Megaton news broke Saturday; Stating that Blaster Master: Overdrive will be out this Monday for Wiiware. How did the gaming community handle this? well for the most part people are going to be cleaning up chunks of brain off of walls for weeks due to every old school gamer's mind being simultaneously blown! From the look of the video and screen caps, Blaster Master fans will probably be rushing out to get Wii point cards or readying their credit cards for the initial release. Hell, I'm even trying to figure out how to scrounge up ten dollars to get my Blaster Master fix. I've been combing through articles and forum posts about this all afternoon (most would be getting ready for their SuperBowl parties, right now.) and I'm formulating a theory: Wiiware games seem to be generating more love and interest than their Wii retail brethren.
It's not just something I've noticed today, either. It's something that has been noticable for the last two years. Lost Winds 1/2, Adenture Island:TB, Onslaught , The Rebirth series, The Bit.Trip Series, You me and the cubes, World of Goo, Dr Mario RX, Tetris Party, Bomberman Blast, Nyx Quest, TV Show King ect. are all good games. Now compare that to the Wii's retail situation: which has been great on Nintendo's part, but not so great with everyone else. I could analyze the reasons for this all day long, and of course I have. So I would like to present some ideas of why Wiiware is dominating over retail.
A Question of Price......
Retail: Let's just get down to brass tax: Retail games this generation are damn expensive! We've gone from 20-30 dollar purchases with the occasional 50-60 dollar must have. Very rarely did a game reach 80-100 dollars ( these would be RPGs like Phantasy Star IV and such). Today it's common for games to be 50-60 dollars right out of the gate, with special editions of games reaching into the hundreds. If you're lucky you can just wait it out until the game drops into the appropriate range (IE: bargin bin) for purchasing. The explanation for this? Development costs, production costs, and according to guys like Chris Deering, It takes alot of money to make a decent game, and that's for the sake of being efficient. You would think the way these games are selling now that people pretty much agree with him.
Wiiware: The average Wiiware game is about anywhere between 500 to 1000 wii points (100 wii points = $1), with the occasional 1200 and 1500 title (Tetris party and Pokemon Rumble). This means that for the 50 dollars you spend on a retail game you could buy five Wiiware games at 1000 points a piece.double that if you're buying them at 500 a piece. Although, you can't return these games if you're unsatisfied with them, It's easier to be out 5-10 dollars on a bad game, than 50-60 dollars for an overhyped game. Sure you can trade it back to places like Gamestop, but let's be honest, you're never getting back the full amount you paid for it.
Constructive Criticism - Some games this generation don't even deserve their asking price, and would probably gain more sales only with the benefit of having a more modest pricetag. This would eliminate the risk of paying way too much for games that ultimately provide too little content, or lackluster features.
A Question of Quality.......
Retail: The Wii retail market has been the most diverse out of all three consoles, so there really isn't much to argue about in that aspect, but what about quality? The biggest issue with the Wii's retail woes have to be the issue of shovelware that's been plaguing shelves in department stores everywhere. According to some articles, It's now to the point where places like Best Buy and Target are refusing any mini game collections from being shipped to their stores. But seriously, could you blame them? The shovelware issue has been a serious thorn in the Wii's side since it's launch. Meanwhile some developers are promising Wii owners brands and games that we supposedly want, only to get games that fall short of the expectations of the Wii's userbase (Capcom, and EA I'm looking directly at you). When those offerings don't sell, that's when the finger pointing starts.
Wiiware: There's still shovelware on the Wiiware service to a fault. The difference here is the good games definitely outnumber the bad ones. Another point to make is that there seems to be little room for disappointment. Konami says they're developing a Gradius, Contra or a Castlevania game and we get just that instead of a Castlevania card game or a Contra rail shooter. Effectively, those developers are giving gamers exactly what they want, instead of stringing gamers along only to give them the exact opposite.
Constructive Critcism - Let's face it there's going to be shovelware on every gaming console. The trick is to have a better ratio of decent games. And seriously developers you can't say you're bringing series x to console y and then do a bait and switch at the last minute. Sure you may get away with it once, but if people refuse to bite a second time you only have yourselves to blame.
A Question of Innovation........
Retail: Since the unveiling of the Wii everyone has known it's strong suit has been innovation. IR pointing and motion controls have been used to make games more immersive, and kind of satisfying. Of course with the current technology and the new addition of Motion Plus, It is kind of odd that as of now we don't have that many games that that really take advantage of motion based or Motion Plus controls. It's a little odd that even now in 2010 the Wii remote still has unrealized potential, even on Nintendo's end. ( NSMBWii's features were great, but not really groundbreaking) The most innovative thing I've seen so far was sticking the remote in a stuffed toy and using it to move the toy's avatar through a strange world.
Wiiware: Not only do the games here put motion controls to good use, the games also seem to have this strange "experimental" vibe, which isn't bad at all. Games like Lost Winds and Nyx Quest use the controls in interesting ways, as does the Bit.Trip series which marries concepts that were used in games like Pong with an interesting wii remote rotation mechanic. Even Muscle March which although falls short in some aspects uses an interesting concept of gesture based mimicry to proceed. You could even go so far to say that Onslaught's gameplay mechanics were innovative in making us have to reload by shaking the remote and removing bio-organic vicera from our visors by shaking the nunchuck.
Constructive Criticism - Perhaps I don't want all Wii games to be an experiment in motion controls, but I do want to see more games take advantage of the hardware. We have Zangeki no Reginliev and Red Steel 2 to look forward to, but the only other motion plus game after that is Zelda Wii. At his lifetime achievement award ceremony, Miyamoto dropped a hint that another Motion plus title is in the works.. hopefully this will be the start of a push for more games before the competition gets their devices on the market.
Don't think that because I wrote this article that I'm saying you should stop buying retail games altogether. I'm a big supporter of physical copies of games, but I'm an even bigger supporter of good games. The point I am trying to make is perhaps we have it all wrong this generation. Instead of trying to make "High res AAA masterpieces" perhaps we should worry first and formost about making a good game. What is a good game you may be asking yourselves? A good game has that classic arcade gameplay that's easy to learn yet hard to master. Challenging not cheap for the sake of being cheap. Mature in the fact that there's mature subjects being presented to the gamer and not because there's a lot of swearing, gore and sexual situations. I want the retail market for the Wii to pick up, but it's pretty evident that there has to be some huge changes to be made for that to happen. Until then I'll be occasionally buying my two or three retail games and continue playing my Wiiware games.