Third party video game publishers are still wary of the Wii U, but Nintendo remains confident.
It’s no secret that the Wii U has been fighting an uphill battle since its launch last year.
The problem, which is shared by Sony’s PS Vita and has plagued past systems as well, is a particularly tricky one: A system’s poor install base scares off third-party developers, which in turn leads to less new content, ultimately making it harder to cultivate a robust install base. A vicious cycle emerges.
Some publishers have been quite vocal about their disappointment or trepidation over the Wii U.
Speaking on an episode of Bonus Round at Gametrailers, Bethesda’s Pete Hines was the very definition of outspoken.
“The time for convincing publishers and developers to support Wii U has long passed,” Hines said.
“The box is out. You have to do what Sony and Microsoft have been doing with us for a long time. It’s not that every time we met with them we got all the answers that we wanted, but they involved us very early on, talking to folks like Bethesda and Gearbox, saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing, here’s what we’re planning, here’s how we think it’s going to work,’ to hear what we thought, from our tech guys, and from an experience standpoint.”
Hines says he’ll focus on developing for systems better geared toward his company’s products.
This is a shame, of course, since an Elder Scrolls game, or Dishonored for that matter, would be really great on the Wii U. Dishonored’s powers would be easily accessible via the touch-screen, and inventory management inSkyrim would be a breeze.
Other publishers have been somewhat more optimistic.
Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg told CVG that Nintendo is having “a rough go” with the Wii U. But they’re hardly down for the count.
“Nintendo has been a great partner for us,” said Hirshberg. “It’s a very successful company but obviously having a rough go with the Wii U launch thus far. I’m sure Nintendo and the rest of the industry wanted a different result for the Wii U, but if we can add to the appeal of the platform then we absolutely will. Nintendo is a company that’s had hardware hits and misses in the past, but it has always found ways to remain completely relevant. It has some of the best game-makers in the world, and I wouldn’t count them out.”
Some in the industry are pinning the Wii U’s hopes to holiday shoppers.
Baird analyst Colin Sebastian said recently that ”the fate of the [Wii U] platform will likely rest on the popularity of Nintendo’s holiday software lineup.” And maybe they have a point, though the Wii U will be competing against two newer, more expensive, very hyped systems this Christmas.
Nintendo’s Scott Moffitt, EVP of Sales & Marketing for Nintendo of America, remains confident about the Wii U and its third-party support.
“We have strong relationships with third parties and have a strong lineup of upcoming games from key partners such as Ubisoft, Disney, SEGA and Warner Bros., among others,” Moffitt tells me, adding that “we realize that we need to continue to build the installed base to demonstrate that making games for Wii U is a good investment. We’re confident that we have the games necessary—both first- and third-party—to have a strong holiday season and expand the audience for Wii U.”
I ask Moffitt if Nintendo doesn’t really need to rely on third-party publishers given their strong first-party exclusives.
“We don’t see this as an either-or proposition,” he says. “Nintendo is in the unique position of being both a hardware manufacturer as well as a software producer. We want Wii U to be the console that every developer wants to publish on. A key way to make that happen is to grow the installed base of Wii U owners, and we know that current Wii U owners are very happy with their purchases. Our great lineup in the second half of the year will create more buyers, and beyond that third-party support is important to attract as diverse an audience as possible.”
He adds that Nintendo sees 2013 as “just the start of a steady flow of great games coming to Wii U, with lots more to come in 2014.”
But there’s no doubt that Nintendo’s first-party games are at the heart of the Wii U’s appeal.
“In Pikmin 3, you have what might be the only real-time simulation strategy game,” Moffitt says. “It may be its own genre, and it certainly feels unique.
“Similarly, The Wonderful 101 defies simple description. At a time when some people clamor for new intellectual properties, these could be viewed as new forms of gaming.”