Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Wii, The Third Parties, The Casuals, and the You

I've been mulling over a bunch of different ideas these past few days. I hadn't written a thing for weeks. I was struck with gastritis, and writing was something of a chore. When something fun grows into a chore, perhaps it's time to move on for a bit. Well, that's exactly what I did. The topic of Satoru Iwata discussing the Wii falling into a slump in its home country (not releasing a steady stream of games for your own console will do that to you) was brought to my attention. It evoked ideas of third parties, the idea of so-called "casual gamers" moving on, and "core gamers" not being satisfied and wanting more. (Well, when the hell don't gamers want more? It could be a bumper crop, and they'd still want more. Most are insatiable that way.) All this casual/core mumbo jumbo is bullshit. Let me start by saying that-- and bluntly so. It's a perfect way for message board gamers to feel superior to someone. Yes, we're feeling superior to people over what video games we play. We've reached an all-time low.

It takes a big man to admit he has a problem.

Something I've seen on various internet forums is this argument that Sony brought gaming to the masses. This part is true. No doubt. Saying that they did it without the help of casual gamers is completely false, however. Back in the Sony dominance era, the term casual gamer was used for people who don't play games very often or not very seriously. But since the Wii started its reign of dominance, the definition has changed. Why? Because agendas have changed. Now the PS2 casual gamers who bought little else than sports titles and Grand Theft Auto are the core gamers, and essentially casual gamers are now simple-minded grandmas, grandpas, and soccer moms. Casual is the new kiddy-- the new way to slam Nintendo and their console. As I've stated before, the whole casual/hardcore terminology is a load of bullocks. The terms mean nothing. The definitions are constantly changed depending on a person's agenda. (And don't get me started on how pathetic it is that message board gamers have agendas towards something as frivolous as video games.) Sony's success is very much due to people who casually play games much like Nintendo. The differences are that: 1) one company banked off the success of its predecessor while the other had to start fresh after failing with their last console. Third parties flocked to last gen's winner, were hesitant to put anything on a two generation loser, and 2) The group of gamer who is casual in the sense that they stick to one genre or series moved to the 360 where the genre of the generation, the shooter, is now popular. It says a lot when Microsoft's big game of the year is consistently some variety of shooter.

A big problem with the Wii are sales of certain third party titles. It seems like a crap shoot of what will and won't sell-- quality be damned. The sales of some third party games are bad, so that means third parties will give Wii owners less quality than before. It's a chicken and egg scenario. One reason that third party sales are bad is because the quality has always been poor. When something of quality actually comes out, it doesn't get marketed. Somehow Wii owners who are called soccer moms and internet-illiterate are supposed to know of these niche games yet HD owners get commercial blitzkriegs constantly when they're supposedly the ones who frequent message boards. In fact, Wii games get 1/4 the marketing and advertising of a typical HD game. No wonder these games don't sell. Something like Little King's Story wouldn't even be stocked by most major retailers, yet it's surprising and disappointing to see the game bomb? Of course it's going to bomb. It's only available in a select amount of retailers and has no television advertising.

The Conduit, a supposed big Wii third party, got commercials late at night on Spike TV and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Meanwhile, a plethora of HD exclusive games get plenty of airtime, prime time, daytime, crime time, and all the time. Is it any wonder that these Wii games don't sell? For every one Conduit commercial you could probably see four or five spots for Borderlands. Yet it's fair to blame the Wii community for being unaware? Are these games assumed to sell because of the large user base? Then why did third parties routinely air TV ads for their Playstation 2 games-- with an even bigger user base? In North America, no third party Wii game has gotten the marketing push of any competent HD title. Heck, we're still seeing games being sent out to die like Muramasa, A Boy and His Blob, Dead Space Extraction, and Rabbids Go Home. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Reflex Edition is an egregious example of this. It's a week away from release and no videos or footage have been released. All that's been revealed are a bunch of pre-alpha screens. Are third parties purposefully setting their titles to fail? Where is the logic in that? In Japan, a huge chunk of advertising and production values were put into Monster Hunter 3. It has sense sold nearly a million copies. There must be something to learn from this.

If you run out of bullets, you can always
kill enemies with your jaggies.

Lastly, one thing that usually ticks me off is the whining of Wii owners for HD-exclusive games to be downported to the Wii or given their own versions. What makes the Wii and the PS3 and 360 great is that they have experiences exclusive to one another. There's games and experiences on the Wii that you can't duplicate on the HD twins and things on the PS3/360 that can't be duplicated on the Wii. The way I see it is that we already have two consoles where the main demographic marketed and has games made for are that of teenage boys and the adults with the maturity of them. We don't need a third. This industry is juvenile enough as it is. Don't get me wrong-- there's plenty of adult experiences on all three consoles, but the majority of third parties and one particular first party caters heavily to this lowest common denominator. Just because the Wii is the market leader does not make its owners entitled to every game under the sun. It worked last generation because the tech specs were so close. Not so this time around.

So it's an interesting position the Wii has now. Third parties continue to ignore the system after their less-than-stellar games failed to appeal to console owners. Nintendo themselves seem to not even realize that marketing their own games goes a long way as the failures of Wario Land: Shake It, Excitebots, and Japan's Sin and Punishment 2 show. The system will no doubt be the winner of the generation with a catalog of varied games that should appeal to most people, but can third parties get it together on Wii or Wii's successor? Don't worry. This is a rhetorical question.

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