Well, it looks as though December NPD will be dropping in the very near future and I would be surprised if the data suggested anything except that Nintendo completely destroyed during the month. Wii and DS sales should be through the roof. And games like Galaxy, Guitar Hero III and even that stubborn Wii Play should all perform very, very well, too. But if you look beyond mega-sales of Nintendo-published videogames and the successful third-party efforts that bridge the gap between hardcore and casual, you will still see some developers struggling to land a hit on Nintendo's console.
I'm on the phone with the president of a big development studio yesterday. His teams have created an original IP for Wii. It's dark and scary. And while every publisher they've met up with has loved the premise and execution of the game, few of them want to touch it. Why? Nobody believes it will sell on Wii. Let me just drive that home. Publishers think it's an amazing effort. But not for Wii.
I can't even call this logic crazy, either, as much as I wish I could. Fact is, a quick examination of NPD sales shows clearly that many of Wii's top sellers are titles whose presentations steer as far away from the M rating as possible. Sure, Resident Evil 4 and even Umbrella Chronicles performed pretty damned good, but these titles are part of a series that is nearly as recognizable and popular as Zelda or Mario, for crying out loud. Metroid Prime 3, one of the best games on Wii, barely edged past 500,000 in sales (shameful!). Carnival Games is set to surpass that. Manhunt 2? I'm not even sure if Wii owners realized it shipped. (It's out, by the way.)
Right now, developers hoping to deliver an adult-themed game to Wii owners are facing a serious Catch 22 situation. Publishers are reluctant to touch it because there is nothing out there, the anomaly that is Resident Evil aside, that unequivocally proves that Wii owners care about these types of games. And since few publishers are willing to take a chance on original M-rated Wii games, the proof needed to sustain more M-rated games on Wii may never arrive.
It's no different outside of America. Look at Japan, where the solidly reviewed No More Heroes just shipped and flopped. Director Suda 51 recently made comments in which he admitted that he wasn't aware that the Wii demographic was largely uninterested in mature-style titles like this. He also said he would like to make a No More Heroes sequel, but if sales don't suddenly spike in America, I seriously doubt he'll ever get that chance. His next project could very well be on another system, where it is more likely to find success.
I believe this is an issue that must be addressed by Nintendo itself because third-parties don't seem to have the balls to take a chance. The Big N, on the other hand, has all the necessary advantages. One, gamers like you are more likely to buy a Wii title published by Nintendo. You can deny it all you want, but you know it's true. Second, Nintendo has the resources to create a AAA adult-themed (and exclusive) Wii game -- or several of them, which would be preferable.
Retro Studios. These guys are taking a vacation from Samus Aran's universe. Let's hope they've got something up their sleeves that is very, very light on mini-games and with themes that will appeal to the hardcore. NST. Well, Project Hammer went bye-bye. Keep your fingers crossed for something even cooler. Monolith Soft. They made Baten Kaitos and Disaster: Day of Crisis shows promise. Nintendo EAD doesn't seem at all interested in creating these types of projects, but Mario and Zelda are not enough to sustain a healthy and robust development environment -- one that proves to third-parties that they can succeed with their own adult titles. So, Nintendo, farm some stuff out and do it quickly. There are all sorts of third-party developers who would love to create original story-driven or adult-themed IP for Wii. If third-party publishers won't give them the chance, you should