Sales figures are becoming more and more of an interesting case study in console gaming. What determines if a game performs according to a publisher’s expectations, if there even is a publisher? How do you measure a million copies of a $60 retail release with a huge marketing and advertising campaign against an independent title you can download in minutes?
If you ask Ubisoft, one of the heavyweights of AAA gaming, there is a definite risk vs. reward factor. ZombiU, the survival horror game that launched with Nintendo’s new Wii U in November, did not fall into the “reward” category. Despite its popularity and solid review scores, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot called the game “not profitable…not even close” and slammed the door on any chance of a sequel.
Contrary to internet flamers, Nintendo is not doomed.
Coming out of the initial lineup of Wii U software, no game had me craving the system more than what Ubisoft had revealed. Much like Red Steel, this take on an otherwise conventional genre was meant to show off the capabilities on the newest form of a controller in the Wii U’s Gamepad. “Second screen” is a phrase that gives marketers raging erections today, and ZombiU was meant to keep us in a constant state of fear by never cutting away from the threat of the reanimated corpses begging to eat our faces.
Whether or not the game succeeded in that regard depends on who you ask. Maxwell McGee of Gamespot called the game “a poor entry in the survivial horror genre” while Jim Sterling at Destructoid thought it brought “real survival horror back to home consoles” and concluded that “for as much as it screws up, ZombiU somehow does it well.” Judging by the common reaction to the game, it seems as if people expected another in the vein of Left 4 Dead, itself a Half-Life mod, while ZombiU has been compared to Demon’s Souls.
The men in suits call the shots, and ZombiU was simply a failed experiment in today’s cutthroat business of gaming. With a minimal amount of systems sold at launch, I wouldn’t estimate the game to have moved more than 500,000 copies. Fine, lesson learned. If there is no place for experimental zombie games on the Wii U, other game makers have the chance to get noticed instead.
I have lauded Nintendo for giving Bayonetta 2 a chance at life while previous publisher Sega was busy readying a steaming pile of shit, hand-crafted by Gearbox. Bullet-riddled action games with gratuitous everything is no longer a niche genre…it simply does not exist. Capcom shit the bed on DmC: Devil May Cry, placing too much faith in a market now heavily distracted by games of all types in every direction.
Nintendo likely does not expect Bayonetta 2 to sell millions, and that should be to their credit rather than any “misguided business sense.” I like the fact that there is a mega publisher among the giants who does not put up piles of money and expect their upcoming game to move as many copies as a fucking Dan Brown novel. Platinum Games created a heroine with just the right amount of sex appeal and gun savvy to make gamers turn their heads and go “Wow, these guys still know how to make something fun!” It looked great, sounded incredible and fuck me with a PS3 controller if it wasn’t hard as shit.
To my point, what happens if/when Bayonetta 2 sells the same amount of copies as ZombiU and is considered an accomplishment by Nintendo? People are championing The Last of Us for moving 3.4 million copies on one system. Does this mean a sequel should do comparable numbers?
If you’re Electronic Arts and that ghoul of a man above, the answer is “No, you should be selling more.” Peter Moore has all but blacklisted the Wii U, stating that Electronic Arts has zero games in development for the system and calling the system an “offline experience” in regards to their multiplayer outlets.
If you are someone who is not involved with pumping out sports titles like unwanted children (thank the gods for you), Nintendo might have a home for you. Often glossed over during their launch was the library of readily available independent titles. A wealth of titles were also squeezed into Nintendo’s Direct presentation during E3. They may not be as blatant in their courting of indie developers like Sony, but they certainly are not alienating them like Microsoft.
Honestly, the village propagandists continuously labeling Nintendo as “done,” “fucked” or otherwise ready for funeral services need to be realistic. The Wii U is indeed lagging and will have to struggle when this holiday’s shopping season arrives, but Microsoft may have already done a lot of the work for Nintendo. Don Mattrick can go have fun with microtransactions while the 3DS continues to dominate the handheld market, leaving Nintendo with plenty of disposable dosh.
Nintendo does not seem to get the credit it should in regards to DIY developers. An interview with Dan Adelman, liaison between developers and Nintendo, reveals that an office/company HQ is no longer required to make games available for the 3DS or Wii U. For those who are working on their first video game, just seeing their creation appear on the systems made by the company they grew up with is enough incentive to develop for Nintendo.
You can almost spell “fan service” with the title of the above crossover, and this is what people need to keep in mind with the Wii U. People seem to forget that the Wii outsold the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 while targeting a completely different audience. Not only did this result in Wii Sports parties in nursing homes, it gave us movements like Operation Rainfall that brought together a community of gamers who demanded and got results.
Sony is making big strides with PlayStation Plus, but I have seen more tattoos of Mario, Link, and Samus than Daxter, Ratchet, or Sly Cooper. No community of fans is as tightly knit as that of Nintendo, and when they eventually overtake the Xbox One (it will happen) for second place, developers of all shapes and sizes will be one of many to reap the benefits.
Peter Moore Image via Wired.com