Away from Planet GTA and the column-inch-hogging torrent of associated mega-numbers, another stat smuggled through in a press release this week said just as much about today's games market as any midnight queues outside your local ASDA.
According to UK sales monitor Chart-Track, Wii Fit, which tops this week's all-formats listing, was bought by "roughly one in 10 Wii console owners over its first two days of release". It was the sixth-fastest-selling title in UK chart history, outstripped only by the powerhouse GTA, Gran Turismo and Halo franchises. The figure's even more impressive when you consider Wii Fit costs GBP 69.99 and most retailers' launch day supplies had already been accounted for by pre-orders well ahead of last Friday's release. And that we're mostly clinically obese and bone idle over here.
But Wii Fit's performance over the coming months is likely to be of even greater significance. Whether or not fatties, rolling around with stitch on crumb-covered carpets, consign the Balance Board to the back of the cake cupboard, it's expected to sell consistently for a long time, in a way that all-about-the-opening-weekend blockbusters like Halo simply do not.
It's all down to that horribly imprecise, vague and elusive term the "casual gamer". We can largely blame Nintendo for all the knock-off pet/pony crap clogging up store shelves. Yet Mr and Mrs Casual keep buying them. And we despise them for their risible ignorance and go back to getting wanked off for 20 dollars in Liberty City. But are we missing the point?
EA Casual is the US publisher's year-old division dedicated to flogging games to - horribly imprecise, vague, elusive term alert! - the "non-core gamer". EA reckons it can rake in USD 1 billion by 2010 just on casual games. So it figured it could afford renting out one of those Trendy London Townhouses that smell of Shoreditch to show off its wares both to the 'lifestyle' press (smelled more like Soho), and us (Camden, kebabs), firmly believing that in amongst the virtual zoo of pets and ponies there's stuff that will appeal to gamers.
Not unlike Nintendo Wii House (which EGTV toured ages ago), the EA House has been set up to show casual games "the way people play them". There was a kids' area with Littlest Pet Shop and the Steven Spielberg-designed Boom Blox; gaming portal Pogo.com in the home office; Monopoly in the family room; Harry Potter spellcasting in the home cinema area; and EA Mobile games in the bathroom. Really. Because that's where 10 percent of EA's users play games, apparently.
A big chunk of EA Casual's output is targeted at little girls (with the likes of Hasbro mega-brand Littlest Pet Shop hoping to cash in on the success of Nintendogs) and ladies of a certain age (Pogo.com is aimed at 35-plus women, we're told). While timeless brands like Monopoly carry obvious appeal to families and gift-buyers.
Of greatest interest to us at least were Spielberg's Boom Blox and the return of Harry Potter, so we spent the most time in the house mucking about with this pair. Boom Blox, a 3D puzzle game, is the first title to emerge out of Steven Spielberg's collaboration with EA. Apparently a big gamer, we're told the original idea for this Wii-only title was from the man himself, and he's been heavily involved ever since.
"He was surprisingly hands-on," says senior producer Amir Rahimi. "He came up with the original idea and met with us generally every week if he wasn't off shooting Indiana Jones."
In short, Spielberg is staking his creative reputation on this game. There's no avoiding the line "A Steven Spielberg Game" that prefixes the title. "He understands what it takes to make a game," Rahimi adds, before offering insight into his role in the development process:
"Take all the features we want to make, for example - we'd write them down on little sticky note cards, and then put something up on a board saying, 'Definitely Do', 'Maybe Do', 'Definitely Not Do'. And we allowed all the creative leads to stick the features up.
"And if you look at the distribution, on the development team it was even across the three, but then if you look at Spielberg's everything was either in 'Definitely Do' or 'Definitely Not'. That sums up his attitude. He has to make multi-million decisions like this, so I guess you kind of get used to that mindset."
And from our time playing the game, it actually looks like it could be a lot of fun. Boom Blox is played without the nunchuk attachment. Essentially, the levels and game types are all based on the idea of the inherent, atavistic satisfaction in building up to smash down. Think football hooligans playing Jenga.
In its most basic form the game offers you a pile of blocks and tasks you with knocking them all down by throwing baseballs in the least number of attempts possible. Holding down B lets you rotate around the blocks to get the right angle, pointing at your target and holding A locks-on, then a throwing action unleashes a ball - and the strength of the throwing action and timing in releasing your 'hold' on the ball (i.e. letting go of A) affect its power. The interface is smooth and effective.
You can hurl as many balls as you like. The skill element comes in judging exactly which blocks to target so you keep the throws down to a minimum - and there are Gold, Silver and Bronze awards available depending on how quickly you can achieve a total demolition.
Multiple block types add depth and variety and will need to be skilfully manipulated to achieve the top ranks. And if you're tired of throwing, a neat bungie-style pulling mechanic enables you to pull apart structures in other stages.
Throw in 400 stages, a multiplayer mode and level designer (which we haven't seen yet) and there's plenty to keep puzzle fans occupied. With the game out on 9th May we'll have a full review soon, but on the early evidence it's not hard to see this proving a popular family diversion in Wii households, whether in Shoreditch or Slough.
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince the movie will be out in time for Chrimbo, and once again EA is lining up the tie-in game of the penultimate chapter of JK Rowling's series. We were able to try out a couple of game modes on the Wii version.
Wizard duelling is back, with gestures refined. Frantically casting the Wiimote forwards produces a flurry of sparks with limited precision, whereas holding it back to charge before unleashing produces a deadlier direct blow. Meanwhile shielding is achieved by crossing nunchuk and remote across the chest - timed correctly, this reflects an attack back at your foe. It all feels satisfyingly involved, and we're told there will be more spells and moves to unlock as you progress.
Potion class was the other mini-game on offer. A wide range of motions are employed to pick up vessels, pour steaming, neon liquids into a cauldron, stir and shake - with test scores granted according to the precision of your preparations.
These features will also be implemented on PS3 for Sixaxis compatibility. "We thought, 'shall we just try porting the Wii stuff straight to Sixaxis and seeing if it works?'" says lead game desiginer Chris Roberts. "'Oh yeah, it does!' But we give you the option. We don't want to fall into the mistake that Lair made." Amen to that.
While the core experience of guiding Harry and chums around a lavishly recreated Hogwarts will remain, there are a couple of notable changes we were told about. The conversation system is being completely overhauled and the team has been working closely with stablemate BioWare to adopt some of the advanced techniques it used in Mass Effect.
And the animation system is motion-captured for the first time in the series, using digital scans of the actors as opposed to hand-drawn assets. "We're also changing the camera," says Roberts. "Last time it was more Resident Evil and that was tough. We've now gone for a more traditional third-person view."
This school year Harry also becomes Quidditch Captain, so expect a heavy dose of broomstick battling in-between the main adventuring - but this will be more of a "rollercoaster" experience, than a pitch-wide free-for-all. It's all obviously kiddy-skewed, but diehard Potter fans should already know what to expect in terms of the quality.
Going back to Wii Fit (given your correspondent's current Fitness Age, it's a must), the difference between Nintendo's greatest mainstream successes and the average 'kids', 'casual', 'non-core' game is that the Japanese firm isn't making games just for one group of people. It makes them, cheesily, for "everyone", but often well enough that they are enjoyed by gamers of all creeds. While a great deal of EA's line-up is highly targeted (and will sell like hotcakes, whatever we think), promising projects like Boom Blox look to have the goal of genuinely broad appeal well within their sights.