How Does The Wii U’s Launch Line Up Compare To Past Console Launches? A Comprehensive Analysis.
You only get one chance to make a first impression and that impression can last a lifetime. This is true in life and in the world of technology. The Wii made a strong first impression and rode a surge of popularity to become a massive success story. Meanwhile, Sony’s PS3 had a bumbling launch that took it from first place in the home console market to third. While first impressions aren’t final (after all, the PS3 has made quite a nice comeback and the Kinect cooled swiftly after a hot start) day one success is more important than ever in today’s hype based economy.
The Wii U will make its first impression in just about a week. An important part of the Wii U’s first impression will be the Wii U’s launch lineup. Analysts and fans have already argued and argued about the Wii U’s roster of launch titles, with some claiming it to be lackluster and others claiming it to be the best launch lineup of all time. Amongst the various opinions, many show a clear lack of context. What should we expect out of the Wii U’s launch? To determine this, let’s turn to the ghost of console launches past to see how the last three home console launches went. We’ll be taking a look at the volume of games brought out for a launch, the quality of those games (as defined by their Gamerankings.com score) as well as the breakdown of genres and amount of exclusives.
*Note: For the purpose of this article, I’m only looking at retail titles. Only titles that were available on day one of a console’s launch were considered. Only home console launches were examined.
First Party Games:
Kameo: Elements of Power 80.77 %
Project Gotham Racing 3: 88.69%
Perfect Dark Zero: 81.27%
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06: 71.17% (PS2 81.62%)
Tony Hawk American Wasteland: 75.54% (PS2 78.94%)
NHL 2K6: 75.66 % (X-Box: 84.08 %)
Madden 05: 74.81% (PS2 85.37%)
NBA 2k6: 79.89% (X-Box 85.44%)
NBA Live 06: 65.54% (X-Box 78.54%)
Last Gen Ports:
Need for Speed Most Wanted: 82.59% (PS2 81.56%)
Gun 75.32% (Gamecube 79.65%)
King Kong: 80.43% (PS2 82.43%)
Third Party Exclusive Titles:
Amped 3 73.96%
Call Of Duty 2 89.82%
Quake 4: 75.52% (PC 81.68%)
Ridge Racer 6: 75.84%
Fifa 06 Road To Fifa World Cup 62.98%
Total Games: 18
First Party Games: 3/18 or 16%
Exclusive games (including games available on PC): 9/18 or 50%
Exclusive games (not including titles available on PC) 6/18 or 33%
Last Gen Ports: 9/18 or 50%
Sports Titles: 8/18 or 44%
Racing Games 3/18 or 16%
Shooting Games: 5/18 or 27%
Average Game Ranking: 77.33%
The X-Box 360′s launch lineup was nothing if not focused. Microsoft wanted to hit that 16-34 year old male demographic and they hit it hard. Out of the 360′s 18 launch titles, 44% were sports titles. Another 27% of the titles were first person shooters, and 16% of the launch titles were racing games. Together, these three genres made up 87% of the X-Box 360′s launch.
Microsoft wanted to highlight their launch with two games from Rare, a company they purchased from Nintendo at great cost. Perfect Dark Zero was a sequel to Perfect Dark which was the spiritual successor to Goldeney 007 for the Nintendo 64. Perfect Dark Zero was a sequel that had been anticipated for a decade. The resulting game was received with mild enthusiasm, earning an aggregate review score of 81.27%. While this was a respectable score, most gamers considered the title a disappointment that wasn’t worth the wait. Rare’s other title, Kameo: Elements of Power, earned a similar score from reviewers with an average of 80.77%. While most gamers enjoyed the game, it was panned for being short and too easy. Microsoft also published Project Gotham Racing 3 which was a well received racer with an aggregate score of 88.69%.
Call of Duty 2 was the breakout hit of the X-Box 360′s launch with eventual sales of over 1.7 million. The game was also a hit with critics, earning an average score of 89.82%. The game was praised for its graphics, and critics preferred Call of Duty’s realistic art style to Perfect Dark Zero’s stylized aesthetics.
Call of Duty 2 was a console exclusive to X-Box 360, although it also came to PC gamers. Condemned was another well received third party title that was exclusive to the 360, but eventually made its way to PC. Quake 4 was a PC title that came to X-Box 360 at launch, but the 360 version had an average review score of 75.52% compared to the PC version’s 81.68%. Ridge Racer and Amped 3 were the only true exclusive third party titles, both receiving average review scores hovering around the 75% mark.
The X-Box 360′s launch featured tons of ports. In this way, the Wii U’s launch mirrors the X-Box 360. Because the X-Box 360 was the first of its generation, it received a ports from the previous generation. To be precise, 50% of the 360′s launch lineup was made up of PS2/X-Box ports. Of these ports, only 1 game, Need For Speed Most Wanted, earned a higher average score on the X-Box 360 compared to the PS2 and X-Box. Critics complained about games such as NBA Live and Madden being stripped of features. Games like GUN and King Kong were considered to be only minor improvements over their PS2 counterparts and not worth the extra money that was being charged for 360 games.
As the data shows, the X-Box 360 had a very good launch with 7 titles scoring above an 80%. Of those 7 titles, 5 of them were not available on then current generation consoles. Three of those titles were only available on X-Box 360, while two were available on PC. The average review score for the X-Box 360′s launch was 77.33%.
The Lessons Of The X-Box 360 Launch
There are two important things to learn from the X-Box 360′s launch. For one thing, launches are often filled with lackluster ports. This is something that the Wii U has already been derided for, but this is just the way launches are, especially when you’re the first of your generation. Despite the X-Box 360 being massively more powerful than its predecessors, many games were still inferior when compared to their X-Box, PS2, and Gamecube versions. It’s important for Nintendo fans to remember this as they set their expectations, and it’s important for critics to remember before writing off the new console.
Another important lesson from the 360′s launch is the power of first impressions. The X-Box 360′s launch lineup did a good job of establishing the system as the home of “hardcore” gamers. With a wide variety of shooters and sports titles, Microsoft did a great job of appealing to that demographic. This reputation has helped to sustain Microsoft with a fiercely loyal fanbase that has stuck with them through thick and thin, even as Microsoft seeks to branch out in the direction of casual gamers. As we’ll see, first impressions are hard to break, and the X-Box 360 made a good one.
Resistance: Fall of Man 86.70%
Genji Days of The Blade 57.41%
NBA 2K7: 81.30% (X-Box 360): 83.96%
NHL 2K7: 79.42% (X-Box 360) 79.95%
Madden 07 76.3% (X-Box 360) 80.86% (PS2) 84.48%
Tony Hawk Project 8: 77.7% (X-Box 360) 81.55%
Tiger Woods 2007: 81.14%
Third Party Exclusives:
Mobile Suit Gundam Crossfire: 35.68%
Ridge Racer 7: 79.47%
Third Party Ports:
Call of Duty 3: 81.23% (360): 82.51%
Marvel Ultimate Alliance: 78.24% (X-Box) 82.38%
Need For Speed Carbon: 76.26%
Blazing Angels Squadrons of World War 2: 66.14%
Total Games: 13
First Party Games: 2/13 or 15%
Exclusive games: 4/13 or 31%
Multiplatform Games: 9/13 or 69%
Sports Games: 5/13 or 38%
Average Game Ranking: 73.61%
The PS3′s launch was simply not that good. Sony’s launch lineup was the most barren of its generation with only 13 titles compared to 23 for the Wii and 18 for the X-Box 360. Sony put out two titles for the occasion. Resistance Fall Of Man was a critical and commercial success, but Genji Days of Blade was butchered by reviewers. While most critics and gamers agreed that its graphics were excellent, they found its gameplay to be boring. The game is now mostly remembered for its Giant Enemy Crab, a meme which become demonstrative of Sony’s struggles with the PS3 launch.
Sony was only able to secure 2 third party exlusives. Namco brought a Ridge Racer title to the launch as they tend to do, and the game was well received. Namco also brought out Mobile Suit Gundam Crossfire, a title which was universally hated by reviewers and gamers alike in the West.
The PS3 also received its fair share of sports games. Due to developer experience with the similarly powered X-Box 360, these ports were better than the 360′s launch ports. NHL 2K7 and Tiger Woods 2007 scored within a point of their X-Box 360 counterparts, and NBA 2K7 was close. The only truly poor port here was Madden 07. The PS3 version didn’t run as well as the X-Box 360 version, and even the X-Box 360 version was still missing features found on the PS2 version of Madden. Again, Call of Duty was able to steal the launch show, even though Call of Duty 3 was not as well received as its predecessor and was available on PC as well as both of the PS3′s rival systems.
Overall, the PS3 had four launch titles to receive an aggregate score of 80% or above. However, of these titles only one game was a console exclusive for the PS3.
Lessons To Be Learned
The Playstation 3 suffered from a lack of games with 5 less than the X-Box 360, and multiplatform games were equal to or inferior to their X-Box 360 counterparts. Just like the X-Box 360 established itself well with their launch lineup, the PS3 gained a bad reputation with their first day on the market. It would take years for Sony to convince gamers that the PS3 was as good as its rival and to wash away the stigma of lackluster ports and a dearth of software. While Sony was able to eventually turn the PS3 tide, it was an uphill battle. With the PS2, Sony dominated its competition, and with the PS3, Sony is still working to catch the second place X-Box 360. While the launch lineup wasn’t the sole reason for this it was certainly a contributing factor. First impressions are incredibly important and the PS3 is an excellent example of this fact.
Wii Launch Lineup
First Party Games:
The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess: 94.51% (Gamecube) 96.03%
Excite Truck: 75.19%
Wii Sports: 76.22%
Third Party Exclusives
Trauma Center Second Opinion: 80.09%
Rayman Raving Rabbids: 76.72%
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz: 73.41%
Red Steel: 65.83%
GT Pro Series: 38.21%
Ports and Multiplatforms
Call of Duty 3: 69.91% (360: 82.51%)
Avatar: The Last Air Bender: 64.55%
Happy Feet: 48.69%
Monster 4×4 World Circuit: 54.18%
Need For Speed Carbon: 66.09% (360: 77.47%)
Rampage Total Destruction: 49.57%
Spongebob Creature From The Krusty Krab: 60.18%
Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2: 72.91%
Marvel Ultimate Alliance: 73.96% (X-Box 360: 82.04%)
Open Season: 45.8%
Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam: 69.39%
Madden NFL 07: 80.67%
The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy: 59.77%
Total Titles: 23
First Party Titles: 3/23 or 13%
Exclusive Titles: 8/23 or 34%
Games Based on Licensed Kids Properties: 7/23 or 30.04%
Multiplatform Games: 15/23 or 66%
Overall Ranking: 66.51%
You know, I honestly forgot how dismal the Wii’s launch was. The Wii launched with 23 games, which incidentally is the number of games that the Wii U will have available at launch. Nintendo themselves brought 3 games to the launch party. The highest rated game of the bunch was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was the highest rated of any launch titles for the three current generation systems with a 94.31% rating, but Twilight Princess was a ringer. Twilight Princess was supposed to be one of the last titles for the Gamecube, but was ported to the Wii to serve as its launch title. Because of its Gamecube origins and long development time, it was more polished and lengthy than the average launch title. While Twilight Princess was the highest rated of all the launch titles we’ve seen today, it wasn’t the star of the Wii launch. That honor went to Wii Sports which was packed in with each Wii and helped the Wii achieve massive popularity.
Third party support for the Wii was abundant, but it was a matter of quantity over quality. Of the 20 third party titles at the Wii U’s launch only two, Trauma Center and Madden 07, earned an average score above 80. Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids was met with an average 76.72% score by critics, but was very popular among Wii owners. The rest of the Wii’s launch was dominated by licensed children’s properties. The Wii had 7 of these games which made up 30% of the Wii’s launch. Most of these games were ports from Gamecube/PS2 games, and most of them were not very good. You’ll notice I didn’t compare these games to their PS2 versions as I did with other consoles, but when you’re talking about such awful games, it doesn’t seem relevant. What is relevant is that games like Need for Speed Carbon, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and Call of Duty 3 were significantly worse than their 360 and PS3 counterparts.
The average review score for the Wii’s launch lineup was 66.51% which was significantly lower than its rivals. In the case of the X-Box 360, the Wii’s average launch title scored a whopping 10% less. The Wii’s lack of quality third party software would be a constant theme throughout the Wii’s lifespan. The Wii’s launch was dragged down by shovelware, and this problem would plague the console till today.
Lessons Of The Wii Launch
The Wii’s launch was easily the worst of the bunch on paper. Even with what should have been the Gamecube’s grand finale, the quality of the Wii’s launch lineup was pathetic low. Despite this, the Wii launch was very successful and is fondly remembered by many gamers. The Wii launch was the story of one game; Wii Sports. Wii Sports was a true killer app that sold the Wii console nearly single-handedly. If you have a truly killer app like Wii Sports, you can get away with a mediocre launch lineup, but Nintendo can’t count on that happening again.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though. While newer gamers were dazzled with the accessible fun of Wii Sports, more experienced gamers soon plowed through Twilight Princess, played a few rounds of Wii Bowling, and started desperately searching for more content. With the Wii, Nintendo succeeded impressively in one segment while struggling with another. This would be the story of the Wii’s entire lifespan, and the precedent was set on day one.
New Super Mario Bros U
Third Party Exclusives:
Scribblenauts Unlimited (PC version due as well)
Game Party Champions
ESPN Sports Connection
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition
Assassin’s Creed III
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (published by Nintendo)
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
FIFA Soccer 13
Just Dance 4
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Total Titles: 23
First Party: 3/23 or 13%
Exclusives: 9/23 or 39%
Multiplatforms: 14/23 or 61%
Nintendo has also made quality a higher priority than it did with the Wii. Of course, we won’t know how good these games are until they launch, but only a few titles (Sports Champions, ESPN Sports Connection, Wipeout 3, and Transformers Prime) truly seem to be shovelware. The number of games based on kids TV and movie licenses is also thankfully decreased.
Nintendo’s first party software will play a huge role in their overall success. Sing will likely find a nice niche for itself, but will play second fiddle to Nintendo’s two big games. Nintendo hopes that Nintendo Land will replicate the success Wii Sports will have. Nintendo Land is a very well made minigame collection, but the market has changed, and its unclear whether or not Nintendo Land will sell the system as well as Wii Sports did. New Super Mario Bros U has Mario in the title, and that alone will sell the game to gamers. There is no question that Wii U owners will buy New Super Mario Bros U, but the question is whether New Super Mario Bros U can motivate undecided shoppers to pick up the new console.
The Wii U has been derided for having an overabundance of multiplatform games, but that criticism doesn’t hold up when compared to other launches. The Wii U has the most exclusives of any recent console launch, with 8 or 9 exclusive titles depending on how you count Scribblenauts Unlimited. This is compared to 8 for the Wii, 4 for the PS3, and 6-8 for the X-Box 360 depending on how you count games with PC versions. It seems like Nintendo has managed to secure a decent amount of exclusives for their console.
The Wii U comes in packing a respectable 6 third party exclusive titles. The biggest of these titles is Zombi U. Zombi U is getting very positive buzz and provides the “hardcore” option that Nintendo needs. Scribblenauts Unlimited will be released on the Wii U and PC, with a modified version coming to the 3DS. Scribblenauts is a well respected and well received franchise that will be making its home console debut. Along with Zombi U, Ubisoft is bringing Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013, ESPN Sports Connection, and Rabbids Land which look less promising than Zombi U and Super Scribblenauts. A new Game Party title rounds out the third party offerings, and its safe to say that this won’t be a AAA title.
The Wii U will have 14 multiplatform titles making up 61% of its lineup. There is a key difference between the Wii U ports when compared to ports that the 360, PS3, and Wii received at launch. The X-Box 360, PS3, and the Wii had ports of games that just so happened to be coming out near the end of the year such as GUN, Need for Speed Most Wanted and Carbon, and King Kong. With the Wii U, publishers are bringing ports of games that had been released throughout the year. Games like Skylanders Giants, Epic Mickey 2, Black Ops 2, and Assassin’s Creed III will still be fresh, but games like Darksiders II, Ninja Gaiden 3, and Batman Arkham City have already been available for months, and a year in the case of Arkham City. This could be a double edged sword. On the one hand, Batman Arkham City is a far better game than King Kong or Gun, but it can already be had for less money on other consoles. Whether or not the Wii U versions of multiplatform games will be significantly enhanced remains to be seen. As we can see by looking at past launches, most launch ports tend to be poorly received compared to their current generation counterparts, even if the hardware is a huge step up as was the case with the X-Box 360. Most impressions seem to indicate that the Wii U’s launch ports will be of comparable quality to their source material. Nintendo clearly wanted to get the best multiplatform games possible, but relying on older games might reinforce the idea that Nintendo is playing catch up.
The Wii U’s launch is notable for it’s strong amount of variety. There is no one genre or style of game that dominates the Wii U’s launch. The mini-game collection genre is well represented with four titles, but no other genre seems over represented. FPS, survival horror, fighting, platforming, adventure, action, sports, racing, and puzzle games all are present. The Wii U has titles for hardcore gamers (Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Ops 2, Zombi U), casual gamers (Just Dance 4, Sing, Rabbids Land, Fitness Evolved), younger gamers (Skylanders, Epic Mickey) and games that have broad appeal (Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros U, Scribblenauts Unlimited).
The Wii U’s launch lineup’s variety may be both a blessing as a curse. While the Wii U has a few titles to appeal to each demographic, it may not have enough exclusives to go around. In particular, the Wii U may have trouble appealing to more “hardcore gamers” with Zombi U as the only “harcore” exclusive title. Similarly, the prospect of Sing and Nintendo Land may not be enough to appeal to the extremely casual end of the spectrum. However, the Wii U looks like it will really be a great option for a family. It’s not hard to imagine a family of five picking up a Wii U with Sing for a younger child, Zombi U for a teenager, and Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros for the whole family. Time will tell if this broad focus will benefit or hinder the Wii U.
What Do You Think?
Those are my interpretations, but the data is there for you. Take a look at all of the launch lineups. Which do you think is best? Which is worst? How does the Wii U stack up? Let me know in the comments.