Four Problems Facing the Wii in 2008: #2 - Third-Party Support

greedy[Over the next two weeks, MyWiiNews is offering a four-part, in-depth series on the biggest problems that face the Wii in 2008. We'll be looking at the problems and offering a few tips for Nintendo & Co. to meet the challenges head on, and keep the console in first place. Stay tuned to catch the whole series, only at MyWiiNews.com]

Yesterday we started off our four-part series by discussing the effect of system shortages so far into the Wii’s lifespan, and pointing out a few simple ways for Nintendo to finally meet customer demand in 2008. Today we continue on to look at the current state of third-party publishers on the Wii, and the problems that currently face every publisher on the store shelves that are not Nintendo.

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Looking back at the standout titles in past Nintendo generations, it’s hard to look past the utter dominance of Nintendo’s first party titles. From Super Mario Bros to Metroid, Zelda to Star Fox, all of these iconic videogame series have sold billions of games and are intellectual properties originally created by Nintendo. It’s almost unfathomable to think of someone owning a NES, Super Nintendo, GameCube, et al. without one of the many first party titles that are released every year.The success of Nintendo’s first party titles isn’t very surprising when you look at the games in question, and the amount of push that Nintendo has behind its titles. The overall quality of many of these games are hard to understate, as many of Nintendo’s top titles have gone on to become some of the most critically acclaimed titles ever made. In fact, at time of writing, almost half of the top ten rated videogames of all time are first party Nintendo titles, speaking to how well crafted and timeless many of these adventures are. While these ratings should of course be taken with a grain of salt, since it obviously favors games published within the last ten or so years which have been archived on the internet, it’s hard to deny Nintendo’s prowess when it comes to first-party titles

Historically, first party titles have traditionally been the best selling games for systems. Looking back at Sega’s Sonic, Turbo-Grafx’s Bonk, and (arguably) Microsoft’s Halo, it’s obvious that first party titles have always had a commanding position in the videogame market. Things started to slowly change with the last few generations of videogame consoles, as Sony and Microsoft started to buck the trend of first-party dominance and focus on exclusive third-party titles made by outside companies such as Square-Enix, Konami, Activision, Midway, Capcom, and a variety of other sources.

images.jpegThese companies have existed for years, but came to the forefront when Sony and Microsoft entered the gaming market. Without as many “in house” developers for their systems, Sony and Microsoft proceeded to purchase smaller publishers and independent game studios to put under their development wing (such as Sony Computer Entertainment’s subsidiaries like Naughty Dog and Microsoft’s Bungie Studios, which has since become independent again) and release many wonderful games alongside their actual first-party titles. While first-party titles still had a place on these systems, there was a gradual shift towards the importance of third-party exclusives (as was seen with Squaresoft with the original PlayStation) to drive console sales, rather than simply first-party titles, like Mario, that had previously defined the system.

The gradual shift of third-parties to the forefront of the videogame market is becoming more and more obvious on consoles across the board, with the one notable exception of Nintendo. With the majority of people picking up third-party titles like Madden, Guitar Hero, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy, and Call of Duty, a strong third-party line up presents more variation than first-party titles alone, and has become vital to the overall success of a console.

The unfortunate dearth of worthwhile third-party titles for the Wii has been disappointing over the past year, but the low sales of the few worthwhile titles that have been released are even more disheartening. With third-party titles bringing much needed diversity to the console, how can developers make sure that their titles stand out amongst the sea of ports and hold their own against the first party titles? We here at MyWiiNews have a few suggestions to help foster much needed third-party Wii support in 2008.

chicken.jpg1. Third Parties Need to Produce Games With Better Overall Quality

All of us have our own personal tastes, and a game that I find to be the most boring thing ever compiled just might be your favorite adventure yet. However, when looking at the majority of games that have come out during the Wii’s lifespan so far, third-party developers have been responsible for the very worst of the worst out there. Escape From Bug Island? Eidos. Cruis’n? Midway. Chicken Shoot? *shudder* Zoo Digital. These games are just a very small sampling of the crap that the Wii has received over the past year, and, even more unfortunately, some of the third-party exclusives that the Wii was (un)lucky enough to score.

When games that are made like crap sell like crap, developers shouldn’t be too surprised. It takes money to make money, and unless developers are willing to put in the work to create a worthwhile game, they can’t expect a blockbuster. So instead, many third-parties seem to be either churning out ports or sloppily rushed titles in order to trick as many people into thinking that their pitiful titles are worth their $50.

Quite frankly, Nintendo needs to take charge and weed out the crap. Allowing all these shoddy ports to litter store shelves may allow more third-party titles to be released, but it worsens the third-party situation on a whole. In order to foster worthwhile third-party development, Nintendo needs to start being more selective with the titles that it releases. Instead of slapping the “Official Seal of Quality” onto everything that comes in the door, how about forcing third-parties to be more selective of the titles that they release? This would send a message to the developers that full-length extensions of flash games that use poultry as a projectile should not be common place, and that more quality titles need to be produced for Nintendo’s quality system.

zack.jpg2. Third-Party Games Need to be Adequately Advertised

Zack and Wiki. Have you heard of it? There’s a far too good of a chance that you haven’t, as it was one of the most criminally underpurchased titles of last year. Sporting beautiful cartoon graphics, an enjoyable storyline, and a wonderful mix of new and traditional gaming elements blended skillfully with the Wii’s motion controls, Zack and Wiki was everything that gamers (and reviewers) everywhere were looking for in a third-party Wii title. However it went largely unnoticed, largely due to the complete lack of advertising on Capcom’s behalf for their newest creation.

All of the viral buzz in the world won’t sell titles to the larger gaming population, who generally turn to TV, magazines, and larger media outlets to find out about their new games. Even with IGN’s grassroots Buy Zack and Wiki campaign, the duo only managed to sell a paltry 35,000 copies in its first month. Compared to the sales of heavily publicized titles like Super Mario Galaxy, WarioWare, and the handful of other titles highlighted in the “Wii Want To Play” TV commercials, Zack and Wiki’s sales were an abject failure.

With Nintendo having a vested interest in the success of third-party titles for the diversity of their gaming population, they should consider helping to pick up smaller titles and bring them to light much like they have done in the past with Elite Beat Agents and other games in the past. Likewise, third-party publishers need to understand the importance of getting their games known to the populace, and realize that the extra money spent on advertising will come back to them tenfold. Because it doesn’t matter how many reviewers think a game is the best thing since Zelda, if the general gaming populace doesn’t have a clue about the game, they probably won’t be picking it up.

In the end, third-party exclusive games should be exclusive to the Wii because they are phenomenal intellectual properties that are worthy of the Wii’s fanbase and the Wii’s revolutionary motion controls; not because Nintendo is the only place where publishers can unload their crap in hopes of making a quick $50. Changing the currently “quality” standards would help give third-party titles more credibility on the Wii, while increasing their advertisement would also bring in more revenue and entice publishers to keep taking chances on developing new titles for the innovative system. The first party titles alone cannot win this console war, and if Nintendo wants to come out on top, they need to start changing the way that they think about third-party titles right away.

Did you miss a part? Ready to read on? Catch the whole series, only at MyWiiNews:

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