Welcome to Industry Chatter, the mongering home of gossip, rumors and industry backchat. (Wait… is mongering a word? Is backchat?) This is Nintendojo’s new venue to dissect the babble of Marketing VPs, to look for the truth behind sales figures and read between the lines of press releases. Essentially, we’re here to make the dull stuff in gaming oh so much more exciting. I know, I’m psyched too.
The last seven days have seen the buzz around Project Cafe only increase further (I blame the caffeine) but Nintendo has remained tight-lipped on the subject. Instead it’s playing its classic role of puppet master; giddily watching all the underlings dance to its merry tune while watching on from above. That sounds a bit creepy doesn’t it? Well, let’s put some meat on those bones.
First up is Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot (CEO and all-round cool named guy) who could only sing the praises of Cafe to company investors this week. Positively gushing, he remarked that “The platform Nintendo is coming with is really a fantastic platform. We think it will be extremely successful.” I’m sure Nintendo will sleep safe now Yves, knowing you’ve given Project Cafe your blessing. More interestingly, perhaps, he went on to explain “What we see is that we will be able to leverage a lot of the work we do for Xbox 360 and PS3 while we create games for the platform… So we will not have to redo completely the games that we create. We’ll be able to use all the capacity the console is giving but also use all the work we do for the other platforms.”
Now that’s a bit more tangible, isn’t it? Old Yves is clearly indicating that a significant amount of development currently occurring on PS3 and 360 can be tripled up to add Cafe into the fold, much like in the early days of the GameCube era (before series such as TimeSplitters and Beyond Good & Evil packed up and jumped ship.) Could this signal a wider influx of titles that would have been formerly the reserve of the more “hardcore” consoles of this generation? Perhaps. If Nintendo can pull in big hitter titles, the Grand Theft Auto V and Metal Gear Risings of this world, while also pushing ahead with Cafe-exclusive titles that technically surpass the competition then it’s putting itself in an excellent market position. Good to know it’s got Ubisoft in its pockets, too.
At the rate that Beyond Good & Evil 2 is being developed, I think gamers would be happy if it came out on any platform whatsoever. Though Project Cafe would be pretty nice.
Speaking of being in Nintendo’s pockets, the second-bananas at SEGA recently discussed their relationship with The Big N relating to the development of the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games franchise. When questioned about why Mario and Sonic only go head to head in the sporting arena and not the more humdrum vistas of the Green Hill zone or Isle of Delfino, Chief producer of the London 2012 installment in the series, Osamu Ohashi, explained, “These characters come from two totally different backgrounds, and have completely different worlds. If you do any kind of collaboration, you can’t just get them to run on one of the Sonic stages or vice versa. You have to create something from scratch, a neutral location. Nintendo and SEGA never managed to agree on just where or what kind of universe we could set a Mario and Sonic adventure in.”
He continued to explain how it was SEGA that acquired the Olympic Games license and then suggested the concept to Nintendo, who seemed interested. An interesting back story yes, but I’m not exactly sure how proactive Nintendo was on developing any such collaboration in the first place. While they could have easily plopped Sonic et al in a karting franchise or a vs. fighter with the Mushroom Kingdom crew, I sense their hesitation to make the first move may have been a tactical business decision. While Sonic’s popularity has been waning in recent years (something we’re not happy about), the same isn’t true for Mario, a brand which has proved its enduring and ever-growing appeal. While Nintendo didn’t need Sonic, I’d wager that Sonic needed Nintendo. Hence we can understand SEGA’s active role in the partnership while Miyamoto has yet to get around to coding a game for the speedy hedgehog.
Elsewhere in gaming, Square Enix announced that the company had “experienced significantly lower sales and profit during the fiscal year mainly due to weak performance of console game titles released during the year…”. All I can say is “Kingdom Hearts 3 on Cafe and all will be forgiven, Square Enix!” The company that once dominated the world of gaming has recently hit tough times, including the bug-plagued MMO Final Fantasy XIV, which has still to hit PS3 or even begin to make profits on PC. Could the company’s notoriously long development cycles be eating into profits? It’s definitely a possibility.
So what’s Nintendo saying in the midst of all this? Well, not much. While companies are explaining how chummy they are with Nintendo or much they admire Nintendo, or how badly they’re doing without Nintendo, Nintendo isn’t really saying much itself. However, when asked about the future of Wii post-E3, the company’s UK marketing manager stated that “There are great new pieces of software launching this year such as Wii Play: Motion in June and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword later on in 2011. Plus, there are plenty more surprises in store for 2012 from us– Wii has got a great future ahead of it.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that “a great future” means more than those two games. At least a third. Or maybe even four? That’s the one good thing about being secretive about your projects; it’s very hard to slate someone if you have no idea what they’re up to. However, it’s not a feasible long term strategy so expect Nintendo to spill the beans big time come E3.
I know, I can’t wait either.