They’re going to shoot themselves some Wii Us.
Though it has been around for less than a year, the Wii U already has a reputation as a system where third party games cannot sell. It’s not surprising that the third party games available on the Wii U haven’t sold very well. Many games that released for the Wii U were months old by the time they were released on the Wii U. Games like Mass Effect 3 launched for 60 dollars on the Wii U long after they were 20 dollar titles on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Batman: Arkham City was over a year old before launching on the Wii U. Other games like Madden arrived on the Wii U without key features.
Many people were hoping that the second batch of Wii U titles, launching at the same time as other SKUs, would be more successful than the first batch. On a personal level, I was looking forward to Batman: Arkham Origins more than any other third party title. The first two games in the franchise were great games, and I actually think off screen play will work well for the series (it would certainly make the hunt for Riddler trophies more bearable). I even have a preorder for the Wii U version of Arkham City.
Unfortunately, I may have to cancel that preorder. WB Games has recently announced that the Xbox 360 and PS3 will have an online multiplayer mode that will be a hybrid third person shooter beat em up game. I’m not typically a fan of multiplayer modes in previously single player franchises (I believe Mass Effect 3 and Bioshock 2 were worse for the additions), but I’m more than willing to give this mode a shot to see how it is. Wii U owners however, will not be getting this multiplayer mode.
WB’s official reasoning is that they want to focus on the market with multiplayer gamers. That reasoning confuses me a bit. Obviously, the Wii U has a smaller install base than the other consoles, but are Wii U owners averse to multiplayer? If they feel that it’s worth porting the game to the Wii U, I would assume it’s worth porting the multiplayer mode. If it’s on the menu, people will probably try it. It’s fine though. These decisions aren’t mine to make. However, if the Wii U version won’t have this multiplayer mode, shouldn’t Wii U owners pay less for the game? It only seems fair that less content should cost less money. I could possibly understand the price if the Wii U couldn’t handle the multiplayer mode, but that isn’t the case. Wii U owners will have to pay the same price as Xbox 360 and PS3 owners for a lesser game.
Damned If You Do…
On a personal level, this isn’t a big deal to me. I’d rather play the game on the Wii U, but I have an Xbox 360. What concerns me is what’s going to happen in board meetings over at WB interactive. Let’s say that I buy the Wii U version of the game knowing full well that I’m getting a lesser game because I want to support the Wii U. Suppose Arkham Origins is a success story on the Wii U. How will developers interpret this?
In the best case scenario, developers will see this success, and decide to invest further in Wii U titles, but I’m not so sure this will happen. Developers are always looking for ways to save money. More likely, developers will see the gimped version of Batman Arkham Origins selling, and they’ll think “oh Wii U owners don’t care about multiplayer”. Worse yet, they might think “oh Wii U owners are fine with paying the same amount for a lesser game”. Developers will then get in the habit of skimping on features for the Wii U. Eventually, Wii U owners will get fed up with poor quality and simply buy games for other consoles or not buy them at all.
Damned If You Don’t
Suppose Wii U owners are already smart enough not to pay the same amount of money for a lesser products? If Wii U owners skip out on the Wii U version of Arkham Origins to buy it on another console, or not buy it at all, then what will executives think? Will executives think “hmmm Wii U owners are not OK with being ripped off, so we’d better improve the quality of our games”? Or, will executives think, “Wii U owners don’t buy third party games, so why bother”?
If history repeats itself, the answer is the latter. The Wii was home to many lackluster ports such as Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, and when such games didn’t sell, developers held the Wii accountable and stopped developing for it. Of course, the Wii was an underpowered console, so it’s hard to blame developers for delivering lackluster ports. However, we’ve already seen that the Wii U is as capable as the PS3 and Xbox 360, so there is no reason for current gen ports to be missing features.
Does The Wii U Have A Chance?
What we have is a case of developers either deliberately or inadvertently screwing over the Wii U. If there is one thing we know about executives, it is that they don’t like taking accountability for failure, so the Wii U will definitely be held accountable for poor sales of gimped ports. If by some miracle the games sell, this will show developers an easy way to save money.
To be clear, I’m not saying that the Wii U is a magical place where third party games will thrive, nor am I absolving Nintendo of responsibility for the Wii U’s third party sales. What I’m saying is that developers are not even giving the Wii U a fighting chance. So far, the Wii U has seen broken (Zombi U, Epic Mickey 2), gimped (Sniper Elite V2, Batman Arkham Origins, Madden 13, Injustice), late (Batman Arkham City, Deus Ex, Darksiders 2, Tekken Tag Tournament 2), vastly overpriced (Mass Effect 3), or just plain bad (Funky Barn, Game Party Champions, ESPN Sports Connection) games. Only a handful of games (Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing Transformed, Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Skylanders: Giants) were timely and well made. While these games didn’t set the world on fire, they have performed notably better than their lesser counterparts.
So, my message to third party developers is simple. Give us the same games, with the same features, for the same price, at the same time. If you do this, and the games still don’t sell, stop porting them to the Wii U. If you give the Wii U an honest chance and it doesn’t work out, I won’t expect you to keep throwing money away. But, if you decide to release ports with missing features, the same or higher prices, and release them several months late, then don’t hold it against the Wii U when things don’t work out. If you really don’t want to see if there is a potential audience on the Wii U, then don’t make any ports at all. Just don’t half ass it. Seems fair right?
Of course, I’d love to hear what you have to say to this situation. If you’d like to comment feel free to do so in this article’s page, or add me at @GotGameJustin. Naturally, if you add me I’ll add you back. Till next time.