To Wii Fans: You Have Your Cake, Why the Hell Aren’t You Eating It?
It can’t compete visually or control-wise, and so, by definition, the only games that tend to fare well on the Wii are those that are custom developed as an exclusive Wii title. Again, one would be inclined to believe that when working with a laid-back set of hardware that many employees were already quite familiar with from the previous generation, this would encourage developers that wanted to lower their development costs to develop games for the Wii. Instead, developers saw the Wii as a veritable “dumping ground,” a place to “recycle” games of the past generation by porting them to the Wii, without any optimization for the Wii’s (while limited) increased capabilities, either in the controls or visuals department. There will be exceptions, like Okami or Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, but for the most part, this holds true.
Now, let me be clear, there is not a 1:1 understanding between Mature games and hardcore games. Titles like World of Goo and Braid clearly demonstrate that a game can be hardcore without utilizing the tropes that a mature game generally does. But, for the most part, this tends to be the case. Consequently, game developers are afraid to release more “hardcore” titles on the Wii, they tend to not sell well, and frequently are admonished for placing a “profane-laden” title on the doorstep of Mario and the Princess. Someone needs to get the message to the public that the Wii is no different than any other gaming console: it sells games for varying age groups and demographics, and it is the parent’s job to display the basic understanding of the alphabet to discern whether or not the child should be playing the game. Parents are inherently lazy though, they assume that in selecting the Wii as their console, that Nintendo will do the rest to make sure their kid has a 0% chance of encountering something objectionable. But that’s not Nintendo’s job, to be a digital babysitter for today’s youth. The Wii should not be scared into pigeonholing itself to the pre-teen or “bingo and bedsores” demographics. Sony brought us God of War and Killzone, but also Crash Bandicoot and Katamari Damacy. We don’t see anyone calling them out on this theoretical act of hypocracy.
However, a few brave souls have ventured to provide Wii owners with exclusive titles that are genuinely good, but perhaps don’t have the marketing bucks or mass appeal of Wii Sports. Then again, what does? This doesn’t excuse the fact that games like the wonderful port (to call it a “port” is a disservice to the title, perhaps “reimagining” is more appropriate) of Okami, or the recent entry in the Fire Emblem series should have to fight to crack a half million sales worldwide. Hardcore gamers may complain and bemoan about the relative lack of “hardcore” games, but when given the chance to “vote with their dollars” they’ve abstained. This is why No More Heros, Suda51′s masterpiece of meta-gaming criticism couldn’t even sell four-tenths of a million copies, or why Steven Spielberg’s Boom Blox was left straining to sell a million copies. Even a new entry in the Resident Evil series, The Umbrella Chronicles, which attempted to capitalize on the “light-gun” capabilities of the Wiimote, was barely able to reach 1.5 million copies sold. These are numbers that the decidely “above average” Army of Two and Perfect Dark Zero were capable of on the Xbox 360.
Perhaps Wii gamers don’t realize that passing up every one of these in apathy, and waiting for the next dyed-in-the-wool Nintendo mascot game is intriniscally damaging to the system. For every title that fails to sell (many of these do fine becoming critical darlings, mind you) it sends a message to the developer that creating Wii games that don’t follow the exploits of plumbers with high blood pressure or a mute sexually androgynous protagonist with a green windsock for a hat, is a waste. It tells the publisher that investing in developers with these interests is unprofitable. It tells Nintendo that, despite whatever cross-demographic plans they might have had in mind, that adhering to the model that the abovementioned individuals have doctored up for them, is the only way to survive.
To those who want to see a revival of the utopia that was the Super Nintendo era, BUY House of the Dead: Overkill or Madworld, or The Conduit. Send the message that these games can sell on the Wii. People need to realize that if these games were on the Xbox 360 or PS3, none of this “killing simulator” talk, or complaints of excessive violence would be levied. But until these games can sell well, and provide a foothold for Nintendo as a company that can cater to the hardcore gamer once more, they will be forced to cater to their only other stable user base: Wii Fit users and Mario fans. Hurry, before all that’s left is the Mario Party series and Wii Bowling: The Sequel.