Numbers aren’t happy for Platinum Games’ latest Madworld, the artistically gory black-and-white-and-red-all-over chainsaw brawler for the Wii. NPD reports that U.S. sales for the title hit a pathetic 66,000 for the month of March, and this in a period when we’re not seeing a lot of console blockbusters jockeying for attention. It’s a pity, but not unexpected.
Madworld was never for everyone, and rather cool reviews from most critics didn’t help the situation. The real problem lies in the fact that the game’s for the Wii, and when it comes to the Wii, perception is finally catching up with reality. Sales of the hardware have tanked in Japan and are slippery sloping in the west; the attachment rate is near zero, and even the greatest Wii apologists are beginning to see the writing on the wall for the console.
I’ve got nothing against the Wii, and I know there are some great games for it, but truth is Nintendo allowed mountains of bad-to-worse shovelware party games to overrun the system, depending on megahits like Wii Fit to carry on the illusion that it was a successful console.
Technologically the Wii is unable to compete, but that alone isn’t a serious issue; the core technical issue with the Wii is that the vaunted control system is unreliable at best, and game developers haven’t yet come up with a truly intuitive control system for it. That the Wii only registers your move one out of every three or four tries is a bit of a problem for them, I’d imagine.
And there’s the perception issue as well. Wii is seen as a toy for children and grandmothers. The two seriously mature games we’ve seen so far, No More Heroes and now Madworld, both tanked at retail. Not because they’re bad games (review scores suggest both are at least mediumly good), but because no one interested in that kind of game would go looking for it on the Wii.
Platinum Games formed from the shambles of Clover Studio, which gave us Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and God Hand. That’s some pretty artistic stuff, but so far we’re not seeing much of the same from Platinum, which next will be offering up the tawdry Bayonetta. Personally I’d hoped to see Madworld do well, because its visual style – while not original, Vigil: Blood Bitterness did exactly the same thing first – is really cool, and may have encouraged developers to try new things visually. Unfortunately I was expecting a little more intellectualism in the game as well; as a commentary on reality TV and the depths to which we’ll all eventually sink to get entertained, it comes up depressingly short.