Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Wii bit of fun

After reading an interview from Eidos' CTO Julien Merceron I couldn't help but blog about it. The thought put forward is that if 3rd party games don't sell on the Wii this Christmas, 3rd parties will decrease their support, and that will hurt the Wii sales. (read it here)

The Wii is really leaving people scratching their heads as it seems that most 3rd parties aren't sure what to do. However, I think the clear thing to do is to make good games. No 3rd party has yet tried something as ambitious as Zelda, Mario Galaxy, Super Paper Mario or Metroid on the platform. That's understandable as a year ago the 3rd parties were caught totally surprised when the Wii sold and the PS3 floundered. Immediately effort went into making Wii games, but they've mostly been low-effort games such as the library of Ubisoft ports and rushed EA efforts like EA Playground (no depth) and Boogie (no fun).

But let's think about the logic put forward by Eidos.
1 - 3rd party games aren't selling
2 - if they don't sell this Christmas 3rd parties will decrease support
3 - if 3rd parties decrease support the Wii won't sell well.

Do you see the problem? #3 isn't supported by numbers 1 & 2.
If currently condition 1 exists and the Wii is selling well, than condition 1 does not have any impact on the Wii selling well. Removing games that are already not selling well won't impact the Wii.

The second issue is the one that I alluded to earlier. 3rd party games aren't selling well because, 3rd parties aren't making good games for the Wii.

What is the highest profile 3rd party release so far on the Wii? I think it is Red Steel, an early effort that was a decent try, but beyond that, what high profile games have been made? Mario & Sonic at the Olympics isn't exactly 3rd party. Guitar Hero 3 is, and it's probably the highest profile, however its not exclusive by any means, and most would state that it was the number 3 sku for the Activision in terms of importance.

If 3rd party developers don't make good games they aren't going to sell on the Wii. Blaming Nintendo for the problem is disingenuous. Unless of course the blaming is something along the lines of "we can't compete with Nintendo on the Wii, their games are so much better than ours that we don't stand a chance." No CTO in their right mind will state that, but its a lot closer to the truth of the matter, but it has probably more to do with publisher's not understanding what a good game for the Wii is.

As soon as I see any 3rd party game near the quality of the top teir 1st party releases on the Wii (or even the DS for that matter) and receiving a lot of love from its developer (sorry Zach and Wiki, that's where you get off), and it doesn't sell well, then we can talk about the problem being Nintendo. Until then, 3rd party developers should focus more on making solid products and less on blaming Nintendo for their shovelware not selling.

Interestingly, the top 10 Wii games for September are as follows:
Wii Play W/ Remote (Nintendo)
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Nintendo)
Mario Party 8 (Nintendo)
Carnival Games (Take-Two Interactive)
My Sims (Electronic Arts)
Mario Strikers: Charged (Nintendo)
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 (Electronic Arts)
Madden NFL 08 (Electronic Arts)
Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo)
Resident Evil 4 (Capcom)

5/10 games are by Nintendo, 3/10 by EA and the other 3 are split. RE4 was initially an exclusive for the GCN (and was the top selling GCN game the year it was released).

The more interesting point is one that Bill Harris made in regards to Carnival Games being the best selling 3rd party game despite getting horrible reviews. I wanted to echo his point.

Reviews on mulitiplayer games are scoring the games badly because they are looking at the single player experience. I've rented a lot of multiplayer games and my biggest surprise has been that games that received horrible reviews like Donkey Kong Barrel Blast and NBA Live 08 are actually good games. However, if you play them alone they are horrible. Since most of my play is with my kids, and we play A LOT, I have a very different perspective on what a fun game is. EA Playground - not fun, because it isn't fun playing it together. NBA Live 08, great fun because we can really enjoy playing together. However, in playing single player on both those games my opinion is reversed. EA Playground is a great single-player game with decent depth. NBA Live 08 is a horrible single-player basketball (as usual). The problem began with low scores on Wii Sports, and as a single player it isn't great, but as a multiplayer it is without question one of the best games every made.

However, review scores are clearly focused on the single player experience or the multiplayer experience where each person is located in different locations and connected by the internet. There is a new type of gamer, those who play together in groups. Reviewers are starting to note the trend, but they aren't sure how to review for it. Most interesting was the recent Mario and Sonic at the Olympics review by GamePro that suggested casual gamers would like it (though the reviewer wasn't a casual gamer). I think a lot of reviewers are starting to feel like they are having to guess a game might score better for a different crowd...and they are starting to realize, the Wii has succeeded in bringing in players who the reviewers have very little in common with.

End result?
Developers for the Wii need to focus on making great games first. RE4 is selling (over 1 million copies so far), Metroid is selling. Good games sell. Carnival Games is a good game, but I think most publishers, like most reviewers don't understand why, and THAT is why publishers are having a hard time selling games on the Wii.

Those publishers who understand why are going to find themselves selling plenty of games on the Wii. Publishers who try the more traditional approach of putting their third string developers on a port of some key title from another platform, so that they can say they have games on the Wii, are going to find themselves at a loss as to why not only Mario Party and Metroid, but also Carnival Games and Cooking Mama sell and their games don't. In either case, learning who the market is and making good games for that market is the key. The only thing that has changed on the Wii is who that market is. Some developers are still trying to figure that out.

1 comment:

Russell Carroll said...

Looks like Ubisoft gets it :)
That was posted before my blog...but I just found it. I agree with the approach whole-heartedly. Eidos and others should take note.