So, the Wii U version of Yooka-Laylee is no more. It has ceased to be. It is an ex-game.
… and no, I’m not shocked. Not in the slightest. There are reasons for me not being shocked, which include but are not limited to the following:
– The Nintendo Switch is three months away.
– Nintendo themselves have been ferrying games away from Wii U development for a while.
– The support for Unity on Wii U has been extremely limited.
– The radio silence on this front.
– We’ve been here before.
That last one is important, and I have my stress balls on hand because we’ve got to bring up… ugh… Project CARS, the car-crash Wii U project from Slightly Dumb Studios… I mean, Slightly Mad Studios. Because there are distinct parallels that can be drawn between Yooka-Laylee and Project CARS. Both projects aimed to do the PC Version and then downscale the game to the Wii U – a poor decision, because the Wii U as hardware never works as an afterthought. You either work with it and within its unique specs and limitations, or you fly with what you want on PC – there are no easy solutions around this, and if EA and UbiSoft prefer not to do this because of the expense (see Watch_Dogs) then what hope did a small studio of former Rare employees think was going to happen? That they’d be ‘special’?
Slightly Mad Studios angered me not because of the Wii U cancellation – I get it. I really do. Things don’t go your way sometimes and that’s just the nature of games development. However, in the case of SMS and Project CARS, they had – for more than a year beforehand – driven a sustained hype campaign for the project, primarily targeting Nintendo Fansites like Nintendo Life, GoNintendo and Nintendo Enthusiast. They did this for two reasons – the first is simple; there was a much more sympathetic market there. Whereas Sony and Microsoft have realistic racers on their systems as standard (Gran Turismo and Forza respectively), Nintendo hasn’t had a realistic racer of its own for many years. The second reason is far more cynical – there was more money there because of the more sympathetic market. It was easier to whisper sweet nothings to Nintendo fans, hype your game to the nines and back and watch as these people threw money at their screens for your game. Indeed, Slightly Mad Studios knew of the level of interest in the Wii U version through their own site poll!
That was taken before they cancelled the Wii U version of the project. The interest in the project on Wii U was greater than the combined interest for the PS4 and XBox One versions. And it’s fair to suggest that the game, even with its Wii U cancellation, didn’t do too badly for itself. Except that for many people, it tainted the reputation of Slightly Mad Studios forever – not because they cancelled the Wii U version, but that they had been caught lying about it.
The hype trail for Project CARS was littered with untruths and half-truths, like commenting on how the game looked on Wii U (turns out they never had the game running on the Wii U), the weather effects (which were too detailed for the Wii U, supposedly), the graphical power of the Wii U itself (not that they ever tried using it) – and I get that marketing is half truth and half B.S., but you’ve got to deliver something to sweeten the taste of the B.S., and in this instance, SMS left behind an audience to whom it promised so much and delivered absolutely nothing, taking its money and running with it with only the vaguest of platitudes – and blaming the Nintendo audience for the whole debacle. If only they hadn’t thrown money at the game, they wouldn’t have had to waste their time trying to get a Wii U version running… nngh…
Okay, deep breaths. Don’t need to get angry over this… deep breaths…
The point is this; we’ve seen a big KickStarter project fall flat on its face for the Wii U before. And Yooka-Laylee shouldn’t have expected itself to be any different from this; they were using Unity, which doesn’t have much Wii U support. The PS4 and XBox One versions are being developed by an outside team (Team 17) and Playtonic Games was to handle the PC and Wii U versions, and like the fools they are – they got carried away with the PC version, and before long they’d built something that was never realistically going to scale down to the Wii U. Call it ego, call it hubris – hell, call it carelessness. The end result is the same; Wii U owners got screwed. Again. By ex-Rare employees this time, which must hurt especially hard.
To the credit of Playtonic, they have offered refunds as an option (aside the obvious one which is – wait for a Switch version or take a PC/PS4/XBox One version instead). And I’d be fascinated to see just how much of that £2.09 million from 73,000 backers would disappear if everyone who funded it for a Wii U version were to ask for a refund. I’d not be shocked if at least a third of that comes from people who wanted the Wii U version, which is kind of important – they funded for a version that Playtonic now cannot deliver. It’s like when some retro game asks me to burn an audio CD so I can listen to the in-game music. That’s great! Uhh… umm… a lot of people don’t HAVE CD drives in their computers, chaps. Modern world. Digital download. People are moving on. So what if people don’t WANT another version, Playtonic? What then? No-questions-asked money back? Or you going to try and make it as hard for them as possible?
What’s all the more galling is that Playtonic claims this was for “unforeseen technical issues”. So, you missed the Project CARS fallout then? How about the NX teaser in March of 2015 – two whole months before your KickStarter finished? “Unforeseen technical issues” – pull the other one. We’ve known for years the Wii U is “special” in the software creation sphere. Stop lying, it’s not a good look.
Thing is, I don’t even believe Playtonic had a choice here. They’ve made it clear Nintendo has been closely working with them on a Switch version – so Nintendo has clearly been pushing for this game to make the ‘Switch’ (oh stop groaning!) to the new console. Nintendo is burning down the Wii U framework now and salting the earth. They’re quite content now to utterly murder the Wii U, to erase it from the world the best they can, so they can rebuild with the Switch. I get why they’re doing it, and I get why Nintendo would be eager for games launching after the Switch reveal to be pushed towards the Switch itself. I know why. It makes sense. Nintendo would rather have everything pushing Switch sales. But surely there are better ways of pointing this out? Surely this can be done without kneecapping any excitement Nintendo fans had for Yooka-Laylee?
So here we are. Another Wii U KickStarter game down the pan.
And I wouldn’t be shocked if, in the next few weeks, we get word that the same thing is happening for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, itself delayed into 2018 now. By that point, Nintendo hopes to have scrubbed the dirt of the Wii U off its boot, so surely this is never going to stand as a Wii U version. Nintendo won’t want it, and I’m guessing Nintendo would quite like to have killed the Wii U’s online services by that point too. It’ll never happen. It just won’t.
And we, as the gamers and Nintendo Wii U owners, should have seen this coming. Come on, the Wii U has been Nintendo’s worst selling home console ever. They messed up. They want to move on. They’re desperate for us to move on, and we’ve been hyped for the Switch for weeks – I’d even argue most of us forgot about Yooka-Laylee until this reared its head. The releases for the Wii U have been dry all year, and games like Lost Reavers have largely been left to rot with no real support or update for a while now. The machine is dead, and in theory we should be excited it will still come to a Nintendo console – and heck, on a hybrid like the Switch, you can now take the game wherever you want! But… yeah, this has just not been done very well, and our expectations were far too high.
So, what can we take from this?
Well – the Wii U is dead. Sorry, but that’s just how it is. Say goodbye, love it for what it was, but it’s over (or rather, it will be in less than three months time). Yooka-Laylee isn’t going to be the only game affected, and at least they haven’t been on a B.S. tour like Slightly Mad Studios – well, not yet, anyway. Bloodstained will suffer the same fate, mark my words. The Wii U is done. We’ve got to deal with that, and accept any projects left hanging over the console will, in all likelihood, go to the Switch. Where they’ll probably have a much better time with firmware and online infrastructure.
And most of all – if you don’t like this… get a refund. Make it clear to these companies you gave them money for their specific promises. Make them pay – literally – for breaking those promises, because unlike the top-tier bracket, you do get a say in this. And in doing so, you can send a very, very clear message to current and future KickStarter game projects; don’t promise things you can’t deliver. Keep it realistic, keep it sensible, and if in doubt – don’t ever promise it. Just don’t. It’s not worth the hassle. They’ll get the message and I’d hope things will improve on this front, though the whole Mighty No. 9 thing probably should have been a lesson in and of itself…
It doesn’t shock me. I’m still interested in it for the Nintendo Switch… but I’d be lying if I said this didn’t make me sad. And it was avoidable – if they’d have been honest about things. Nintendo was clearly more interested in this game on the Switch. They knew for months it wasn’t running right on the Wii U. And now they left it after the Switch reveal – and before the Switch event next month – to drop this. This could have been done months ago, when they knew it was hitting the skids, when Nintendo was pushing for the Switch and before the Switch reveal (could even have been a part of the Switch reveal trailer at that point, no?).
It’s just another KickStarter Cock-Up. But I do think Playtonic want to make things right with the Nintendo audience. I do believe them on that.
So I hope you hurry on with that Switch version and make it amazing, because now the Nintendo audience you love and respect so much is going to miss out on the release date of the other consoles. And you chaps know as well as I do, you’ve got to offer something pretty special to kiss and make up for that kind of thing.