Friday, March 29, 2013

The Industry Versus Nintendo: Who Will Have the Last Laugh?

The subject of this editorial comes from something that happened during the Game Developers' Conference. It featured Mark Rein of Epic Games talking about the all-new Unreal Engine 4, and addressing a question that a Kotaku reporter asked regarding whether or not Epic planned on running it on the Wii U.

From the Kotaku article:
I figured I'd ask straight-out, so during the Q&A with Rein, I did. "Will UE4 run on the Wii U?"
"Hahaha no." Rein said, with expert comedic timing. The room erupted with laughter.
As the laughs died down, Rein continued: "I mean, sorry, it's not really a correct answer. We're not… we have Unreal Engine 3 for the Wii U. Right? And Unreal Engine 3 is powering all kinds of amazing games, still lots of games are being made with Unreal Engine 3. We announced today about a new Unreal Engine 3 license. Unreal Engine 3 doesn't disappear because of Unreal Engine 4. But our goal for Unreal Engine 4 console-wise is next-gen consoles. That's really what our energies are focused on. If you want to make a Wii U game, we have Unreal Engine 3, and it's powering some of the best games on the Wii U already."
"The room erupted with laughter"... First, let's not mince words. Incidents like this, where an entire room full of developers straight up laugh at another console is incredibly sobering to Nintendo (and they sort of deserve), but it also shows why outsiders and even insiders in the industry consider gaming to still be a juvenile and immature hobby/profession. Hell, as we have talked about before, just go look on any gaming forum to see the immaturity blossom like spring flowers.

Epic's side is easy to see. Nintendo released yet another under-powered piece of hardware, and let's face it- Western developers are not interested in gimmicks, which is what many perceive the Wii U GamePad to be. Nintendo has done very little to persuade people otherwise, even with their own games (or lack thereof). For heaven's sake, there's still drawn-out, boring-as-hell arguments about whether the Wii U should be counted as a generation eight console or not (it should, by the way, as generations are based on time).

The entire execution of the Wii U is an immense failure. Third-party support is worse than the Wii. Why, it's worse than the Dreamcast. There is little in the way of support at all, and this is after Nintendo said that they were tailoring the Wii U to developers' input. If that is Nintendo working on third-party support, then I'd hate to see how bad the Wii U would be if they didn't try at all.

Third-parties just don't care about the Wii U (and neither does the public, really, at least the ones that know it even exists). It doesn't excite them, and there's no reason to support it. It's not selling, and why waste my money porting and running new engines on a struggling system? This incident has shown that they think, at least Western parties, that Nintendo is essentially a joke to them, a non-player. The Wii U seems to continue Nintendo's seemingly, currently irreparable third-party relations. Thus, it's easy to see why developers would not want to deal with Nintendo and the Wii U.

But then there's Nintendo's side. The Unreal Engine 4 is no doubt going to cause huge increases to game budgets. However, that's the rub. We've already seen in this philosophy work its "magic" this past generation. When a game like Tomb Raider is not considered successful (or didn't meet expectations) and it has sold a bit under four million copies to retailers, then something is most definitely screwed up with the industry business model. Also, when multiple games do well for a studio, and one stinker shows up and dooms the company into nothingness, then again, something is most definitely screwed up with the industry business model.

Aw. You got all dirty and you didn't
even meet your publisher's expectations.
We have seen so many studios close this past generation, and with costs and budgets no doubt escalating in the future, there seems to be even more risk involved with creating expensive, bloated budget games. Does anyone want to make an estimate on how many studios making games for high-end PCs, the PlayStation 4, and the next Xbox will go in the red and eventually out of business because their one game didn't perform to expectations, or the development cost was more than what was gained? I know most of you don't really care as long as you get your games, but it honest to God scares me, as someone interested in and proceeding to get into the industry.

Perhaps after dozens of studios and developers making expensive games close once more, maybe some of the same folks at the Unreal Engine 4 Q&A who laughed at the Wii U, a weak and humbled Nintendo will be the one metaphorically laughing as their Wii U finally picks up and starts selling, generating them profit and all those who once laughed are looking for new jobs. This is not something I want to happen (please keep your jobs, everyone!), but it's a possibility. I know a certain fan group would love that and find pathetic enjoyment out of that, but with how the industry is currently shaping up, again, it's a possibility.

What do you think about the future of the industry? Do you think Nintendo will have the last laugh? Do you think the current business model of the industry is worrying? Do you think I'm stupid in my take of the situation? That's cool, as well. Perhaps I am reading too much into things, or do not have a firm grasp on everything. Feel free to enlighten me. Post your thoughts in the comments section below. Please do not resort to name-calling. It hasn't been a problem at SuperPhillip Central, but we've seen how frenzied other site comments get.

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