Thursday, January 31, 2008

Third parties not invited to Mario party?



The debate

Who is invited to party with Mario? Since Japanese developer Suda51 ('Killer7') expressed disappointment about his latest title 'No More Heroes', a Wii exclusive, selling below expectations, it appears that the Mario party is a fairly exclusive event. "Only Nintendo titles are doing well," he said. Although he later mitigated his criticism, the question remains: how profitable is the Wii platform for third party publishers and particularly for exclusive content?

Nintendo has now answered to that criticism. And they agree: While the platform itself is continuing to outsell the competition, the bulk of the software sold is Nintendo's own.

'We believe the situation will change,' says Japanese giant
Nintendo (...), saying that it believes the situation is only temporary.

According to the company's third-quarter report meeting transcription, translated by Develop, the problem is simply one of the Wii still being a young system - and that, as such, Nintendo's internal teams currently have an significant advantage.

"When we develop new hardware at Nintendo, we do so as a collaboration between the hardware development teams and the software development teams. Our software sales percentage is currently high because our internal teams teams know the Wii's special characteristics best, and they started development quite a bit before the Wii's release. However, we believe that eventually that will change," said the firm.

"If you look at the data for our third quarter you'll see that, out of the 14 Wii titles that shipped over a million units, 11 of those were our titles. However, if you look at the 50 titles that shipped over a million units on DS, only 28 of those are ours.

"We identified the same thing in the DS' first period, and the situation continues to change little by little. For the Wii too, we believe that as time passes, the proportion of high-selling titles that come from our licensees will increase."


Riding the slipstream

Nintendo editors are talking about a ´disturbing trend´. But while the allegations need to be taken seriously, it is important to bear in mind that Nintendo simply has the best software portfolio of any first party publisher. If you are competing against Metroid, Mario, Zelda and Pokèmon you need to bring out bigger guns than would need to shoot down a Halo or Ratchet and Clank.

The third party publishers are obviously aware of this and, I am sure, this is where the real problem lies. Their response is all too often to churn out cheap Nintendo rip-offs - currently casual titles and mini-games - to comfortably ride in the first party slipstream.

Take the latest announcement from Eidos, for example:

Monster Lab is a new RPG franchise for the Wii and DS, inviting players to create monsters which are then sent into battle with other players.

The game was first talked about at the Leipzig Game Convention last year, during which time the developers called it 'Pokemon meets Tim Burton'.


You would think that the highly successful Pokèmon franchise and the less fortunate Spectrobes title would have exhausted that specific market. But Eidos, in this instance, seems keener on imitating success than on running the risks that come with a truly fresh intellectual property or even a completely new genre. Just that, though - a fresh start - also bears the greatest potential rewards in this industry. Pokèmon and its plethora of spin-offs, in this and other media, is the prime example here.

Of course, ´Monster Lab´ could turn out to become a fresh game. Too little is known about the franchise to be sure. But I am sceptical and justifiedly so.

Pointing the finger

True, Nintendo has had a shaky relationship with third party publishers in the past and this tarnishes their reputation still today. With 'Eternal Darkness', the company had one of the finest titles in gaming history exclusive to their Gamecube - but it chose not to market it to a mass audience. It remained a hidden gem and Denis Dyack, head of Canadian developer Silicon Knights, took his business elsewhere. But Nintendo has made quite clear that they learned from those mistakes.

Recently, I have spoken to a number of industry people who have expressed strong sentiment that the Wii simply was not the right platform for a 'Grand Theft Auto' or a 'Metal Gear Solid'. Why, then, is it the right platform for a 'Manhunt', a 'Godfather' and 'Scarface', a 'Red Steel' and two outstanding 'Resident Evil' games, all of which sell very well?

The current situation is mostly of the third parties' own making. It simply involves great risks to develop an original IP exclusive to any console, but especially one whose control scheme makes it that much harder to port to other platforms, should the title fail to sell as an exclusive. And rather than meet the challenge and reap potentially big rewards, the developers prefer to hedge their bets.

But why fret? Wii is the clear market leader in every territory now and its sales data suggests that it will stay on top for a long time. The platform also enjoys phenomenal software tie ratios, a fact which should allay any fears of Wii owners being largely casual gamers. Sure, you need to compete with the biggest franchises in gaming. But the tie ratio and experience with the DS suggests that Wii owners will buy good games, regardless. And there are plenty of great ideas still up for grabs, if developers were willing to go all-out on the platform. Most do not. But for them, it's all too easy to blame Nintendo for poor sales of a third party product, rather than to admit to their own lacklustre, half-arsed approach.

If Wii is not the platform to exclusively commit the bulk of your development resources to then I don't know what is. It is even easy to dream up the kind of Wii games that would sell like hotcakes. It is never easier to create truly original games than shortly after the introduction of new hardware that facilitates revolutionary new control schemes.

Where is that exclusive Star Wars game I was promised almost two years ago? Lightsaber action was every gamer's knee-jerk reaction to the Wii controller and, while 'Force Unleashed' will feature more exclusive content than expected on Nintendo's platform, it seems as if we still won't get that most obvious type of Star Wars gameplay. Why is LucasArts saying no to free money? I mean, which Wii owner wouldn't buy such game?

And where are the first-person sword-fighting games? Where is my virtual pooltable? Almost any game that maps Wiimote movement onto any three-dimensional object on-screen and in real-time would create a market of its own. And where are 3D puzzlers in the style of 'Blockout'? Where is a 'Guitar Hero' / 'Rock Band' type game that makes full use of the Wii's motion controls? It's not as if Nintendo's first party portfolio has got every sensible option covered. Far from it.

"Who dares wins"

"Who dares wins" is the motto of the Britsh crack military unit Special Air Service (SAS). But it could just as easily be the motto of more game developers when it comes to committing their resources to Wii.

Dear developers. You all are invited to the Mario party, contrary to what you may believe. You just need to bring a bottle. And don't bring that cheap stuff, hear?

EDIT There is some great further reading over at Infendo. In their article, entitled ´Why do elite development teams avoid Wii?´ they pose that very question. Derek also compiled some great quotes I have not come across yet. Go check it out.

Sources: CVG, Develop Magazine

28 comments:

Raphael said...

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1380/530378517_27995c60a4.jpg?v=0

;-)

Anonymous said...

yo kid, was liegt an?....

hey zieh dir mal die fatal frame Wii bilder auf gemafront rein...

sieht doch base aus!!!!

:-)

-IALS

Anonymous said...

And where's my Acclaim Entertainment?

where's my Shadowman?
Where's my Extreme G?
Where's my Revolt?
Where's my Vexx?
Where's my Eartworm Jim?
Where's my NBA JAM?
Where's my REAL Iguana Turok?

Bring back Acclaim!!!!

touch-gen said...

@ Falafelkid

I couldnt agree more strongly withwhat you said. Dev's dont seem to want to take a risk with Wii... I dont see why they dont though, To develop a games on Wii is like one thrid the price of a 360 or PS3 title...So if you can make a title on Wii that sells at least a million then your making huge profits! Dev's need to invest more time and money into Wii, it has the biggest install base (and its getting bigger) and they are people who would play games like GTA and Metal Gear...It just doesnt make business sense to not invest money into Nintendo's Wii. I think dev's need to look at whats happening on the DS, a platform that has simular goals with its new interface.

Remember what Iwata said... dev's can port games over easily from other platforms but, they cant so easily from the Wii....So why cant games like GTA etc come to Wii and at the same time we can have software that no other system can do.

M. Ferreira said...

Most devs seem to be content in putting out a half-assed PS2 port nowadays, sadly. However, I really think we're starting to see the development community take the kids' gloves off at this point. Fatal Frame, No More Heroes, and Opoona are all fine examples of developers finally putting their money where their mouth is. It'll take a bit longer to fight the stigma, but I'm sure every Wii owner will be happy at this year's E3. :)

As far as the extensive motion-controlled games go, I can only assume that they'll be here once developers get their heads out of their collective butts. ;)

Anonymous said...

A LOT OF 3RD PARTYS SIMPLY LACK INOVATION AND BASIC RAW TALENT ANYONE CAN GO TO SCHOOL AND LEARN HOW TO USE PC TOOLS TO MAKE 3D THINGS HAPPEN ON SCREEN BUT IT TAKES DESIGN GENIUS TO ACCUALLLY BRING A DREAM TO LIFE ALLSO 3RD PARTYS ARE TO INTERESTED IN HOW MUCH MONEY NINTENDO MAKES INSTED OF CONSONTRATING ON THERE OWN IN HOUSE BUSSINESS SO WHAT NINTENDO KICK ASS SO WHAT NINTENDO MAKES MONEY THATS NOT YOUR BUSSINESS 3RD PARTYS YOUR BUSSINESS IS WHAT YOU DO NOT WHAT NINTENDO DO


ALLSO REMEMBER 3RD PARTYS SPENT 1/2 YEARS PREPING FOR PS3 AND NOT WII ITS THE DS FACTOR ALLOVER AGAIN PSP WAS GOING TO RULE AND DS WAS A GIMIC THEN IN REALITY AS ALL NINTENDO FANS NEW WOULD HAPPEN DS KICKED ASS SO DEVELOPERS HAD TO RETHINK THERE BUSSINESS MODEL

THEY THEN LIKE THE IDIOTS THEY ARE DID EXACTLY THE SAME THING WITH PS3 VS WII

THE BLAME IS THERE OWN SIMPLY PULL FINGER OUT AND MAKE GOOD SHIT

AND THE NO MORE HEROES BULLSHIT FROM SUD51 WAS HIM TALKING TO EARLY NO MORE HEROES IS SELLING WELL IN THE WEST BUT IF HE WANTED MORE SALES TRY ADVERTIZING AND HYPING NOT CALLING WI OWNERS NAMES THATS BAD BUSSINESS SENCE
AND DE BUG THE POP UP AND SLOW DOWN AND POLISH UP THE GRAPHICS DONT GET ME WRONG NO MORE HEROES IS GREAT LOOKING GAME BUT POP UP AND LACK OF POLISH IS LIKE

AIDS TO A NINTENDO GAMER 3RD PARTYS SHOULD KNOW THAT

Anonymous said...

It's funny how 3rd parties constantly produce insufficient quality titles for Nintendo Platforms yet they complain about poor sales and write Nintendo off.

Thats like chainsmokers complaining
about lung cancer or child molesters complaining about jail time.

It dont make no sense

Stop bitching and fucking Make solid games for once instead godammnit and back them with promotion and maybe then your game might sell even on a Ninty platform

When all you give Ninty owners is shitty half assed ps2 ports with N64 graphics from the last century
or gimmick party crap taht aint worth two cents you shouldn't act like its Nintys fault whatsoever

If you aren't willing to take risk with original quality content you shouldn't blame Nintendo for it.

I'm sure many Ninty owners would welcome titles like GTA4, Bioshock, Orange Box, Silent Hill, Ratchet and Clank or Halo or Drakes Fortune.......


-IALS

Anonymous said...

ditto, ditto, ditto.

also: no more heroes RULES. i feel sorry for any wii gamer that hasn't put in at least 12 hours on this game. best game in years.

-"superfan" tactics.

Anonymous said...

hey superfan is No More Heroes THAT good? really?....should I invest in it. It looks a lil messy :)

-IALS

Anonymous said...

I agree. If 3rd party publishers put anything other than shit out there, 3rd party software would sell much better.

Anonymous said...

I will buy Endless ocean, Zack and Wicki and No More Heroes today ;)

-IALS

Anonymous said...

Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto noticed this unfortunate trend early, and he addressed it in a Mar. 2007 interview with Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal with a now somewhat infamous quote:

“If there’s only one piece of advice that I could give to the managers of third party companies, it would be that a lot of times it seems that when they’re putting games out on Nintendo hardware, those games are being developed by their third-string team or their fourth-string team. Maybe that’s because they see those products as being unique projects or somewhat smaller-scale projects. But when Nintendo puts out a title that is designed to really support and sell its hardware, that title is always developed by one of our number one teams. And so I think that when it comes to the question of trying to compete with our software, I would really like to see them try to do that with their number one teams rather than with the third- or fourth-string teams.”


BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM

Anonymous said...

I guess because productioncosts are generally lower on Wii and the focus isn’t on high end graphics many 3rd parties think they can get away with “ps2 graphics” (because people do not expect much more from wii to begin with) and still make a healthy buck even with fewer units sold since they keep costs to a minimum.

I think the thought process of the higher ups must go somethin like this:

If for example Ubi Soft develops an average quality game that costs them 10 dollars to make and 20 units get sold of that game each unit for 1 dollar they make better profit eventually than with a better game that costs twice as much to develop but without a growth in sales volume.

it's risky

-IALS

enoughisenough said...

I hope Factor5 lincences their new Wii engine.

cope 2 fan said...

Factor 5 better license the hell out of their new wii engine

Gangsterworld said...

There are some great games sheduled for Wii but mostly from japanese studios:

>>Fragile, Okami, Fatal Frame, Red Steel 2, New Factor 5, We Love Golf, Ninja Reflex for example


The early fragile trailer is lovely..outstanding....pure magic

I'm happy

But I wonder what Nintendo is working on

:)

Anonymous said...

gonintendo didnt link to your story :(

-IALS

Anonymous said...

It's clear that Microsoft and Sony are open to third party developers. Both make it really easy for developers to gain at least preliminary experience on their platforms through XNA and, say, the PS3 Linux support.

In a number of ways, this easy access helps lower risk.

As far as I can tell, Nintendo is quite closed to third party developers... and my impression is that this has been the case for some time. It's little surprise then that developers view the "lower cost" Wii system as higher risk.

sys2048

black moon said...

MISTER FALAFÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄL!!!!

Why dont you comment?

M. Ferreira said...

sys2048: So, Sony is doing a GOOD job with developers by having a console that is reportedly a cast-iron bitch to develop for? ;) If anything, Sony did the absolute WORST this gen for deelopers.

The Wii is pretty much as easy as it gets, outside of the 360's PC architecture. It runs previous-gen libraries native, and provides a simple, yet powerful programming environment for a low entry cost.

Anonymous said...

NINTENDOWARE IS COMING HAVE YOU ALL FORGOT ITS A ALL NEW WII DEV TOOL SET FOR IDIOT 3RD PARTYS THAT CArnt think outside the microsoft direct crap bubble

easy to dev exstreamly powerfull and efficent 480p 30 frames or 60 frames wii can hit some serious shit so hit the ball out the park 3rd partys

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD STOP SUCKING SONYS POLE

kool herc said...

MISTER FLAFÄÄÄÄL


Ein update bitte

weddingideas said...

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