Saturday, December 12, 2009

Looks like the Jury is out on the Wii....

Develop Jury posted an article called "The Wii Dilemma". In the article, a round-table of developers discussed the problems with why it's so difficult to sell games on the Wii. Let's see what these professionals have to say about the Wii.

David Amor, Creative Director, Relentless Software:
Is the Wii alive to anyone except Nintendo at the moment? A couple of years ago I took calls from EA asking us to consider developing for Wii. My answer then is the same as it is now: the Wii consumer is well served by first party Nintendo software and they rarely step away from the franchises they’re familiar with. Being a third party publisher with new IP on Wii is a commercially dangerous position. It’s a great machine but I doubt I’ll ever make a game for it.”

Ed Daly, General Manager, Zoe Mode:
The Wii was all freshness and innovation but there’s a danger of that being lost in a glut of derivative games. Our experience is that fear that over-supply and fatigue from the mainstream Wii adopters is holding back some publishers and suppressing dev budgets – but there are plenty of great ideas as yet unexploited.
David Amor should rethink that statement. Why exactly is the consumer better served by the first party offerings? The answer would most likely be that because they're not being satisfied by what the third party majority is offering. Consumers don't want tests to see if a certain game will work on the Wii, nor do they want watered down experiences. Consumers are smarter than that.

Also the general manager has little room to talk about "derivative games" considering their lineup consists of about the same. Eye toy games don't strike me as "compelling software" .

Anonymous – studio head at a leading international developer:

The Wii has, and will continue to, open up gaming to a much broader demographic than the other consoles have been able to. The accessibility provided by the Wiimote removes a barrier that scares many ‘non-traditional’ gamers from playing video games. However, the limited power of the console means it is difficult for it to compete with the very latest generation of games on PS3 and 360, at least in terms of the ‘wow factor’.
I think there is still a big potential market for Wii games which are based on accessible and original gameplay for a whole range of gamers from both the core gaming world and new entrants. However the relative ease of making a Wii game in comparison to PS3 and 360 development, means it has become too easy to flood the market with under-developed product which have the potential to confuse and disappoint the public. A few more high quality, high profile Wii only games would add much to its market profile.

High profile software would help, but the big problem is who's going to step up and do this? It's pretty obvious that the forumla of "Monkey See, Monkey do" isn't holding up this generation and won't hold up in the future. However as we slowly start to realize this, we're still suffering through more of the same.

Also "Wow factor" of the HD games only lasts but so long. What is in those games after the wow wears off? I like being wowed by the graphics in games, but after that goes away am I going to be interested in a 4 hour long pretty game with broken controls? this is something to take into extreme consideration.

Gary Penn, Creative Director, Denki Ltd:
I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with Nintendo. I love aspects of their projected attitude, like their child-like innocence and their belief that the sheer power of the technology isn't as important as what you do with it, which has resulted in some incomparable software and hardware – and plenty of tribute acts.
I hate most of what's done with the Wii – including most of its 'operating' system. I can't be arsed with most of the games on it apart from some of Nintendo's, but I have infinitely more fun playing with the Wii and my kids than I do any other platform.

The Wii's not exactly a barrel of laughs to work on either, especially after Xbox. It's a real love-hate challenge to get the most out of the Wii Remote. You have to fake it big time to really make it work and no one else seems to fake it as well Nintendo.
I guess most of the industry's still trying to be too clever for its own good.
Nobody Fakes it like Nintendo, however Nobody likes waggle fests either. I've played way too many Wii games that were just "shake the remote" to make things happen, and this basically ruins the entire experience. The early Smackdown vs Raw games for Wii are prime examples of this. Waggle to punch and kick then waggle to irish whip, then waggle to elbow drop and slam? Yeah that's not what I expected when i signed on for motion controls. That's faking it and failing. When I play good games that use motion well it's usually motion as a way to expand on the standard controls. No More Heroes does this,The Conduit does this, Mario Galaxy does this, NSMB Wii does this. That's where the bar is obviously set.

Martin Hollis, CEO, Zoonami:
To make a game that truly uses the potential of the Wii Remote requires several things.

Firstly you will need imagination. You must unlearn what you have learned and put away cynical thoughts such as "it is just a gimmick" or "buttons are better". This degree of open-mindedness is not easy to find.
Our industry is focused on incremental evolution of tried-and-tested mechanics, interactions and input devices. Our industry is focused inwards on itself, and on its most loyal followers.
Secondly you will need patience. To give an example today's button-based platform game relies on over twenty years of game development across the world. Your first Wii Remote game will not compete.
Thirdly you will need humility. You need humility because you will be making games for people who are unlike yourself. Therefore you will need to place their wishes above yours.
I agree with this mindset. This goes back to the whole notion that you shouldn't make a game for yourself. if you go into the game with that mindset then you're doomed to failure. Also a successful game is going to require some imagination. ports and rehashes aren't going to cut it anymore.

Owen Daly-Jones, Director, PlayableGames:
The strongest innovation from Nintendo and the Wii has been the controllers. They offer so much potential for game developers and gamers alike. However, I don't think the range and quality of game titles has delivered on this promise.

Far too many titles for the platform are repetitive copies of various party and sports games. More adult-themed titles and a greater variety in general is required. How many party or skiing games does one need in a collection at home?

Unfortunately the problem with adult titles and greater realism is that the hardware cannot support the graphics required. It is ironic that the MotionPlus improved controllers stress realism when the graphics in the game cannot depict the realist effects.

Chances are Xbox and PS3 will jump right on past with their motion sensing approaches, backed up by the graphics hardware and power to create realistic worlds.

Two issues I have with this statement. The first one is that everyone is quick to point out that there are repetitive games for the Wii, however noone is willing to admit that the same problems plague the other two consoles and previous consoles that came before. The Playstation 1 and 2 are the biggest examples of this. The SNES , Sega Genesis, and the NES were no different. The difference between those generations and the current generation is that regardless of shovelware the games that deserved attention got attention. Why? because those games were solid efforts by dedicated third party developers. I can't really say the same for developers today.
two, graphics that depict realism? are we really playing the graphics card? The Wii saw major success with games like Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition. That game had realistic graphics. Dead Space Extraction had realistic graphics, as did Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. So why can't the Wii depict realistic graphics again? Realistic graphics aren't going to make for better games, in fact the games with the most realistic graphics are usually the ones that age the worst. Especially games that lean heavy on graphics, but fail in decent controls and poor content.

Again, I checked the website of playable games, and as it turns out, Playable Games is pretty much a supporter of the HD twins. which makes that last statement unsurprising in the least.

Simon Gardner, CEO, Climax Studios:
Yes the Wii is a good platform to work on, we feel we now understand the hardware and the interface very well now, but the flip-side to that is that non-Nintendo publishers feel they haven’t done that well on it commercially. That’s the biggest issue.

From that perspective the Wii is a really difficult device to develop for, because as a hardcore games machine, Wii games are always going to be held up against whatever’s just come out on the Xbox 360 or PS3.
You know, I’m quite bored of reading things like ‘oh, the graphics are pretty good but not as good as a PS3 game’. Well, that’s obvious, but it’s still said all the time. So the second you try to make a gamer’s game for it you will get unflattering comparisons. That’s why it’s difficult.
I do think that there’s a problem with the installed base. Despite it being very large, I think the attachment rate is fairly low, and I think that colours publishers’ view on how much they can invest in the system.
I think that ROI’s on Wii games are probably low. I think publishers are very conservative on how much they can spend on it.
Of course, with Silent Hill Shattered Memories, we’ve made a gamer’s game, and we’ve put a lot of passion into the game to get it right. But we’ve now got to wait and see how successful it’s really going to be commercially. That’s kind of out of our hands, but it will be interesting to see if people will buy it as opposed to another first-person shooter. 
We just don’t know if hardcore games can succeed on the Wii. I think it’s yet to be proven. I think a lot of people have bought Wii’s, but many aren’t buying software for it. 
Actually developing for it is fine. I think we’ve done some really clever things with it, and I don’t think it’s much of a struggle to get the most out f it, actually.
Climax seems to be a solid studio, and I really want to play Shattered Memories, however with the game being released almost stealthily, and having zero marketing for it whatsoever, I'm beginning to have my doubts of what hopes were had for the title.

I'm kind of baffled by Developers at this point. I've said it before and i still stand by my beliefs, back on the NES first party Nintendo games stood side-by-side by some solid third party titles, however, it seems like now in the presence of the second coming of the NES the third party seems to be lost as to what makes a game that appeals to the expanded market.

What's even more odd is that it seems that in every article like this the people in the comment section know the score better than the developers.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, this is David Amor. I'm quoted in the first paragraph.

    Your comments are interesting but with respect, I think you are incorrect about your assumptions of the Wii market. There are certainly some discerning Wii gamers that will dig out quality third party titles, but that's not true of the majority of the market.

    Cross reference the metacritic high scoring third party Wii games against vgchartz sales figures:

    Rock Band 2 - 760K
    RE4 - 1.65M
    Okami - 28K
    Beatles Rock Band - 900K
    Guitar Hero 5 - 630K

    Those are some poor numbers for an install base of 60M.

    You are speaking as a gamer with a love of quality software for Wii. The developers are speaking from commercial experience: pitch meetings with publishers, budget restrictions and royalty statements linked to sales figures.