SEGA’s complexly-named studio director Constantine Hantzopoulos indicated to GamaSutra and 1UP that the Wii rail shooter Dead Space: Extraction’s unbelievably poor sales since launch (fewer than 10,000 units in a month) served as a “litmus test” for whether or not SEGA – which has nothing to do with EA and had nothing to do with Dead Space: Extraction – would produce Mature-rated titles for the Nintendo Wii platform.
Given that the SEGA-published Madworld and House of the Dead: Overkill, also for the Wii platform, underperformed, and the fact that Dead Space: Extraction got its ass handed to it, Hantzopolous indicated that future Mature-rated titles for the Wii will not be forthcoming from SEGA.
The thing that makes this story odd is that Hantzopolous would so openly and candidly use a competitor’s title as a litmus test. Typically in this business, people don’t talk about their competitors except to disparage them in absurdly ebullient terms that make everyone involved seem like retarded eleven year olds. Hantzopolous’s comments didn’t make mention of Extraction’s quality as a game, just that it sold terribly. His remarks and thinking are based largely on the fact that EA, mighty even in its current decline, couldn’t sell a Mature-rated game on the Wii, even though said game is part of a burgeoning franchise.
If my email box is any indication, many people seem to think that I am anti-Wii. This is not true. Sure, I think the Wii is underpowered for this generation, and I think that Nintendo intentionally marketed it to a non-core segment, but I’m no more anti-Wii than I am anti-minivan. I simply don’t fit into the minivan and Wii segment. It would be odd if I did like it, because I’m a lifetime core gamer and the Wii isn’t the right console for that.
The failure at retail of titles like Madworld, Dead Space: Extraction, and House of the Dead are simply a sign that these games aren’t right for the platform. The Wii is selling like gangbusters on the strength of Wii Fit and party games, plus a very few first-party properties that will always sell. Nintendo’s own Satoru Iwata is quite open about the fact that Wii’s success is dependent on these kinds of games, and while he occasionally laments the fact that third-party franchises aren’t taking off on the Wii, he and his company aren’t doing anything to make that happen… again, unsurprising, because there’s a rule about fixing things that are not broken.
The Wii’s motion controls have been a bit of a revolution, and all major companies are looking more seriously at the idea of motion control. PS3 already has it, of course, though we know they’re working on a hardware-based enhancement. Microsoft’s Project Natal sounds intriguing, and if it works well it might be the kickstart that pushes the troubled 360 out of third place. But the Wii itself, revolutionary controls notwithstanding, is just not the appropriate venue for Mature-rated games. While I personally think that many of the noncore Wii owners could quickly become core gamers if exposed to really great titles, we have to remember that these noncore gamers are not educated in how to shop for good games. They don’t know what they’re looking for; they look at the Wii wall at Best Buy and grab the thing with the most colorful box art. Core gamers know for months what they’re going to purchase, and have a strong background education in various franchise history.
While I understand Nintendo’s protectiveness of its own franchises, the truth is they’d make a(nother) fortune if they allowed some cross-platform opportunities. Obviously they intend to support the Wii first and foremost, but Nintendo’s three key franchises – Mario, Zelda, and Metroid – would all do incredibly well on the PS3 or 360. With Team Ninja responsible for the upcoming Metroid: The Other M (and I’m not sure the world fully appreciates how shocking it is that Nintendo would farm out a franchise like this, particularly to a T&A actioner developer like Team Ninja), perhaps we’re seeing what’s to become the first step in a more global approach to their key franchises. While they might risk diluting their IP, they’d sell millions if they allowed their first-party stuff to appear on – and be designed for, rather than ported to – the core consoles.