Does Nintendo even need third parties anymore?

For the first couple of years in the Wii life cycle, the “Wii needs third parties to survive” argument had some merit. That’s the way things always worked, from the NES days to the current king of consoles, the PlayStation 2.

But taking a look at what Blake found this evening got me thinking. Your personal feelings on Nintendo and its non-traditional games aside, does Nintendo really need the third parties anymore–or is it the other way around?

As Blake’s post showed, only 20% of the top selling Wii titles to date were non-Nintendo. And yet, Nintendo’s consoles are the most popular consoles to grace this fine earth in a long time, in spite of the fact that third parties continue to struggle for traction. You can call that biased fanboy opinion all you want, but the facts are pretty clear: Even during a serious recession, Nintendo’s consoles actually sold MORE this Black Friday than they did in the same period in 2007.

Also a fact is that the industry, particularly significant players like EA, are losing money on franchise games and on new games meant to reinvent their brand (Mirror’s Edge, for example). Several other smaller developers weren’t so lucky, and folded in 2008. Some of the survivors will consolidate in 2009 to remain afloat.

But so far, Nintendo could care less. Not only are their titles the ones that sell the best on the Wii, their titles are also some of the ones that dominate top 10 lists for months at a time (e.g. Mario Kart Wii). For an industry that, for the most part, foolishly considers a one week reign at the top a “success,” that’s a pretty amazing feat indeed. It would seem, at least to me anyway, that it’s actually the fledgling third parties that need the Wii and it’s huge install base right now, more than the Wii needing third parties. This is year three for the system, and it’s not slowing down, it’s speeding up. The numbers speak for themselves.