Stop me if you've heard this one: despite its iron-clad grip on the sales charts, the Wii is headed for heartbreak. Sony and Microsoft are catching up. Nintendo's day of reckoning is right around the corner, just over the horizon, a few months away.

This, dear gamers, will be the year the Wii falls.


The Wii begins its slide to third.

Of course, industry pundits have been making that bold prediction pretty much every year since the Wii shipped in November of 2006, but it's yet to come to pass. Despite a couple of minor stumbles last year, the Wii reasserted itself as the king of the consoles with a record-setting December leading to another solid month atop charts in January.

So why will 2010 be the year the Wii starts to sink? Because for the first time ever, Nintendo has admitted as much.

During an interview at a recent media summit, Nintendo executive VP Cammie Dunaway told Wired that going into the Wii's fifth year, Nintendo is "probably not going to sell as many units next year as we sold this year." She goes on to explain the expected slump to be little more than the "course of a cyclical business."

A sales dip is hardly shocking: considering they've sold nearly 70 million Wii's worldwide, they're quite literally running out of consumers. They're bound to slow down sooner or later. But Dunaway told Gamespot that Nintendo isn't planning on unveiling a "Wii 2" any time soon, fueling the belief that the company is going on continue riding this horse until it stops paying off.

Trouble is, for big third-party companies like EA and Capcom, it stopped paying off months ago.

In a conference call last November, EA CEO John Riccitiello expressed his frustration with lagging sales of EA Wii games, telling investors that the Wii was "a little weaker than we had certainly anticipated," adding that "there is no lack of frustration to be doing that at precisely the time where we have the strongest third-party share." He went on to admit that EA was "missing it" on the Wii and hoped for a turnaround.

He's not the only one at EA with concerns. Alain Tascan, head of the company's Montreal studio, told Edge Online that the Wii market was "unpredictable," and that his division was going to focus on big action titles rather than cater to the Wii crowd. "It doesn't mean that we are going to abandon the Wii, but as a studio we want to be ready for new challenges," he diplomatically explained.

And EA isn't alone in getting cold feet. Heads of other major third party companies like Capcom, THQ and Ubisoft have been concerned about Wii game sales and have indicated a shift in focus to the other systems. That's bad news for Nintendo, but great news for the competition: Sony claims to have seen a boost in interest in the Playstation 3 as a direct result of third party woes on the Wii.

Even those with zero stake in the Wii's success believe its dominating days are numbered. Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter expects more price cuts from Sony and Microsoft in 2010, which will effectively "erode the Wii's competitive price advantage" unless Nintendo makes cuts as well.

Doom and gloom left and right, except for one thing: the Wii is still on a rampage, and Nintendo isn't planning on letting its massive lead slip away without a fight. And by the looks of it, they're bringing out the big guns.

Wii players

Regardless of its sales, it's still fun to play.

The company recently announced that its two biggest 2010 games, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M, will arrive in the next couple months rather than being held back until the lucrative holiday season. That gives the company room to release more heavy hitters later in the year, including the anticipated next installment in the Legend of Zelda series, and possibly a few more surprises.

A new Mario, a new Metroid and new Zelda in the same year? That's a Wii owner's dream -- and it could be a nightmare for those insisting the Wii will finally end its reign in 2010.

How about it? Is the Wii destined to hit the skids this year, or will it win once again? Sound off in the comments.