Develop Jury: The Wii dilemma

Develop Jury: The Wii dilemma

By Rob Crossley

December 10th 2009 at 9:00AM

Thoughts from our expert panel on Nintendo's console

Earlier this week Develop asked the industry for their views on the potential, and pitfalls, of Wii development.

A report on the industry’s verdict can be found here, but below you can read all responses in full.

(If you’re a developer who’d like to take part in future debates, ping an email to rob.crossley@intentmedia.co.uk.)

Order!

Develop Jury Service #2

The Wii is a clear leader in the home console space both in Britain and globally. But have developers been able to properly take advantage of its potential?


David Amor, Creative Director, Relentless Software:
Is the Wii alive to anyone except Nintendo at the moment? A couple of years ago I took calls from EA asking us to consider developing for Wii.

My answer then is the same as it is now: the Wii consumer is well served by first party Nintendo software and they rarely step away from the franchises they’re familiar with. Being a third party publisher with new IP on Wii is a commercially dangerous position. It’s a great machine but I doubt I’ll ever make a game for it.”

Ed Daly, General Manager, Zoe Mode:
The Wii was all freshness and innovation but there’s a danger of that being lost in a glut of derivative games.  Our experience is that fear that over-supply and fatigue from the mainstream Wii adopters is holding back some publishers and suppressing dev budgets – but there are plenty of great ideas as yet unexploited.

Anonymous – studio head at a leading international developer:
The Wii has, and will continue to, open up gaming to a much broader demographic than the other consoles have been able to. The accessibility provided by the Wiimote removes a barrier that scares many ‘non-traditional’ gamers from playing video games. However, the limited power of the console means it is difficult for it to compete with the very latest generation of games on PS3 and 360, at least in terms of the ‘wow factor’.
 I think there is still a big potential market for Wii games which are based on accessible and original gameplay for a whole range of gamers from both the core gaming world and new entrants.

However the relative ease of making a Wii game in comparison to PS3 and 360 development, means it has become too easy to flood the market with under-developed product which have the potential to confuse and disappoint the public. A few more high quality, high profile Wii only games would add much to its market profile.

Gary Penn, Creative Director, Denki Ltd:
I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with Nintendo. I love aspects of their projected attitude, like their child-like innocence and their belief that the sheer power of the technology isn't as important as what you do with it, which has resulted in some incomparable software and hardware – and plenty of tribute acts.
I hate most of what's done with the Wii – including most of its 'operating' system. I can't be arsed with most of the games on it apart from some of Nintendo's, but I have infinitely more fun playing with the Wii and my kids than I do any other platform.

The Wii's not exactly a barrel of laughs to work on either, especially after Xbox. It's a real love-hate challenge to get the most out of the Wii Remote. You have to fake it big time to really make it work and no one else seems to fake it as well Nintendo.

I guess most of the industry's still trying to be too clever for its own good.

Martin Hollis, CEO, Zoonami:
To make a game that truly uses the potential of the Wii Remote requires several things.

Firstly you will need imagination. You must unlearn what you have learned and put away cynical thoughts such as "it is just a gimmick" or "buttons are better". This degree of open-mindedness is not easy to find.

Our industry is focused on incremental evolution of tried-and-tested mechanics, interactions and input devices. Our industry is focused inwards on itself, and on its most loyal followers.

Secondly you will need patience. To give an example today's button-based platform game relies on over twenty years of game development across the world. Your first Wii Remote game will not compete.

Thirdly you will need humility. You need humility because you will be making games for people who are unlike yourself. Therefore you will need to place their wishes above yours.

Owen Daly-Jones, Director, PlayableGames:
The strongest innovation from Nintendo and the Wii has been the controllers. They offer so much potential for game developers and gamers alike. However, I don't think the range and quality of game titles has delivered on this promise.

Far too many titles for the platform are repetitive copies of various party and sports games. More adult-themed titles and a greater variety in general is required.  How many party or skiing games does one need in a collection at home?

Unfortunately the problem with adult titles and greater realism is that the hardware cannot support the graphics required. It is ironic that the MotionPlus improved controllers stress realism when the graphics in the game cannot depict the realist effects.

Chances are Xbox and PS3 will jump right on past with their motion sensing approaches, backed up by the graphics hardware and power to create realistic worlds.

Simon Gardner, CEO, Climax Studios:
Yes the Wii is a good platform to work on, we feel we now understand the hardware and the interface very well now, but the flip-side to that is that non-Nintendo publishers feel they haven’t done that well on it commercially. That’s the biggest issue.

From that perspective the Wii is a really difficult device to develop for, because as a hardcore games machine, Wii games are always going to be held up against whatever’s just come out on the Xbox 360 or PS3.

You know, I’m quite bored of reading things like ‘oh, the graphics are pretty good but not as good as a PS3 game’. Well, that’s obvious, but it’s still said all the time. So the second you try to make a gamer’s game for it you will get unflattering comparisons. That’s why it’s difficult.

I do think that there’s a problem with the installed base. Despite it being very large, I think the attachment rate is fairly low, and I think that colours publishers’ view on how much they can invest in the system.

I think that ROI’s on Wii games are probably low. I think publishers are very conservative on how much they can spend on it.

Of course, with Silent Hill Shattered Memories, we’ve made a gamer’s game, and we’ve put a lot of passion into the game to get it right. But we’ve now got to wait and see how successful it’s really going to be commercially. That’s kind of out of our hands, but it will be interesting to see if people will buy it as opposed to another first-person shooter.

We just don’t know if hardcore games can succeed on the Wii. I think it’s yet to be proven. I think a lot of people have bought Wii’s, but many aren’t buying software for it.

Actually developing for it is fine. I think we’ve done some really clever things with it, and I don’t think it’s much of a struggle to get the most out f it, actually.