Content Parity – The Wii U’s Achille’s Heel

Nintendo, we need to talk. Sit down. This is an intervention.

Nintendo, we’re frustrated now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the upcoming stream of third-party and indie games you’ve been promising. I’d be quite happy to see you actually have a busy schedule through 2014, and I’d be even more happy to actually part with more of my money to buy more games on your platform. My Wii U has seen a lot of use this year, and with the temptations of Mario Kart and Bayonetta pencilled in for next year, I doubt 2014 will be any different. Playing games on the Wii U is not the problem. And your games aren’t the problem either. Super Mario 3D World is excellent beyond words, after all.

But third-party content is another matter, and you need to lay some ground rules down.

No, the problem is parity – content parity. Because I’m all for third-party games on your console, but if in the same press release that same third-party is talking about cutting valuable features or DLC packs from your version, then frankly you need to tell them where to stick it. I’m tired of the stream of games coming forward with Wii U releases, only to say that it won’t have a DLC pack, or will have a shorter campaign than rival console versions or worse still for a console heavily marketed on the fact it has a social network and therefore is selling itself very much on the concept of a gaming community, cutting the multiplayer from the game completely. Seriously Nintendo, what the hell?! HOW can you want this? How can you allow this? And frankly, why would you ever approve a Wii U release of a game which is inferior to other versions in terms of basic content additions?

For a start Nintendo, it reflects poorly on the Wii U itself. A console that we know isn’t as technically backward as it was once made out to be; the dramatic own-goals and concessions that both Sony and Microsoft have had to come up with to push their machines reflect very poorly. After all, why have a library of ten games on a machine at any one time when you can have dozens of them and not have to install a single one, eh? But still, accepting games which are needlessly cutting content in order to “rush” said game to completion in the hopes you’ll get some sales is self-harm at its most brazen and obvious; it suggests the Wii U is itself an inferior machine, that it can’t handle the same content that the PS4 and/or XBox One can, and that’s clearly not true, is it? We’ve seen plenty of examples where this isn’t true, and it’s very silly to keep allowing third party and independent studios to effectively tell the market that your machine is inferior, and can only handle or accept inferior products.

The other problem is third-parties themselves are only fooling themselves in the long-run; if a game is being marketed, and months before release they are telling the market that the Wii U version will not have certain content or multiplayer additions, then guess what? There will be no Wii U sales to speak of. As much as I love my Wii U, it isn’t my only machine – I have a PlayStation 4, and a Gaming PC. I have access to other machines, and if the reality comes about that a game I’d like to play has more content on the PlayStation 4, guess which version I’m going to buy? And if a person is looking to buy a new console with it, guess what? That’s one more console sale to Sony. The end result is publishers bemoaning the state of their Wii U sales, in spite of the fact they themselves have only worked to annihilate any possibility of sales on the Wii U! It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that frankly beggars belief. They convince themselves through their own lazy ethic that the Wii U isn’t good enough. And you’re okay with third parties and independent developers doing this Nintendo? REALLY?!

To be honest, I’d be mortified. There’s a point where your business relationship has to have a level of basic mutual respect and for many publishers and developers it would seem, that respect is not being afforded to you Nintendo. And therefore any pushing of third-party games in any forthcoming Nintendo Direct, especially those that are cutting major content additions, seems like a completely wasted effort. People will only hear the bad news; that is what will stick, and the whole idea that the Wii U version is a heavily stripped-down and cut-back version will be what people remember when they come to make their purchasing decision. And that can never be a catalyst for market growth, can it?

Let’s not beat about the bush here Nintendo, you need sales in 2014. We know that. You know that. It’s clear sales are picking up, but momentum is easily lost and the frankly large number of titles coming to the Wii U lacking the same content parity that Sony and Microsoft are enjoying is not going to help keep that momentum. And I can’t for the life of me understand why you’d allow them to even do this in the first place! If they’re clearly not going to be bothered to do a proper job of it, if they’re rushing it out of the door, if they’re trying to hedge their bets – the best thing you can do Nintendo is to tell them that their eagerness is only going to cost them sales. They need to be firmly told that customers will not buy inferior products – especially when the developers have been telling people months in advance that the Wii U version of the product is inferior. They also need to be told that since these ports cost money, if money is tight, that it might be in their own interests to NOT do a Wii U version.

Hear me out though, because this is important. Nintendo is a profitable company. But Nintendo shouldn’t just give money away to people; Sony and Microsoft have been doing that for years, buying exclusivity on things. And Nintendo learned during the Gamecube that limited exclusivity is expensive and frankly doesn’t really work anyway. Nintendo is not a big bully telling people how to do business; it may actually be doing some of them a favour, by reminding them that in their desperation to be seen as a multi-platform release, they may end up spending money pushing an inferior product. And that Nintendo, as a company, can no longer accept inferior products. Especially those which publicise their inferiority so far in advance as to make Nintendo look bad in the process.

Now, if a company then asks Nintendo for assistance; that’s for Nintendo to decide, is it not? And Nintendo could offer it with the proviso that no content can be cut; the Wii U version must have parity with others. I’m not talking about the launch parity issues that Sony and Microsoft have – that’s one to be left aside in this discussion. But in terms of content, it must be EQUAL. It can’t be seen to be giving Nintendo a bad name. It must be equal; or as equal as it can be, technical and perhaps slight graphical issues aside (all consoles have a few tiny issues that differentiate, after all!).

If you think this is silly Nintendo, then look at it this way; your games are £10 cheaper than what Sony is asking for the PlayStation 4, and £15 cheaper than what Microsoft is asking for its XBox One games right now. Demanding the same isn’t just good business sense; it actually makes your console LOOK LIKE GOOD VALUE FOR MONEY! Your machine is cheaper. Your games are cheaper. There’s no disparity in terms of content. Boom. You have a big selling point, and one that would give both Sony and Microsoft sleepless nights having spent so much money pushing their consoles. Because right now, that is what will sell games on those systems. The reality that they have DLC packs and content and multiplayer that the Wii U simply doesn’t have, and isn’t going to get.

If third parties can’t adhere to that – then perhaps Nintendo it is time to re-evaluate the importance of those business ties. There comes a stage in a lifetime that you look at the people who call themselves friends, or sometimes even family, and wonder why you put up with their B.S.; most of us know that feeling. We’ve had leechy friends and family, people who take us for granted and mistreat us. Most human beings know that feeling, and it’s not nice but you sometimes have to cut the strings and let them go. As a business, I understand that it’s often very hard to let go of those ties, but it’s important that in a new era, where companies are demanding payments for features and expecting something for nothing, that someone comes out with the sane advice of, “Help us, and we’ll help you.” Any developer and/or publisher that doesn’t feel it can adhere to that is welcome to try to keep asking Sony and Microsoft for whatever handouts are going; but in the knowledge that one day, both of those big console companies will simply be unable to hand out the kind of money that is expected to offset developmental costs. A restructuring of how you do business with these people is part of this inevitability; because you’ll be made to look like the bad guys if the worst happens and they all come to you, Nintendo, and expect that same treatment. It’s time to get tough with the market; it’s time to tell them to grow up. And it’s time to say the Wii U will no longer tolerate lazy workmanship, or badly-optimised ports or games lacking the same content of its equals.

Nintendo, you are primarily a games company. And make no mistake that generally speaking, it is your own content that largely sells your machines. All this push for third-parties has only really served to muddy your once clean waters; it used to be people instinctively knew that the main reason they were buying a Nintendo machine was for Mario, and Zelda, and Metroid and a host of other games. And yet, now third parties are doing that push for you, with their talk of cutting valuable features, the whole message is being lost underneath a barrage of criticism that the Wii U is “inferior”. They aren’t helping sell the Wii U, Nintendo. If anything, they’re putting people off.

It’s a new year Nintendo, and with a new year tend to come resolutions, goals for the remainder of the year. If you guys had any sense, you’d toughen up. Enough is enough. I don’t want to hear about third-party games whose content isn’t as full-featured as it would be on my PC or PS4. And it’s genuinely time to remind these companies – from your profitable position – that you do not want versions which are inferior. If they have said a Wii U version will cut content – then it’s time to cut them loose. If they can’t be bothered to put the work in Nintendo, then you have better things to do with your time. Like reviving any number of classic games; F-Zero, Battalion Wars, Eternal Darkness etc. Or setting up new studios with the ridiculous amount of money you have. Or cultivating new partnerships and new business arrangements.

In time, you may be able to convince these people back to your hardware. But it’ll be on your terms; and you’ll have set down your rules long before any serious market crash and/or failing of a company. No-one could mistake the intent, nor criticise it; it’s a case of survival, no? Why share your land with someone who is slagging you off elsewhere and telling everyone you have a tiny little wing-wong? This isn’t even biting the hand that feeds you; because they’re actively not trying to show you in a good light. They’re telling everyone that you’ll roll over and take it. Compassion has its limits.

For the Wii U to grow, you need to make sure the good press dominates. Sure, short-term, many will complain no doubt – the press will feast upon a “more insular” Nintendo. But after a while, it’ll die down. And there’ll be no more studios talking about inferior Wii U versions of their games. Which means that the good press has a chance to shine. And any new collaborations, or business arrangements, will be able to take place with the right kind of mutual respect and understanding. The night is always darkest before the dawn, after all.

Just make sure that you’re watching the sunrise with those who’ll appreciate your company, Nintendo. Good business needs good allies, people you can count on to watch your back when the going gets tough.

Right now, I’d suggest that’s the one thing that you, as a company, rather lack…

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2 Responses to “Content Parity – The Wii U’s Achille’s Heel”

  1. dap005 says:

    I think a large part of the problem is the lack of western negotiating going on. Nintendo in Japan has already carried out several partnerships (Namco on Smash bros, Atlus on FEXSMT, Sega on various things, Platinum Games and Tecmo Koei on hyrule warriors etc etc) whereas looking at the west well… only Ubi and seems to be serious about the support (Rayman legends, ZombiU etc).

    In a way Nintendo has been talking to indie devs more in west whilst neglecting bigger publishers in the west (whilst doing the exact opposite in Japan), and not just EA and Activision but middle studios like. Eidos, Behemoth, Telltale, Double fine etc. For the sake of providing diversity to WiiU though I'd love to see not just western indie support for japanese/eastern indie support (or even worldwide) and more collab projects with western devs that are willing to make games for WiiU but for that Nintendo will need to step up as a publisher. Because no western large AAA studio will want to bother with making an effort to create non-partially dumbed versions of multi-platform games unless there's a partnership.

    Still looking at the success of the 3ds with its largely japanese library supported by a few indie gems Nintendo may not even go for that approach. It wouldn't hurt if Nintendo had another second party studio either but that's another story.

    • KamiOnGames says:

      I think the problem is UbiSoft haven't been all-in either; and nor have Capcom of late (though I suspect Nintendo may have dodged a bullet with Resident Evil 6 getting canned on Wii U).

      I think there has to be a point where we expect improvements though; as I said, why buy a Wii U version of a game, when it's known long in advance that features will have been cut? If you're going to buy a game, buying it on Wii U to inspire them to improve only works when there's some evidence that buying it on the Wii U will improve the situation; the base facts of the matter are, we have no guarantees. So what happens? We buy those games on other machines. Because we know we'll be getting the better versions that way.

      I'm certainly looking forward to what Nintendo is up to with its new partners; Hyrule Warriors seems like a really smart little idea. But similarly, Nintendo has to stop allowing companies like UbiSoft to wilfully cut features for their machine. Save money? Sure. But surely the best way of saving money would be not to bother porting in the first place?

      But indeed, the 3DS is evidence that Nintendo can very much survive on its own accord. Nintendo as a publisher would be lovely; it would ensure a lot of problems and criticisms of content parity would be ironed out. But Nintendo really would need to set the rules down; do it properly, or don't do it at all.

      But totally agree that perhaps Nintendo needs to look westward for a few more studios and companis to deal with; after all,. the chaps at Psygnosis/SCEE Liverpool have set up a new studio. If Nintendo could get the people behind WipeOut to do the next F-Zero?

      I think many, many, many sins would be forgiven.

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