Dancing wii’s troubles away

Ben Parfitt
Dancing wii’s troubles away

The surprise news that Ubisoft’s Just Dance topped the All Formats Chart last month was, let’s be honest, a bit of a jaw-dropper. While the game had grown in popularity since its debut, rising from No.100 to No.3 in the space of six weeks, few would have expected it to seize the No.1 spot – least of all from the grasp of Activision Blizzard’s revenue goliath Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

The game’s victory is multi-faceted. In addition to dethroning one of the world’s biggest selling entertainment products ever, it has undermined the conventional wisdom that has dogged Nintendo: it turns out third-party publishers can succeed on the Wii.

The charts speak for themselves. While it’s true that no game holds the top spot forever – Modern Warfare 2’s decline was inevitable given that millions of consumers have already purchased the game – that does not change the fact that the odds were arguably against Just Dance ever becoming No.1. But Nintendo and Ubisoft both believe the game proves that the Wii’s ship certainly hasn’t sailed yet.

“I think it is indicative of the current market and how many actual Wii owners there are in the UK that are looking for a game that is pure and simple fun like Just Dance,” says Ubisoft brand manager Rachael Grant.

“If the game is the right game and is targeted at the right audience then there is no reason why third-party publishers can’t become successful on Wii. Just Dance has clearly offered something unique to casual gamers and is not trying to be something it isn’t – it does what it says on the tin and consumers have embraced its simplicity and concept.”

Nintendo’s senior product manager Robert Lowe adds: “It is not hard to have successful titles on Wii and DS if the right commitment is made behind the right product. There is a tendency to assume that third-party games don’t perform on Wii or DS – this is simply not true.

“Wii has the biggest home console installed base and is the most successful home console of this generation. It is a potential goldmine for publishers who are willing to support their titles on the format.”

And boy did Ubisoft get the support right. As MCV reported just before Christmas, the industry’s average marketing spend was down for Q4 2009 but campaigns were still essential to success. Ubisoft’s extensive efforts to promote Just Dance were a testament to this, making it impossible to deny that marketing played a significant role in the game’s achievements.

“Just Dance’s success is down to all the elements of our marketing campaign working together,” says Grant.

“Trial and awareness, the current dance craze going on at the moment, great word of mouth, a targeted TV campaign, online and print media support – these all culminated in a great success for Just Dance.”

To give the target audience a greater understanding of Just Dance and its selling points, the game was featured as part of Ubisoft’s nationwide shopping tours, including the Imagine Tour, giving consumers a chance to try it out for themselves. From this, word of mouth spread among the public – something Grant believes had a vital part to play in Just Dance’s rise through the charts.

The heavily targeted TV campaign was also crucial. In addition to ad spots secured during key TV shows such as The X Factor, Just Dance was also featured on programmes such as The Gadget Show and Sky One’s Angela & Friends. 

All this proves that if publishers make the effort to market their titles effectively to the coveted casual audience – which despite its breadth can be somewhat elusive with its irregular spending habits – they can be successful even on the most competitive format.

“Just Dance is a well-produced, fun and relevant game that has received full marketing support from Ubisoft,” says Lowe. “They have invested in the marketing in the title both pre-Christmas and after, having embraced the new sales curve seen by the expanded audience.”

Toppling Modern Warfare 2 from the top of the charts is more than just a triumph in the ongoing battles between rival publishers – it’s a great example of shift in the UK’s general gaming demographic, and of the dwindling dominance of self-proclaimed hardcore gamers.

Of all the titles that could have risen up in the wake of Call Of Duty’s nine-week chart-topping spree, it was a casual dancing game for Wii that emerged victorious – despite the recent arrival of ‘traditional’ hits such as Bayonetta and Darksiders. Ubisoft, however, believes this was inevitable.

“The gaming industry has definitely expanded and changed over the years but there has always been an audience of casual gamers out there who are looking for something that is made with them in mind,” says Grant.

“The demographic is not so much changing as evolving and adapting to their surrounding environment. As technology evolves, it is inevitable that more and more people are going to look to new resources for their entertainment fix, such as video games.

“The fact that Just Dance was the game to knock Modern Warfare 2 off the top spot shows that the gaming demographic out there is as much casual as it is core and that the casual market is very much alive and kicking. There is a huge audience for fun, social party games that breaks down barriers and brings everyone together.”

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