Just what percentage of Nintendo's online users fall into this category is impossible to determine... but given that there isn't a single online game out yet for the console, it's safe to say that the Wii's online capabilities are not being used for the same thing by "unique users," as those attributed to the Xbox.

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