Comments on

Stalled Out

Original entry posted: Thu Nov 5 15:13:01 2009

That Fuzzy Bastard @ Thu Nov 5 11:10:14 2009 EST

The Wii drought is, looked at one way, kind of inexplicable---it's the biggest-selling console, so everyone should be developing for it, resulting in a flood of games.

That this isn't the case is attributable to a couple factors: The first is that third parties don't do very well on the Wii. Or at least, that's the perception---I'd be curious to know if the week's seventh-biggest seller on the Wii still moves more units than the biggest-selling title on the 360. But there's definitely a strong perception that third parties don't get a fair shake, which discourages development, and leaves Nintendo themselves as the only major developer expending resources for the Wii. It really doesn't help that Nintendo, unlike MS and Sony, never helps third parties market their games---there's a strong sentiment that the other guys will help you buy ads and promote your game, and Nintendo will act like you should be honored that they're even letting you release on their console.

The second problem is the Wii controls, which just plain don't work much of the time. Much of the Wii's initial promise was wrapped up in the infinite awesomeness of the DS, but the DS touchscreen worked great, with detailed, precise control, and the Wii's motion controls mostly come off as button-pushing in 3D space, but less reliable. MotionPlus was supposed to make the Wii actually do what they initially said it would do, but Wii Sports Resort *still* feels off to me.

I have high hopes for Natal, which seems to have the same promise as the Wii on hardware that actually does what it's supposed to do. And I do hope that the Wii gets it together, as I do love me some Nintendo games. But the drought's a real problem, and requires serious change from Nintendo and I don't think that's likely. Next---why in god's name are there no WiiWare demos?

Thomas @ Thu Nov 5 11:47:20 2009 EST

I suspect some third parties actually do very well, for the reasons you've mentioned: there's so many Wii systems out there, and they may be more likely to be in single-console homes. Activision keeps cranking out Guitar Hero games for the console, after all, and I doubt they'd do that if they were money-losers.

Perhaps it's less that the motion controls are bad--the inertial sensing may be underwhelming, but the "mouse" pointer is surprisingly good--and more that the controller lacks inputs, even with the Nunchuk plugged in. A 360/PS3 controller has 10 buttons, two analog sticks, and a digital pad readily available, and a lot of games use all of those (for better or worse). It can't be easy to try to write a traditional, modern game with the Wii's limited set of inputs.

Combine that with the cost of maintaining a codebase across two generations of hardware, and that would at least explain the lack of cross-development, if not the originals.

Nintendo doesn't make demos available for WiiWare because they don't understand online, and feel no particular incentive to try. It's no skin off their backs, really.

That FuzzyBastard @ Thu Nov 5 14:43:59 2009 EST

As regards success on the Wii, a lot depends on the black art of what Nintendo charges for licensing, and I suspect it's a very high number. The Guitar Hero games have the advantage of selling with hardware, and having extremely low dev costs, so I don't think they're a good indicator.

You're right that porting from the PS360 to the Wii is almost impossible, for just the reasons you say. But for me the bigger surprise is that more companies aren't simply shifting to Wii development, especially now that the dust has settled and the Wii is quite clearly the winner. Part of that could be fanboy snobbery (game dev studios are, after all, largely composed of gamers), but I suspect that Nintendo's harsh licensing terms are also a major factor. Tech support may also play into it---MS has built a strong dev base by being famously helpful to any studio trying to develop for the 360, while Nintendo is notoriously uncommunicative.

It's true that the pointer aspect of the Wii works pretty well (though I always find it a little unreliable, as the distance from screen to sensor bar can produce all kinds of weird angles). But dammit, we were promised 1:1 motion control, and we've never gotten it!

Like I say, I think everyone overestimated the Wii because the DS was such a great machine (still the best library of this generation, I think), and the Wii was sold with many of the same premises. But though there are some great games for the Wii, I don't feel like it's lived up to its potential.

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