Things Fall Apart: Japanese Juggernaut Waning in the West

 2. The Wii U has no Games 

Ok, that’s a straight up lie. Here’s a photo of my personal collection:

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And I still need to sell my GCN version of Wind Waker to upgrade to the HD version. I’m also waiting on Pikmin 3 to go on sale. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is around the corner, and Mario Kart 8 is coming in May

 And that’s not including games like CoD: Ghosts or Batman: Arkham Origins that are also on some of the other systems. Nevertheless, I’ll entertain this theory anyways. First, however, as with all things, we have to go back to understand how this way of thinking came into fruition.

They say that the Wii was a one-trick pony. A fluke. A fad. A glorified children’s toy which by pure serendipity captivated those who wouldn’t even call themselves “gamers” through its gimmick motion control interface. It was a system that completely dumbfounded “hardcore” gamers and third parties alike. The former would cry Sequelitis!” while growing bored with rehashed genre after rehash while mocking Nintendo for its dedication to unorthodox business approaches such as “lateral thinking with withered technology, Nintendo’s R&D modeus opperendi for the past quarter-century. Oh, and of course, curse those casuals! As for third parties, their efforts toward penetrating an audience of 100 million were both disrespectful to Wii owners and a disgrace to the craft of game development. With games such as Dead Rising (Wii) promoted as third-party “support,” it is no wonder that such developers were often unable to achieve one million copies sold, the gaming golden standard for a smash-hit game (Arguably, the post-Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare video game industry might consider just one, two, or three million a flop. I have used Tomb Raider (2013) as a poster-child for high-stakes HD gaming, and it would eventually turn a profit, but only after Tomb Raider: Definite Edition was announced and vanilla Tomb Raider would be sold for a bargain at $10 rather than $60 as Square Enix expected.)  After all, it was often difficult to discern between the mountains of shoveware that [insert generic company here] released for the Wii for a quick cash-in and the pathetic efforts of “reputable” companies on the same system. Many gamers pined for the days of the “Nintendo Seal of Quality.”

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One of the most frustrating parts about being a serious gamer is having to swim through people trying to sell this crap on Craigslist so that you can find the legit stuff. SMH, someone paid actual money for this stuff!!!

They say that third-party companies struggle to sell on Nintendo’s systems. This wasn’t true with the GCN, when Capcom was developing and publishing REmake or Silicon Knights was porting over Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes. You can quintuple the selection of shovelware in the above image and that would be a more accurate representation of how third parties flooded the Wii ecosystem with its toxicity, alternating between starving the system for games and flooding it with toxic shovelware and games designed to “test” gamer interest, such as the before-mentioned Dead Rising, or even Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbits games. Casual or hardcore, gamers are not stupid, and they began to disdain third parties while focusing on Nintendo due to the quality of its exclusives. It’s not Nintendo’s fault that nobody but them took their system seriously, is it?

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Remember when I was comparing the PSX version of Resident Evil to the Saturn? This is what a generation removed can do.

In terms of the Wii U, EA is unofficially on record for abandoning the Wii U because the company feels that it caters towards kids. And this is after being officially on record for having an “unprecedented partnership” with Nintendo.” But I’ve said enough about EA. After all, they are in the running for “worst company” third straight year. 

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This is one of those “test games” I mentioned. By the time this game came out (for $60!!!), the game was eight months old. Worst of all, the Mass Effect Trilogy would come out less than a month after the release of JUST ME3 for the Wii U.
EA, are you serious? WTF???

There are many other third-party developers discriminating against the Wii U, but at least one company has shown some commitment. And I’m not talking about Sega, because they’re practically a second party to Nintendo right now. Naw, I’m talking about Ubisoft, a company that has shown support for Nintendo at arm’s length. When I bought my Wii in the final shipment to my local TRU two weeks before Christmas in 2006, the store arbitrarily required customers to buy “bundles.” Three games. I’ve written about this before, but along with LoZ: TP and Elebits, I also purchased Rayman: Raving Rabbits. The game was decent, but I certainly wouldn’t have bought it out of my own volition, and would be among the few Wii games that I did sell over the years. I wanted a real Rayman game, not a collection of minigames–I would ultimately buy the outstanding WarioWare for that. Ubisoft would eventually release Rayman: Legends on the Wii, but it was multiplat, and I always gravitate toward PC releases, even for sprite-based platform games that I can play around my kids. I can’t argue with less than $10 on Steam. To its credit, Ubisoft released Wii versions of Splinter Cell, which was its big-name franchise…during the PS2 era. The Wii would never host the company’s modern cash cow, Assassin’s Creed.

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Sonic 2006 bombed after being rushed as the Xbox 360 (and later, PS3) launched. Sega recalibrated its efforts by eliminating bizarre love stories between animals and humans such as Elsie and started pumping out “storybook” games such as Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic and the Black Knight, with the former selling one million copies as the rumors concerning the Wii oscillated between the system not having any games and not selling any games. Sound familiar? Observing the success of Sonic on the Wii as greater than that on two HD systems, Sega made Sonic Unleashed for all three platforms and would later make Sonic Colors a Wii exclusive. The Wii U hosts Sonic Lost World and Sega has recently announced Sonic Boom.

Ubisoft would deliver a remarkably stronger effort with Zombi U and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. For those who have played the game, Zombi U would eventually become known as one of the better survival horror games in modern video games…that is, after a patch or two addressing some game-breaking bugs. While the Wii U launched with respectable numbers, Zombi U would not meet retail expectations, and it is because of this that Ubisoft may have flaked at the thought of releasing Rayman: Legends in January of 2013. Their decision to delay releasing the game made pretty big waves in the industry, especially because the game had already gone gold, and Rayman is the kind of franchise that many believe to be aimed toward Nintendo’s “target audience.” Most importantly, nothing of note was scheduled for release on the Wii U for months, meaning that Ubisoft would have had every Wii U owner’s undivided attention. I’m not going to get into all the details of what it means to a game development crew when their game is delayed, but it’s not good. Ubisoft decided to release Rayman: Legends in the fall when the PS4 and XboxOne would hit the market, which meant that Raman would also be in direct competition with games such as Grand Theft Auto V. As predicted, Rayman: Legends would fail to meet sales expectations. Ironically, the game would sell the most copies on the Wii U!!!.

There’s just too much poor logic by third-party developers going on here. Too often are they concerned with testing the profitability of the Wii U audience with low-risk software such as ports, but I have already addressed that such a mentality is how third parties failed to penetrate Wii audiences in the prior generation. Square Enix had to reskin/relaunch Tomb Raider to compete with the Uncharted while ME became more shooter-heavy to compete with Gears of War (and of course, other shooters). I do not understand the rationale behind pushing mediocre software to compete with Nintendo’s intellectual properties. Innovate or imitate. Perfunctory publication is pitiful.

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Capcom is the “big name” company which lead the charge with third-party development on the Wii with an outstanding port of Resident Evil 4 and the only fighting game outside of Smash Brawl that was not a port such as SNK’s King of Fighters: Orochi Saga or Samurai Showdown Anthology. Nevertheless, they should still be ashamed of the Wii version of Dead Rising. Again, I don’t really count Sega because as much as Sonic appears on Nintendo franchises and hardware, they’re practically second party.

Finally, ubiquitous they also claim that the lack of efforts by third parties can be attributed to not wanting to develop for an inferior system. Artistic vision and all that. Such ideas make me want to cuss. Have these companies seen the mortality rate of their competitors this past generationWith very few exceptions (Nintendo Bayonetta and Microsoft Titanfall), gone are the days of the 90’s when third-party developers could sign deals to release games exclusively to a single platform; with the astronomical costs of game development, they can’t afford to pick and choose. This is why, besides hardware compatibility and the rise of digital distribution, the number of ports between PC and console games is unprecedented! Companies need to make dat money, and I have already said that Nintendo sold 100 million Wiis. If some bootleg company ran out of Joe Schmoe’s garage can make a profit of $100k from M&M Go Kart Racing on the Wii, then certainly, a company with more talent, passion, and resources could muster the kind of production value that would be worth the consumer’s dollar while also campaigning and advertising to get word on the street. But that never really happened. B-tier companies like Grashopper Manufacture and High Voltage Software gave the Wii No More Heroes and The Conduit, respectively, but the Wii did not host the more “prestigious” games published through EA, Activision, or Ubisoft. And as with games like Dead Rising (above), when third parties did  ghetto-rig some games for the Wii, the finished product would be insultingly inferior to those offered on the PS3 and 360. The GCN was more powerful than the PS2, but the port of RE4 from the GCN to PS2 still looked respectable. In contrast, Madden on the Wii not only looks inferior to the PS2 version of the game, but it also resembles NFL Blitz with giant head features more than the simulation games I remember playing since 1995 when I played Madden for the first time.

Come on, son!

Author: Maurice Pogue

With his FSU Seminoles and San Antonio Spurs both winning championships in 2014, Maurice's friends want him to "go in" with them on the possibility that his 49ers will win in a calendar year. But he isn't *that* kind of gamer. Holla at him.