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.
To think that DSE, HotD:O and MW are three of my most-loved games in 2009… On any platform… Something’s definitely wrong with the Wii…
I hate the Wii.
It’s not that I don’t like the look of the console, on the contrary, it’s the greater looking on the market. It’s not because of the Wii Remote Control or the fact its made by Nintendo. No, really my hatred stems from the simple fact that the Wii wins the award (by a mile) for the greatest missed opportunity in videogame history.
As with all things Nintendo, their ingenuity and ability to venture boldly into the unknown is without question and will always draw praise. The development of the Wii Remote Control however should have been one of the greatest technical achievements since Mario moved to 3D. Instead, the initial launch was set back by a control system that although showed promise, eventually lacked the accuracy of conventional control methods. As a result, hardened gamers all too used to the accuracy of their control pads were left disappointed and often frustrated at the lack of responsiveness. Children, parents and grandparents however revelled in the accessibility and throw away game play. Nintendo and with a seemingly midis touch for all things marketing, jumped at the opportunity to truly tap into family entertainment.
Consequently Nintendo and 3rd party development studios continued to further ostracise their loyal fan base by marching on into the realm of gimmick-game play™ . Throwaway, shallow games with instant child and parent appeal, resulting in low production costs but maximum profit, further strengthening the family multi-player image.
As a result, we now have a Fitness Console. Which is why everything other than such throwaway titles fail to shift units- the audience just isn’t there any more.
I don’t know that the audience of hardened gamers was ever there for the Wii. It was a three way race when the first units shipped and the hardened gamers were either going for the established Xbox or the new PS3. One look at Wii Sports with its goofy legless bobblehead characters was all it took for most serious gamers to turn away in disgust. Gods of War anyone?
Nintendo, meanwhile, didn’t really care what the press was saying. Or the fan base. Nintendo was following what they called the “blue water” strategy. Go to a place away from the competition and make it their own. And they did. Nintendo didn’t want hardened gamers. Nintendo wanted people who’d never imagined they would become players of console games. Like folks in retirement homes.
Personally, I found story-based games to be a real bore on the Wii. The physicality of the Wiimote works against traditional narrative. Wii games are shaped by the console’s capabilities and use stillness as a type of punctuation, a pause between actions. And when one forgets how much effort one is being encouraged to put into a Wii game (bowling, anyone?), the next day will provide ample reminders.
It’ll be interesting to see if the other consoles can solve the story/controller issue once they start shipping games that make use of non-traditional control systems. Will we wind up standing in front of a monitor displaying a PS3 or Xbox game for hours on end? Stay tuned…
Thanks to CES, we now have an idea how the other consoles are solving the story/controller issue.
Here’s The New York Times: “Microsoft has demonstrated games like dodge ball where people can jump, hurl balls at opponents and dart out of the way of incoming balls using natural motions. Other games have people contorting to fit through different shapes and performing skateboard tricks.”
A new day dawns….
I’ll be honest, Nintendo has totally lost me purely based on the cynicism with which they’ve founded their new empire on. The marketing campaigns behind the DS and Wii over here drive me mad. They’re so coldly calculated and scheming, cutting into the conscience of non-gaming demographics with surgical precision and a modest helping of Britains celebrities. Whether it’s the Zen-like clean and white aesthetic for the lifestyle crowds, or PJ and Duncan masturbating over each other while some smug family chimes in about how great it is to ‘really get some competition going’. Look, I don’t mind new demographics joining our beloved pastime but when most of these are the same groups who’d typically look down their collective noses at our fascination with the medium, and the only games they consider worth spending ANY time on are game representations of real sports and activities and/or some half baked self-improving waggle-turd then they can just fuck off. My girlfriends mum stopped playing Wii Fit the moment she realised she wasn’t losing weight – HAHA! Don’t play it for fun or anything!!
Sorry I had to get that out.
“I don’t mind new demographics joining our beloved pastime…”
Nor do I, but that’s not what they seem to be doing. The experience they have playing Wii bowling or Microsoft dodge ball in no way resembles the experience we have playing The Fall Trilogy or Demon’s Souls. There is no common ground when it comes to the play experience. Which makes it a simple matter to keep the prejudice about our kind of “gaming” alive.
It may be that kinesthetic gaming has no relation to other forms and that there is little point in hoping that those interested in it will ever understand what we consider gaming.
I totally agree. There may be some who take an interest in other types of games and possibly move on to richer experiences but I think generally speaking the kinesthetic and self-improving masses will remain there perpetuating their own secular existense with titles like Wii Fit Sports Deluxe and Bouncy-Bouncy-Happy-Time!.
Having said all this, the adventure genre has seen something of a resurgence in recent months, just as casual gaming has got a footing. I wonder if there is a link between these typically non-gaming types and the slower paced, more cerebral games of yore?
Perhaps the Wii will be a “gateway console” (as in “gateway drug”) that will lead folks to richer experiences. Or, as you suggest, not.
My wife and I happen to get a great deal of enjoyment out of our Wii, but that may be because we took it on its own terms from the beginning. We enjoy the kinesthetics of it and retreat to our computers for more cerebral experiences.
As for a link between non-gaming types and adventure/casual games, couldn’t say. I would tend to doubt it, but don’t have a firm opinion one way or another.
Me and my girlfriend burnt ours out in a few months with friends – too much Wii Sports and Mii creation! I thought Warioware was brilliant. Unfortunately there wasn’t much else that did the trick back then so the Wii started gathering dust when it wasn’t running Gamecube games!
After finishing Metroid 3 I lent my brother the Wii and there has been quite a few interesting titles appear since then. Namely Little King’s Story, Boom Blox (for multiplayer), Lost Winds and I’ve heard great things about the new Silent Hill title as well.