On Innovation and Hypocrisy

So I’m sure you’ve seen the footage for the new Punch-Out game coming out in a couple weeks. If you’ve done any digging you’ve likely noticed that nearly all of the roster from the old school NES game is returning with a few additional stereotyped characters. And yes, the pink jumpsuit appears to be coming back too. After seeing all the screen shots and reading the hands-on articles, I think I’ve reached a tipping point. All of these remakes are starting to make me sick. And the worst part of all of this is that we are to blame. You (my eager reader) and I, as serious gamers are responsible for the lack of innovation on the White Waggle Machine of Might. Ok, I’ll admit that was a blanket statement. But I’ll do my best to support that assertion.

First let’s take a look at the software of Christmas Past. For the sake of argument, I’m going to be using Metacritic as a gauge for critical success, even though I loathe Metacritic. The top 10 rated games on the Wii are (in order): Super Mario Galaxy. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. World of Goo. Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Rock Band 2. Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition. Okami. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Little King’s Story. Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure. I count 3 titles that are non sequel/non wii-make, brand spanking new titles. Of those 3, Little King’s Story hasn’t been released in the US. Of the remaining 2, World of Goo was also offered on various PC distribution platforms. Leaving Zack & Wiki, which Capcom couldn’t give away to Wii owners.

If you compare the top rated games to selling games I’m sure you will notice a significant different in (perceived) quality. With the exception of the traditional first party titles, games that are selling involve pack-in plastic. Think I’m wrong? Check out VG Chartz.com. It might not be the be-all, end-all for sales statistics, but it presents a fairly clear idea of what is selling. As previously stated, Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure is the only purely original game, available in the US that barely cracked the top 150. Naturally, Zack & Wiki is not the only game suffering from a lack of commercial support despite solid reviews throughout the games enthusiast press. To name a few, consider No More Heroes, Mad World and Boom Blox. Each of these games received favorable reviews, yet failed to post groundbreaking sales numbers. And yes, I am aware that No More Heroes and Boom Blox have sequels scheduled, you can thank Steven Spielberg for Boom Blox Bash Party. My point is given ridiculous number of Wii owners across the world, the potential for huge numbers is out there for every game. However the ones that I feel should be performing, aren’t.

So what’s going on here? In my opinion, Nintendo is being punished by a wave of hypocrisy among the more enthusiastic gamers around the world. All I hear and read are complaints about the mini-games and waggle-fests, yet when something innovative is released there is no support from this vocal group of gamers. To be fair, this vocal group is the minority of consumers in the eyes of Nintendo. We are no longer the target market. With a shrinking value placed on the enthusiast gamer, and fleeting support for true innovation from Wii owners across the board, opportunities to treat the Wii as a gaming console instead of the Wii Sports machine are becoming extinct. And if you think Wii MotionPlus is true innovation, then we need to have a talk. Have developers really had time to explore all the opportunities to leverage the unique control scheme of the Wii? Probably not. And all of a sudden they have yet another peripheral to take into account. Fantastic. I love segmented markets, it makes for a truly uniform consumer base. Not complicated at all.

Nintendo can continue to sprinkle mild updates to existing franchises because they can afford to. Wii Fit is paying for the next Zelda game. Wii Play is paying for whatever is going on with Donkey Kong. Mario Kart Wii is paying for Pikmin 3. Third Party Developers will continue to port titles over to the Wii, but will not focus their efforts on bringing anything ground breaking to Nintendo because the risk far exceeds the reward. Ultimately our last hope remains with High Voltage’s “The Conduit.” If this game fails commercially, say goodbye to any chances of true innovation in the future for the Wii. The amount of pressure on this game is unfair, but I don’t make the rules. And as excited as I can get for the few unique and fresh games that come out for the Mario Machine, there seems to be more opportunity for innovation that I can embrace on the PS3 and Xbox 360. As far as Nintendo is concerned, the truly unique games are so few and far between releases of minigames and remakes of previous games that the motivation to want to play my Wii diminishes with each Achievement Unlocked or Trophy Earned.

Nintendo has proven it can survive on sales of its first party peripheral based games. The fact that consoles have only recently begun to stay on shelves for more than two days means it is still nowhere near approaching over-saturation. And each new Wii owner will buy the same 3 games: Wii Fit, Wii Play, and Mario Kart, while the rest of the Wii’s software will continue to be punished by stubborn gamers refusing to spend money or uninformed consumers who don’t know any better. There’s always been talk about “speaking with your wallet” with regards to over priced retail games, with crappy DLC offerings from companies trying to make a quick dollar. Well We The Gamer have spoken with our wallets, and as far as Nintendo is concerned, nothing is being said in defense of these games. We have not supported these games by buying them. We have not supported these games by promoting them to our family, friends and neighbors. We are the ones who have stifled innovation on the Wii. Our reward for our effort is Wii Sports Resort. You’re welcome.

I understand that we are no longer the target market for the Wii. “Hardcore” gamers get a key title every quarter…maybe, and for the rest of the year we are witnesses to the madness of Wii Fit flying off the shelves. In These Troubled Times (drink!), disposable income can evaporate quickly. As disposable income becomes less available, people become more cautious with their purchases, looking for the safer bet. And let’s be honest, what game resonates more with the average consumer: Mario Kart Wii or Zack & Wiki: Quest For Barbaros’ Treasure?

Demanding innovation but then failing to follow up with tangible support wreaks of hypocrisy. Clamoring for the new and unique yet financially backing the rehashed and remade (wii-hased and wii-made for the true believers) sends conflicting messages to the industry. So whenever you feel like complaining about your Wii collecting dust because there is “nothing to play” just look in the mirror if you want to blame someone.

FWIW – Sales data used for comparison and analysis was referenced from VG Chartz.com

As is protocol in being Awesome, this article has been featured on TalkingAboutGames.com

One thought on “On Innovation and Hypocrisy

  1. i’ve slowly lost my will to play video games, but with whatever bit i have left, i agree. good analysis. nice pull getting on that website. did they find you or did you send it in?

    Like

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