Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Third-Party Support on Wii U is Dwindling to Nothing? "So What?!" Here's What.

It's been a rough week for Wii U owners on the third-party front. The upcoming third-party releases on the system can be counted on one hand and at the very most a few spare fingers extra. Yes, indie developers are indeed picking up the slack for the lack of major third-party releases and that's great, but that isn't the magic solution that will fix Nintendo's struggling system's problems.

What seems like the most damning of third-party related news lately for the Wii U is that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare does not seem to be releasing on the system. This is a big deal in the sense that ever since the series started being published on a yearly cycle, Nintendo home consoles have not yet missed an entry. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare didn't release on the original Wii at the same time as the other home console versions, but it eventually did. With Advanced Warfare, this marks the first time that Call of Duty will be skipping a Nintendo home console. 

It doesn't sting so bad until you recall that Call of Duty always seemed like a sure thing for Nintendo platforms. No matter how poorly a home console of Nintendo's failed or was struggling, you could be quite certain that Call of Duty would be releasing on it. At the very least you'd get a delayed announcement near release, but Wii U owners like myself aren't even getting that. Instead, we've received what's pretty much a solid and firm "no" on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare hitting Wii U. When something that usually releases yearly on a Nintendo system suddenly doesn't, you know you've screwed up somewhere and somehow as a platform holder.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Unfortunately, the news of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare not reaching the Wii U wasn't met with sadness or regret on some places. No, the most fervent of Nintendo supporters instead went an embarrassing route instead, saying how Call of Duty isn't an important title for the Wii U to have, how Call of Duty is for 12 year-olds who shout racist and bigoted remarks online, and how Call of Duty won't be missed.

This is the same kind of overall sentiment that was being spouted on sites and areas where Nintendo enthusiasts generally congregate when Ubisoft president Yves Guillemot stated that the upcoming Watch Dogs would be the last "mature" title released for Wii U due to poor sales of titles like Assassin's Creed and ZombiU. Let's not be mistaken here-- Assassin's Creed III and IV were not totally awful ports, but they weren't optimized to run on the Wii U hardware. Still, even games finely tuned for the Wii U and made exclusively for the system didn't wow Ubisoft like its launch title ZombiU.

Regardless, the remarks by Ubisoft's president spurred a lot of anger within the more dedicated of Wii U owners, some of the same time of language was used. "We don't need Ubisoft", "Their ports were awful anyway", and "No real loss."

Wii U launch title ZombiU
Sadly, this is the same attitude that makes Nintendo home consoles such a volatile place for third-parties. These preconceived notions and "we didn't need that third-party anyway" attitudes make it so third-parties have a perfect excuse to not deal with Nintendo fans, especially the ones who can talk the talk yet can't walk the walk. Folks say they want third-party support, but the majority of titles from third-parties and heck, even from Nintendo itself, that do come out aren't purchased.

Is this entirely the fault of Wii U owners? I wouldn't say so. It's not even the total fault of the aforementioned "we didn't those games anyway" Wii U crowd. No, this is mostly on Nintendo's shoulders. Nintendo has botched the messaging and the release of the Wii U so badly that the repercussions of its failings will echo and last throughout this entire generation and most likely the next. When your install base is so small, it makes it quite challenging to have games sell well. Add in the fact that the Wii U is rather difficult to develop for compared to other platforms, and you have a recipe for third-party disaster. 

This is a well thought out comment, for sure,
that doesn't in any way come off as juvenile or
have any kind of sense of irony at all.
This isn't meant to be another article from yet another source stating the many reasons why Nintendo and the Wii U are not doing well and hammering that point home yet again. No, it's to say that the reasons specified make for a hard sell for third-parties. If you don't have a big install base to sell games to, especially on a Nintendo system, where historically third-party games are tough sells, then there's obvious reasons why you wouldn't want to spend money to develop on that platform. It's not because of bad blood with Nintendo, it's not that third-parties are conspiring against Nintendo-- it's just that it doesn't make financial sense. 

This isn't like the Wii where third-parties had an opportunity to do well on the system yet completely ignored the core audience that was once there (early in the Wii's life) and completely failed to do anything with it until it was much too late. This is a case where we have a platform that is selling at historically low levels, has a low attach ratio (despite all of the awesome Nintendo and even third-party games that are out there for present owners to enjoy), and one that isn't even making money for its manufacturer. Sure, it doesn't help that we have segments of the Nintendo fan base that view third-parties as the enemy, but the main issue is that developing for the Wii U just isn't lucrative of an idea at all. 

The thing that worries me and should worry Nintendo and its fans is the future. What possible reason should third-parties have to jump on Nintendo's hardware next generation? Let the record show that more third-parties do less than satisfactory on Nintendo home consoles than those that do well. How does Nintendo lure trepidation-ridden third-parties back? It feels like the West is a total lost cause unless Nintendo starts tailoring their user base to buy the games that the West tends to buy by the truckloads. Do we even want Nintendo to start making gory FPS games and sports titles? I don't necessarily, but Nintendo has to adapt to the times somehow (whether that's a new software strategy, new outlook on hardware, etc.) to stay as relevant as possible. 

All I know is that a home console landscape without Nintendo is not one that I want to be a part of. Here's hoping Nintendo makes the correct steps to strengthen its weak ties with third-parties and that certain Nintendo fans become more open to what is being released.

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