Round Table: The Comeback Game

To kick off our current issue, we discuss what’s right and wrong with Wii on the hardcore front, and whether Wii can redeem itself with those “mature” gamers.

By M. Noah Ward. Posted 06/28/2010 14:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition Artwork

Would it be ironic, or at least mature-rated, to say that Wii has been “bleeding” hardcore gamers? The metaphor seems apt. The stereotype says that hardcore gamers want mature, bloody games with serious themes, a little skin and a British accent if possible. Balls-to-the-wall explosions, gory violence and brutal aliens. If not Nathan Drake or Kratos, then Marcus Phoenix and Bayonetta, please. Not Fox McCloud, not Pikachu and definitely not something pink and cuddly like Kirby. Yeah, Samus stripped to a bikini once, but that’s so ’80s.

Yet those latter heroes (and heroine), along with a cavalcade of even better-known ones, have built the Nintendo we know and love. Many of them have had (or may have) stellar sequels and rebirths on Wii, and alongside them we’ve seen blood splash across MadWorld, heads explode in House of the Dead: Overkill and aliens turn to goo in The Conduit. Yet none of that has been enough: the exodus of hardcore gamers to other systems, so we’re told, is loud, obvious and apparent. Third parties vocalized their disappointment over the sales of their traditional, “hardcore” games throughout 2009, and are refocused on PS3 and 360, with a few exceptions, such as Activision’s upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops and the Goldeneye remake.

So what’s Nintendo to do? How can, or even how could, Wii turn things around? Lock down a heretofore mature exclusive another system had, like with Resident Evil 4? Take Mario or Link in a daring new direction? Or should all the work to regain “street cred” with “mature” gamers be put into a next-gen system? We share our thoughts and hopes on this conundrum in the following round table.

Andy Hoover

Being a rather impatient individual, I would rather Nintendo and third parties not wait for the next generation to bring us “hardcore” games on Wii. Of course this means something needs to be done to improve the sales of games touting themselves as mature, and the first thing that comes to mind is that the developers need to start doing better. All of the mature games Noah mentioned are solid titles and have many positive attributes that make them worth recommending, however each of them has a handful of major areas that prevent them from being AAA games. MadWorld had awesome visuals, loads of humor, a great soundtrack, and a unique twist on typical beat-em-up gameplay; however, it was also criminally short and very repetitive. The Conduit of course had great controls and some fun weapons, but the core gameplay was dated and the online was broken beyond repair. Both House of the Dead Overkill and Dead Space Extraction were fantastic, but paid dearly for being rail shooters, a genre that is limited to a very small niche nowadays.

House of the Dead: Overkill Screen

Unfortunately, simply producing better games might not be quite enough at this point. Millions of longtime gamers have all but given up on Wii, perhaps only powering their systems on with major Nintendo releases from their core franchises. To get the ball rolling, somebody needs to put out a truly massive effort that takes off like a waggle-powered rocket and becomes a true cultural force; something like Halo on the original Xbox. One thing to keep in mind though is the fact that Nintendo doesn’t necessarily need this to happen: Wii is already making a killing off of new gamers and Zelda, Mario, and Metroid loyalists like us. With Wii currently being the leader of this generation, it is really the third parties who need the “hardcore” market to flourish on Wii, especially at a time when the industry is still suffering from the poor economy.

Aaron Roberts

I don’t think there’s a problem. There ARE M-rated games on the Wii. There ARE so-called “hardcore” games on the Wii as well. What we’re really complaining about is how there aren’t enough “top-tier” hardcore titles on the system. All our “adult” games are spinoffs of games that are on the other consoles. Well, not all, but a lot. There are original M-rated games on the Wii that aren’t on other systems, but people do not tend to buy them — at least, not enough people.

Nintendo doesn’t believe in first party M-rated games. That’s a part of the company philosophy. Since third party games tend to be less successful on Nintendo-branded consoles, and since Nintendo itself won’t release an M-rated game, that conundrum pretty much answers itself. I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy Nintendo consoles or products with M-rated material specifically in mind. Are you having fun with what you’ve got? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Also, there is a game like Resident Evil 4 on the Wii — it’s called Resident Evil 4. I’m made to understand it sold better than the GCN version, too.

Greg Wampler

Well, it should be noted that Nintendo has never been the company to cater to mature gamers only. It has always been a company about everyone. It has published a few titles here and there that were mature rated, but all of its self-developed titles and original character-based games were no higher than teen-rated. This leads me to believing it has always been up to the third parties, and on Wii, they just haven’t been there. Sure, some games like MadWorld are really fun, but I just recently picked this game up and at a very high price cut. Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition was a GameCube port, but actually sold better than the GameCube version, so I guess that goes against the argument. Yet then we get games like Darkside Chronicles and House of the Dead. These are simply on-rails shooters, which have such a small niche of followers, it’s not even funny. And The Conduit, well that game was just straight-up broken from the get-go.

The Conduit - Screenshot

All of the games I listed have one thing in common (aside from The Conduit) with many other mature-rated games: poor marketing. This is the biggest thing that needs to change. In order to fix this generation, more marketing needs to be put into these games. Mature games can’t simply sell on a console with Mario and Zelda without enough marketing. Resident Evil seems to sell decently on Wii, but throw some more money at the ad agents and watch the charts change drastically.

There definitely are mature titles on Wii, albeit some very different ideas, genres and IPs, but I would think that new IPs like MadWorld would sell like hotcakes if marketed correctly. Although, we are in the day and age of first person shooters, I wish some gamers would just take a step back from the norm and try a new game or two for once. However, I don’t believe the Wii’s image will be fixed this generation. Third parties tried (barely), and that effort was all they ever had planned unless some miracle happened where new IPs sold on Wii without marketing. Next generation is the best bet for a new “blood-and-guts” mature scene for Nintendo’s home console. I could really care less, but if Nintendo ups the ante in the hardware specs department, there may be a chance, along with some radically new and different ideas. Let’s not forget, however, that this is probably the best generation for Nintendo’s “mature” image to thrive with Metroid titles galore, a new Sin and Punishment, and yet another Zelda title coming.

Matthew Tidman

Sadly, the only way for Nintendo to regain its “cred” would be to alienate the new brand of consumer it’s drawing… or it could have its best E3 showing in years and make gamers all around the globe drop their jaws with the awesomeness. But E3 only happens once a year, and Nintendo is still Nintendo. Honestly, nothing short of Nintendo conducting human sacrifices of casual gamers to the altar of HD would draw back the “ultra-core” gamers who have left. But I do have one way that Nintendo could reach out to those gamers who want a hardcore experience on Wii. Hire the entire Nintendojo staff as consultants.

But seriously, Nintendo amazed not only gamers, but developers with its new handheld at E3. Can you imagine what a coup it would be if the next Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania, and Final Fantasy game were all Nintendo-exclusive titles? The developers have seen the capability of 3DS and pledged major support to it, but what happens after the 3D furor dies down? DS has always been a more core-friendly line, thanks to the ubiquity of the system in both mainstream and casual circles. What will Nintendo have cooked up for its next home console that will wow developers and show publishers that it’s ok to take the risk with “The Big N”? They need to have a solid plan that is every bit as good as 3DS.

Also, it doesn’t cost much to hire me as a consultant, Nintendo. Just saying…

Evan Campbell

Will someone explain to me how more blood, explosions, and nudity equates to mature content? Asking for more blood and nudity sounds more like a 12-year-old’s wet dream than an experience an older person wants. So, if that’s how mature is defined — which does seem to be the case by many — then Nintendo doesn’t need it.

Though the Big N does cater to the blood crowd. Wii owners can purchase plenty of gory-rrific titles — House of the Dead: Overkill, MadWorld, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Reflex, The Conduit, and Dead Space Extraction. The white console even proffers titles that deal with deceit and back-stabbing, like Deadly Creatures, and lone rangers seeking redemption, like Red Steel 2.

Deadly Creatures Screenshot

The main problem with these titles not selling as well to similar games on the other consoles may boil down to visuals. Better-quality graphics equal better games to many people, and Wii can’t compete with Xbox 360 or PS3 on that front.

The other downfall relates to marketing. Nintendo promotes Wii as a family-friendly console, where everyone in the house gets together to play a game. Microsoft and Sony push a more diehard message to their audiences. In addition, rarely are third-party games for Wii marketed well on television.

To shift this kiddy image, Nintendo has to start with marketing, and I don’t see that happening. Exclusive titles will not work either, as Resident Evil 4 demonstrated with GameCube. Instead, Nintendo could reach out to third-party publishers and even publish a couple M-rated titles itself, like the company did with External Darkness.

But that still won’t be enough for the so-called “hardcore” gamers. Nintendo may attempt to regain some of the gamers bleeding to other consoles, though more than likely is finding new customers with the blue ocean strategy. These new customers define mature as an experience that involves critical thinking, like the Professor Layton series. And you know what, I’m all for it.

James Stank

Let’s be honest. There is no way Nintendo can turn things around with the “hardcore” demographic. Wii has plenty of hardcore games for that crowd, but those games won’t be considered hardcore by the other hardcore crowd. While Nintendo fans know that you can’t get more hardcore than Mario and Zelda, other gamers will always think those titles are childish and non-challenging. Nintendo has long had a childish image, and that isn’t going to change.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles Screenshot

Evan said he believes the hardcore games on Wii aren’t selling because their graphics aren’t that good compared to games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but I think he is way off. It has already been proven with games like Super Mario Galaxy that games can be as eye-popping on Wii as they are on the competition’s machines. No, the games made for hardcore gamers don’t sell well on Wii because of their quality. I think MadWorld was a horrible game, as was Red Steel. The hardcore games that Evan named are garbage compared to what gamers could find on the 360 and PS3, and that is the truth. Another problem with Wii is that it doesn’t even have the games that hardcore gamers want. Who in their right mind would choose to play Dead Space: Extraction over Dead Space? or Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles over Resident Evil 5? No one.

With that said, the situation is fine with me. I didn’t buy my Wii to play hardcore third-party games. I bought my Wii because of the hardcore Nintendo games that I love. If I want to play those “traditional” hardcore games, that is what my PS3 is for.

So yes, we’re hardcore, and we all still own a Wii. It sounds like, for the most part, we’re happy– though I’m certain that most of us who crave those “mature” games on other consoles actually own another console from Microsoft or Sony, provided we can afford it. Is that an acceptable solution for you? Are you happy owning not one but two game consoles to satisfy your gaming needs, or does Wii give you everything you need? Tell us what you think in the forums, send us a tweet, or leave a comment below.

One Response to “Round Table: The Comeback Game”

  • 75 points
    FiVeL says...

    I SuGGeST NiNTeNDo sHouLD mAKe a NeW (MaTuRe) cHaRaCTeR anD sTaRT a NeW FRaNChiSe. I BeT tHeY cAn mAKe a KiLLeR GaMe wiTh ‘tHeiR’ PRoGRaMiNG, siNCe oTheR CoMPaNieS cAN’T SeeM tO MiX GooD GaMePLaY & iNTeNSe GRaFiXs tOGeTheR.

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