Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry

8th July 2021

Submit your company

2013: The State of the Games Industry

Jason Avent, Georg Backer, Dan Marshall, Ella Romanos and Andrew Oliver on Wii U problems, new hardware, the plight of the publisher and the strength of the indie scene

Just as the games business begins to get back to work, GamesIndustry International gathered together a roundtable of development talent and asked them to reflect on the past 12 months, and more importantly, the year ahead. Top of the agenda was Nintendo's launch of its new home console and relevance to other upcoming hardware, the issues of next-generation consoles, what role traditional publishers play in the business and the strength and competition in the independent development scene.

Sitting around the table were Andrew Oliver, chief technical officer of Blitz Games, Dan Marshall of Ben There, Dan That developer Size Five Games, Remode CEO Ella Romanos, Hot Sauce Interactive's Georg Backer and Boss Alien's Jason Avent.

Q: GI: Let's open by talking about the Wii U launch, certainly the biggest recent event on the calendar. Is it enough to rejuvenate the console scene, acting as it does as a bit of a bridge between this generation and the next? Is Nintendo's policy of marketing it first to long-term, core fans sensible? Is it an attractive enough prospect to Wii owners?

Andrew Oliver: It's really interesting - I'm a massive Nintendo fan, and they've got a big, hardcore fanbase, but I do wonder if it's enough to sell a fairly expensive machine to people. You just see every TV advert, it's tablets and phones, tablets and phones. The general population is just going, 'I can play games on these sexy devices. It's coming round to Christmas where I can get a device and once I've got it, I can get all these games for free or nearly free'. I think that's skewed things so massively. It's a tough market for anyone, so it's going to be difficult for them.

They've gone with the idea that people like tablets, so they've made a tablet controller. Yeah, they do love tablets, but the problem is that they're probably going to buy one.

"Nintendo's problem is actually one of software rather than hardware. I played Mario Galaxy 2 for about an hour before I was bored shitless"

Dan Marshall

Ella Romanos: There will be a niche group of gamers who will buy it because it's a Nintendo device, but I wonder if that's going to be enough to justify the cost of doing it. I think things have changed so much since the Wii. If the Wii was coming out today we'd be having the same conversation, because the people who bought the Wii are today spending all of their time on tablets and phones and at the time they weren't.

It all comes down to the fact that all those people who already have a tablet, or a mobile phone - which you can get on contract, which makes them look cheap - whether there's going to be enough people left to make it worth it. I also think the fact that it's a tablet type thing - people who aren't in the games industry or don't know it well are going to be quite confused by that.

I think they'll be thinking 'why don't they use a tablet which already exists on the market? Why that specific one? Why can't I just connect mine to the TV? Why buy one which I then can't use for anything else?' People use tablets for multiple things.

Dan Marshall: I'm not sure about the Wii U because I haven't touched one, but I bought a Wii on launch day and got my £179 worth of joy out of it by playing tennis with my mother. That was enough for me. I think Nintendo's problem is actually one of software rather than hardware. I played Mario Galaxy, and enjoyed it, but played Mario Galaxy 2 for about an hour before I realised I was playing exactly the same game and was bored shitless of it. After a while, the Wii's core buckled under its own success.

It didn't have the hardware for many games like Call of Duty to justify making a port, so it was basically lumbered with Nintendo's software for a large part of its lifespan.

Jason Avent: People who buy Nintendo buy Nintendo products - what you're saying about it is true, though. My wife thinks that the Wii is for Wii Sports, she doesn't think it does anything else.

Dan Marshall: The problem is, Nintendo end up putting out Mario, Zelda, Mario Kart, Metroid, all these staples over and over again to the point of self-destruction. I think the Wii U looks good in terms of the fact that it's got Batman and Darksiders and LEGO all coming out for it, but because it's suddenly going to find itself a hardware generation behind again, it's going to suffer from the same problems.

I haven't turned my Wii on in three years probably - it's been gathering dust because it's all Mario games that I'm not interested in. So I worry that, because of that hardware gap, the software is going to be lacking in the same way for the Wii U.

"The Wii took off because the gimmick was really good and nobody had ever seen it before. Now, the gimmick of having a tablet in your hand isn't good enough"

Jason Avent

Jason Avent: Do you think that because of that, these softcore Nintendo customers, who are not after the next Zelda or Mario, but the next Wii Sports and Wii Fit, are going to feel a bit betrayed because they don't want to buy another console that's going to end up sitting in a cupboard after a year?

Andrew Oliver: I think they sold to a lot of casual gamers, and casual gamers can casually game on tablets and phones.

Georg Backer: I'm actually looking forward to it, because I really just want one console in my living room. I like casual games and hardcore games, I like tablets but I also like the controller. I like all those experiences. Will it succeed? I don't know, we'll see - but I hope it does so that I can have all those games I want. For me, the thing that always annoyed me about consoles was the exclusivity this and exclusivity that - I physically don't know where to put another console.

Jason Avent: For me, it's not even the hardware. I find that I can't play all the games I want to. If you've got a console or two, a tablet and a PC, and you want to play full-price, cut price, digital games etc, there are so many games being made for different platforms. So many little bits and pieces, that I really don't need a third console. Right now, when I have my PS3 and my 360, I see Wii U as a third console. It's not in the running for me, when the next generation of hardware comes round.

Ella Romanos: Hardcore gamers have a 360 and a PS3 - they'll migrate to the next one when they come out. Casual gamers, when the Wii came out - it was almost the only way to play casual games, which is why they bought it. Now, they've moved on to tablet and mobile and maybe they still play the Wii. So the only people left are hardcore Nintendo fans and I don't think that's enough.

Jason Avent: When the Wii came out, I looked at it and thought, why would I want something that's half the power of my 360 and my PS3? Then we saw the wand and thought, okay, that could be interesting. We were wrong about it, because it did take off - but it took off because the gimmick was really good and nobody had ever seen it before. Now, the gimmick of having a tablet in your hand isn't good enough.

Dan Marshall: I don't think the tech behind it is good enough either. But I will say that the original Wii controller wasn't great technically, either. Everyone was expecting it to be 1:1 and it wasn't. Know everyone is expecting the GamePad to be like an iPad, and it's not.

Q: GI: And it doesn't support any multitouch controls, which people expect from any touch screen these days.

Georg Backer: Whenever new hardware comes along, as games developers we're always a bit sceptical, I think. Often you have to rethink the way that you're designing and making games. I remember when touch came along, for the first half year all we had was games with virtual joypads. It took us a while to adapt and make controls that would work with those games. It's like motion control, I don't know where we stand with it at the moment, but it's the same kind of vibe. It's a design adaptation, I think - there's so much to focus on for those platforms.

"The concept of second screen is interesting. I just don't think that you need a bespoke piece of hardware to do that, you could do that with an iPad and a TV"

Ella Romanos

Andrew Oliver: The Wii was often bought as a family machine, something that was very social. They sold a lot of Wiimotes. The people I know who bought a Wii have either got young kids or played it as a group. The tablet seems like a one off, I'm not sure it'll have that. Therefore you have the audience of the Wii who love this social machine, and I know that they've said you can have one person on the tablet and the others on Wiimotes, but that feels like you're not sharing the same experience.

Ella Romanos: And surely then the best thing to do would be to just keep your Wii and not have that one person on the tablet.

Georg Backer: But I'm really intrigued to see what developers can do with that.

Jason Avent: I'm pretty sure that most developers will ignore it, because it doesn't look like it will succeed.

Ella Romanos: The idea, the concept of second screen, is interesting. I just don't think that you need a bespoke piece of hardware to do that nowadays, you could do that with an iPad and a TV.

Dan Marshall: It is a bit of a pain having an iPad on your lap as you're playing though. There's something having a tablet in the middle of the controller that works. If I'm playing GTA and I've got GPS on the second screen, I don't want it on my iPhone that falls off my knee all the time.

Jason Avent: That's what they're going for, because trying to hold a thin, elegant iPad for any length of time is a bit annoying. Also, they've always made toys, or consoles that are like toys. A Gameboy you can drop and throw about, I'm pretty sure you can drop it out of a first floor window and it would still work. The GamePad is probably resilient to having water and crumbs dropped on it.

Dan Marshall: Child-proofed.

Jason Avent: Exactly - and that probably works if you're making a decision between do I buy this or this, it's one of those USPs that might appeal to you. But if you've already got something that does something very similar in your house then I don't know. Especially now that you're going to be able to buy tablets for £50.

Andrew Oliver: Nintendo are famous as game designers and brand holders - I'm sure that many years ago they said that they weren't really a hardware manufacturer, that they commissioned other people to manufacture the hardware. I think that's interesting, because they make these very cool games and have all these brands, just like Sega did, and there comes a point where you have to ask: what has the value? Are they making money from hardware, or do they have amazing franchises and very cool game designs that maybe should live elsewhere.

Q: GI: You think they'd work better as a third-party publisher?

Georg Backer: How has Sega fared since it went out of the hardware business? Are they happy?

Andrew Oliver: They had to, to survive.

Q: GI: They didn't have the exposure for the IP, either - not much was iterated, apart from Sonic, which has been over-exposed if anything.

"I'd like to think that a tablet and a phone will be able to out put to a television and power a couple of controllers, then it kind of makes [the Occulus Rift] moot"

Jason Avent

Jason Avent: They never had the breadth. Not in the design. Sonic is good, but some of the Mario stuff is absolutely inspired. The first few Mario games were phenomenally well designed, really out there. They made you think in lots of different ways. I think, to be honest, the last time that Nintendo released a game that I felt pushed the boundaries from a game design point of view was Zelda and Mario on the N64. Since then they've not made the same sort of leaps.

Andrew Oliver: I love the depth and breadth of their games, but that's a big price to buy a new console and expensive games. A lot of people are going to say: 'yeah, but I can buy an iPad and it'll do everything and I've got all these games for free'. Thing is, none of them are great - they're ok, but Nintendo games are brilliant. Would Nintendo ever bring a franchise over to an iPad? That would be great, you could sell that for an awful lot of money, but it'll be a brave day before that happens.

Q: GI: They've always insisted that you'll never see a Nintendo game on a non-Nintendo machine...

Jason Avent: Even if it was a closed shop on iOS or Android, make it their own store and make it so that it can only be installed on certain phones - that would certainly help to sell those phones.

Q: GI: Let's stick to hardware, but move on to something a bit more esoteric: the two gaming hardware projects which we saw succeed on Kickstarter this year, Occulus Rift and the Ouya. Are they doing enough to carve a niche?

Jason Avent: I think technologically we're interested in both, but I'd like to think that a tablet and a phone will be able to out put to a television and power a couple of controllers, then it kind of makes it moot. When someone comes up with an amazing set of apps or game that incorporates augmented reality, where you're completely immersed in it, I think that'll be incredible.

Ella Romanos: I'm not convinced that the average consumer will wear it.

Q: GI: I feel like a bit of a prat when I'm just wearing a headset.

Andrew Oliver: No, but that's the average consumer. I've talked to a few people who've played the Occulus Rift and they've said it's absolutely amazing. You stick it on your head and look around and you can see all around the world. I don't expect the average consumer to get that, I expect a load of hardcore FPS fans who want it. Frankly, that amount of people is a lot. I don't see it as a casual consumer item at all.

Jason Avent: If you could run in one direction, point you gun in another direction and look in a third direction, that'd be me convinced. Because it would mean that I'd be better than anyone else playing. [laughs]

Georg Backer: For me it's closure, actually, because I grew up with all those films and series that featured VR, people wearing those headsets and finally I can do it.

Jason Avent: You're going to walk around like Geordi La Forge aren't you? [laughs]

Ella Romanos: Well in the UK we're too embarrassed to even wear bluetooth headsets.

Dan Marshall: If only the Occulus Rift was like a bowler hat, with an umbrella controller.

Andrew Oliver: I think it's just going to be people sitting on the sofa, saying wow.

Ella Romanos: Yeah, as long as the business model is set up right. It's going to have be quite expensive, because it's for a core audience. It will all depend on how much content is made for it.

"As soon as digital kicks off properly on console, the middle ground will return - publishers just might not be with us to see that through"

Andrew Oliver

Jason Avent: It could be an aftermarket thing that you release as an add on.

Q: GI: I think modding communities are are going to enjoy it.

Andrew Oliver: I do think it's come of age because the tech is now ready. We can have stereo, decent gameplay, no lag, full tilt sensors, wifi for multiplayer. You won't need that many games - some people already see the 360 as a Call of Duty machine. As long as you've got arena play, that's really all you need, look at all the people who used to just play Counter Strike.

Georg Backer: One thing you can say for these projects is that they have so much direct access to the consumer. So much access to the audience.

Dan Marshall: It's the great thing about the times we live in. People can come up with these mental ideas, give it a go, people fund it and we can all have a look. Previously someone would have said “oh, that'd be good,” and that would be it, because they assume that they were never going to get funded. Now we live in an age where enough people with a small amount of interest can get what they want.

Georg Backer: Whenever I think of something interesting now, I always check Kickstarter to see if someone's already done it.

Q: GI: Moving on from hardware, I wanted to ask you about something that Strauss Zelnick said about the generational switch resulting in “publisher casualties.” He was, I think, referring not very subtly to THQ. THQ are still hanging on, and have raised $5 million from the Humble Bundle, pushing up share prices. Do you see any companies going under because of the switch?

Jason Avent: But their burn rate must be something like $2.5 million... It's not going to last long.

Q: GI: Plus, they've already defaulted on a pretty serious loan...What about any others? Capcom, maybe?

Andrew Oliver: It's a time when big games are getting bigger and the other players are going to mobile and other platforms. For third party publishers, you have to make the really big franchises - there's no middle ground and a lot of these publishers occupy that middle ground. The interesting thing is, as soon as digital kicks off properly on console, the middle ground will return - they just might not be with us to see that through.

Ella Romanos: The average budget of XBLA games has gone up so much already, that you wonder where that's going.

Dan Marshall: If that does happen, it's going to be a bit like going to the cinema on a Saturday night and the only thing you can see is a Jerry Bruckheimer. Sometimes you want to watch something else. If the barriers to entry are that high, it's a worry.

Andrew Oliver: The Xbox LIVE market is going to be there, but developers can go to it directly. Thing is, if the developers are going there directly, where does that leave the publishers who set up their whole infrastructure on distribution and marketing.

Ella Romanos: But I think that marketing is still crucial. A lot of developers can't do that on their own. The publishers who will succeed are going to be either those that manage those huge franchises, or those who manage to adapt to the new ways of doing things.

"You need to be careful as a publisher - I want to have my Bruckheimer, I want to have my indie film, I want everything"

Georg Backer

Jason Avent: Also, the huge franchises have teams of hundreds working on them. That's unsupportable for the mid-tier publisher - there are maybe four publishers in the world that can manage that. Some are going to fall away, some have already and I think that there are some who haven't admitted their weakness already that are going to go, or certainly move away from traditional games.

If that happens, then maybe the people that are still there will be able to be a bit more experimental because there will be more holes in the year. Otherwise you've got Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty and GTA and that's it. They all release around Xmas, so what are you going to do for the rest of the year on your Xbox? There's an opportunity there.

The games that I've been most interested in this year, that I think are AA, are fresh. They are Dishonored and X-Com. X-Com is an established brand, but it's been dead for 15 years or something. They're both fantastic games and they're probably $15-20 million dollar budgets, they're not $100 million dollar budgets. If you get the timing right and do something a bit cool and different.

Georg Backer: I think you need to be careful as a publisher - next year I want to have my Bruckheimer, I want to have my indie film, I want everything. I think that makes everyone make better games. You mentioned X-Com, Dishonored - Far Cry 3 is getting rave reviews, Hitman is getting rave reviews. My point is, it's the first time I can remember so many sequels coming out with really good reviews so close together.

Last year there were two or three in Skyrim and Uncharted.

Dan Marshall: And Uncharted was getting good reviews, but not all great. Some 8s.

Q: GI: Assassin's Creed 3 and Far Cry seem to be the best in their series so far.

Georg Backer: Exactly. There are so many 10s in the last month or so. I think that shows that if you've got a good IP, you've really got to take care of it. You can't just turn anything out.

Q: GI: I wonder how much of that is down to trying to preserve an IP's reputation across that generational gap? Last year, franchises had some leeway, but this is basically the last roll of the dice before the next wave, and people need to be left with good memories.

Andrew Oliver: I think there has been a psychology to it - the games that survive are the really big ones. They're cutting away the lower tier games and putting the money into the really big ones, making those really big. It kind of worked for Activision a couple of years ago, I think other publishers are doing that now.

Dan Marshall: There's one sentence that keeps cropping up in the indie sphere over the last year over and over, which is: why would you develop for anything other than Steam? They've got it so right. Barriers to entry on XBLA are so high - patching costs an arm and a leg. You can tell any indie developer who's going through XBLA certification by the look on their face, because they look dead.

PSN has similar stuff. Wii and Wii U you can't even get on unless you've got an office. There are big barriers. So I think that Zelnick might be right about big publishers biting the dust - but there are so many opportunities for really interesting stuff as well. Basically I think the console holders can help by lowering the barriers to entry.

Q: GI: Do you feel like that will change this generation? That you're going to be looked after as an indie developer?

Dan Marshall: No. I can't see them changing it. They should be looking at Steam - they've got so much money they don't even know what to do with it.

"You can tell any indie developer who's going through XBLA certification by the look on their face, because they look dead"

Dan Marshall

Jason Avent: I think they need to protect their brand. If you buy a game on a console, occasionally you get something that's a bit buggy but generally it's pretty tight. Certainly more so than stuff you buy on PC or phone.

Georg Backer: But you should be able to approach them. It shouldn't be too easy, because then everyone is going to walk through the doors with their ideas, but if you're serious then you should be able to approach them. You shouldn't look dead when you're trying.

Dan Marshall: You do hear people who've released games on PSN or XBLA that do okay, who say you're completely at the mercy of Microsoft and Sony's marketing and placement. This is sort of a bugbear of mine, people who blame a platform holder for their own lack of marketing. It's not Microsoft's job to make sure it's on the front page.

That said, these games go through one Steam sale, and they're laughing!

Q: GI: One last topic, then. We're starting to see the first wave of UK developers which were formed from the break ups of other companies come to fruition now. Jason, Boss Alien is a great example of that. It seems like a great time to consolidate and set out the stall for UK development over the next few years. Do you think we're going to need a UK publisher to be able to do that?

Jason Avent: What for?

Ella Romanos: Agreed - I think big publishers are sort of irrelevant now. I do believe that a lot of small studios are unable to deal with that sort of thing, and need companies to help them with marketing etc, so I'm not saying publishers per se are unnecessary, but I think larger publishers with traditional ways of doing things - there's no need for it.

Georg Backer: I'd rather have a strong British development community that works together to help each other out and put the great games we make on the map - to make sure people get those opportunities to stay here and fulfil their ideas. I think that's better than any publisher.

Ella Romanos: Some of these cross promotion systems, like cross-play are quite interesting, because that's a community based thing where people can support each other.

Georg Backer: I think we do have that, in the indie dev scene. Every time I go down to Brighton for Develop, it's such a lovely community. You meet everyone and they're all just developers. Nobody is arguing about who's an indie or not, nobody cares.

Dan Marshall: And nobody says, “oh, I can't really talk about that.” Can you imagine EA and Activision meeting in a pub and saying, “I'm having a really hard time writing a nice shader for this.” “Don't worry, I've got something you can use for that.” That happens with indies - you tell someone that your AI path-finding is useless and they say “are you using Unity? I've got something I can send you for that.”

Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry

8th July 2021

Submit your company

More stories

EA leans on Apex Legends and live services in fourth quarter

Q4 and full year revenues close to flat and profits take a tumble, but publisher's bookings still up double-digits

By Brendan Sinclair

EA Play Live set for July 22

Formerly E3-adjacent event moves to take place a month and half after the ESA's show

By Jeffrey Rousseau

Latest comments (28)

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
Really excellent.
It is funny how people who actually work at the coalface have a different perspective to those that don't.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University8 years ago
"That was enough for me. I think Nintendo's problem is actually one of software rather than hardware. I played Mario Galaxy, and enjoyed it, but played Mario Galaxy 2 for about an hour before I realised I was playing exactly the same game and was bored shitless of it. After a while, the Wii's core buckled under it's own success."

Anecdotal evidence like this doesn't really contribute anything to an analysis of the state of gaming right now. I could say that I (for example, this isn't my real opinion) thought Halo 4 was stale and boring, that I was playing exactly the same game as I had done every year since 2007, and that therefore it is indicative of some definitive fault in Microsoft's software strategy, which is reliant on blockbuster sales of the same few big franchises year in, year out. It simply doesn't work like that. Whatever my personal tastes, they don't dictate the way the market goes, they don't stop millions of people from enjoying Halo or Mario, and they don't stop new customers coming on board with every new release, even if the brand doesn't retain all of its old customers. That kind of fluidity isn't a bad thing, it's just a natural progression. The best handled franchises grow or remain stable from year to year, generation to generation, by maintaining a balance between existing players and new players. There arguably hasn't been a better example of that than Mario. If the conversation noted Nintendo's reliance on Mario on 3DS to turn the system around, we'd have a better look at the state of Nintendo and their software slate this year: they still need to build momentum for 3DS in the West but they need to do so this year without their most bankable star, who has now fronted five major releases for the system inside of 12 months, meaning Nintendo need to bring other intellectual property to the forefront. We can then see how the market responds to Nintendo's broader IP, and whether or not the burst of Mario titles in a short time allows those Mario titles to retain the evergreen sales curves their predecessors did.

There are some great points here, and I know this isn't a formal, academic exercise, but it frustrates me when gaming debates from professionals can still hinge on "I found x game in y franchise boring, so z console is going to fail because it still utilises x franchise". As I've said, that isn't how the market works. Sure, sometimes a franchise is exploited to the point people stop buying, but as I pointed out, the most successful franchises over years and decades always do enough to bring in new customers and retain some existing customers, as Mario and Halo (for example) have done.

I think the most fascinating trend to watch in the coming months and years, personally, is to see how gamers diversify across platforms and business models. How many people are going to stick to one model when there's so much to choose from? Will so much to choose from lead to casualties, or will the continuing influx of new players breathe new life into many sectors of the industry? We don't seem to ask these questions. We only ever seem to ask "Does x mean y is dead?" Granted, it's a similar question, but it's so much more loaded in favour of assuming y IS dead because of the actions of x. Why isn't it "Will x and y co-exist? If so, why, and to what extent?"
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Antony Cain Lecturer, Teesside University8 years ago
I also think the Mario Galaxy part is a bit off. They made one of the highest rated, innovative and well designed games in history; it completely deserved a sequel. I think there's room for 2 3D Mario games in a generation that must have over 50 modern military shooters.

Roll on Galaxy 3 for the U, I say.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (28)
Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts8 years ago
Interesting section about indies helping one another out and certainly true from the indies I know. With regards to the big publishers sharing like this....can't ever see that happening and also being a big company means you probably don't need to in the same way. EA and Activision both have a lot of seperate studios under the respective banners for this sharing to occur internally.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
How come not one of these people has touched a Wii U, but are all commenting on what they THINK they know about it? All one needs to do is try it out and it clicks. It's NOT supposed to be a "separate" tablet like an iPad or whatever they're rambling on about in the article. Not every consumer has or wants a tablet device and to those folks who happen to be Nintendo consumers, there's NO confusion about the new GamePad. That and hell, Nintendo never marketed the thing as a replacement for any device one currently owns.

Give it a try, then make a judgment based on that. Otherwise, this is no more than a better reading GameFaqs topic.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 2nd January 2013 6:58pm

10Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Ruud Van De Moosdijk VP of Development, Engine Software8 years ago
Without wanting to sound like boasting my infinite wisdom (which is actually very finite) I already predicted three years ago all the mid-range publishers would dissapear unless they seriously reevaluate their place in the industry. I have seen the absolute top publishers thrive through strong IP and triple-A franchies, and perhaps less obvious: the small box-shoving publishers that put cheap simple games on the shelves are still doing strong (since they serve a larger less entitled portion of the market)...anyone in between will have a hard time, THQ being the prime example. I do however think that any mid-range publisher that converts its core business from financer/publisher/distribution channel to a pure marketing and publishing agency could do well in the future market. In my personal experience we are working with several mid-range publishers that clearly approach any project more as a joint-venture than before, which I think is a really good way to go. A corporation that would only function as a buffer between small home-based or online teams and platform holders would probably do well too. You would need a small cost-effective but smart setup for that though, and I have not seen many examples of those...
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd8 years ago
Likening the Wii U to an iPad with video out is like going into an art museum and claiming "my five year old could do that".

It really seems like Rob Fahey has been talking to a brick wall for the past six months to read some of the above. At least it closed on a positive note.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development8 years ago
There speaks a man who never had to visit the tate modern.... :)
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
I really just wanted to say what Greg said. It's a panel full of people commenting on something that they have no knowledge in nor experience with. Not great, GI. :-/
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent8 years ago
Time, perhaps, to recognise the unfortunate reality Nintendo has found itself in due to gimmickry, nebulous appeal and IP that has to leave its teeth in a glass of water each night. Some of the comments here would be appropriate of a Nintendo of 2003, but they have little to nothing to do with the Nintendo of today.

The Wii U is a misfire.

Some of you know this deep down even though you argue against it. Because some of you, rather than counterpoint the criticisms being made, instead attempt to find flaws in an individual's personal rights to make them. This person hasn't played with one, this person didn't like SMG2 and so on. There is no debate here, just playground-quality attempts to undermine the speaker's authority to speak.

If Walkers announced egg, antler and barnacle-flavoured crisps, tasting said crisps is irrelevant in determining the likelihood of that product's success. Market factors and good old-fashioned horse sense are what counts. An expert would tell you that with so many more appealing crisp flavours out there, egg, antler and barnacle isn't going to set the world on fire. And they would be right. It's simply a bad idea, and it doesn't even matter if egg, antler and barnacle tastes good; no one will buy it. It's the separation of the two ideas - quality of experience, and marketability - that posters here seem to be having problems with. They need to be separated because they are barely if at all related to one another.

If you have to like Mario to comment on the potential of the Wii U, as some here appear to be intimating, one-sided propaganda is all you will get. You're arguing against honesty and impartiality.

So what if actually picking up a Wii U is fun? I will second that: it is fun. It's also irrelevant unless you can put a Wii U into every potential customer's hands for free. Try explaining what a Wii Is to a non-gamer; they get it immediately. Try explaining what a Wii U is and why they need it.. er...

Whether you've played a Wii U or not, those with enough industry nouse can home in on exactly its problems in selling to both types of consumer here. Any amount of Mario, Zelda and Metroid is still starvation rations alongside the sheer volume of great content both on tablets/phones and on competing consoles. Because developers support them, and without third parties the platform becomes an irrelevance.

Take off the Mario goggles, eradicate the fuzzly-wuzzly SNES nostalgia, and take a look at the Wii U's actual market potential today, just as those in this feature have. Saying these veteran developers, who have seen every console and fad come and go over decades from the inside, have no knowledge or experience of this topic is... I'm actually lost for words. Good grief.

Great article, Dan.

Edited 7 times. Last edit by Dan Howdle on 3rd January 2013 9:12am

8Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
To me there are two sorts of people who appear in articles and in comments here.
Firstly those who work at the coalface inside developers and publishers. These people have to put their time and their money where their mouth is and have done so successfully, often for decades. So these people usually know what they are talking about and they make coherent sense.
Then there are the people who don't work at the coalface and who get their knowledge second-hand. These people usually make their comments driven by emotion and they very often degenerate into ad hominem attacks on here or use other mechanisms to undermine people they disagree with. Because they have no real answer to what has been said or no valid contribution to the debate.

The article above is superb. It is people who really know what they are talking about giving very reasoned, intelligent and sensible views on where the game industry is going. This stuff is pure gold. It is what this site does incredibly well and what sets it apart from other industry sites. You cannot get closer to the realities of the industry than people like, for instance, Andrew Oliver. It is a privilege for us, the readers, to be presented with such pearls of wisdom.

For these true experts to be attacked by fellow travellers and bystanders is quite amazing. Perhaps it is time for Gamesindustry International to act against ad hominem in the comments here.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Dan Pearson Product Marketing Manager, Genvid8 years ago
Hi Bruce,
we do try and maintain as light a touch as possible in terms of moderation, but your point is appreciated.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Antony Cain Lecturer, Teesside University8 years ago
It has nothing to do with 'Mario goggles' Dan. It wasn't Mario that made the Wii a success. Mario is referenced in these comments because of some flawed logic. Saying a new console will fail because of a 97 Metacritic-rated game from its predecessor isn't entirely fair now, is it? I respect the guy's opinion, I just don't think that point is to the standard of the rest of the arguments.

Experts have shown time and time again that they just don't get Nintendo (or maybe just Nintendo's audience). It's not too far-fetched to think they might be wrong again.

Having spent recent nights playing Nintendoland with not-so-gamers, I can totally see a market for it. Whether it takes off is yet to be seen and I don't think being optimistic about it, given how much I've enjoyed it so far, makes me deluded. I don't think it will have anywhere near the success of the Wii - but I believe it has a place.

On another note, why 'Wii U problems' in the blurb here? Surely just 'the Wii U' - or even 'Wii U challenges' - would suffice? It seems unnecessarily negative.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Antony Cain on 3rd January 2013 7:22pm

3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nick Parker Consultant 8 years ago
The figures speak for themselves. Europe has sold much less Wii U than expected but there have been some out of stocks elsewhere in the world (Japan). The UK sold through to consumers less than 100k which is significantly less than those at the coalface expected prior to launch. I think that there was a lack of awareness; those who were aware, some didn't understand it, others wanted something else for the price. The fanboys didn't turn up, or haven't turned up yet.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University8 years ago
For my part I don't think I did attack the people in this article. I did pick out one comment I thought wasn't on the ball and explain why. If we're talking about Mario and Nintendo and the sales potential of their IP going forward, we can have a better discussion than "Galaxy 2 was boring", can't we? We can, for example, as I did, suggest Nintendo's over-reliance on Mario with 3DS leaves them in a dangerous position in 2013, because they just can't saturate the market with Mario titles and hope it sticks, especially not in Europe, where there isn't the historical strength that the brand enjoys in Japan and North America. I think that will be reflected in Wii U's sales (with only Mario as the major first party title) across the three regions, and I think Europe is going to be a particularly tough battle for Wii U. Nintendo still has that historical strength with handhelds to ride out on in Europe with 3DS, because people associate Nintendo with traditional handhelds globally, but they simply don't have that history or strength in Europe with home consoles--Wii was Nintendo's only successful European home console.

There's still some brilliant thoughts on display there. I just took issue with one I thought was a bit of a dud, and I don't see a problem with that. To dismiss everyone's negative thoughts on this article as attacks as "playground" is in itself, something of a playground attitude. I respect what's said in this article, I think the majority of this is spot-on and very well-informed, but I think that one point is a poor point, and I called it out.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Nicholas, I don't think Europe was given much priority during the launch. From stock to marketing, it seems much more reined in compared to the US and Japanese launch counterparts. They even openly stated well before launch that the US would receive the bulk of manufactured units.

But that's not all that surprising either. Europe has always been a lagging market for Nintendo going all the way back to the NES.

And given the currency exchange rates at the moment, it's financially prudent to hold back sales (read: losses) until either the exchange rate becomes more favorable or the manufacturing costs are reduced.

My point is, I see the situation in Europe for Wii U as more of strategic planning rather than a market problem.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd8 years ago
@Dan Howdle

Nicely articulated. But it's boring to read this stuff that brands every new platform that doesn't fit into every developers' way of working as DOOMED right out of the gate. It's an echo chamber. It happened with the Dreamcast, Gamecube, DS, Wii, PS3, etc. etc. as well - every platform that falls outside of the established market leaders, in fact.

Not every platform is going to top the PS2 or the DS in sales, but that doesn't automatically make it a disaster, and doesn't forge a causal relationship between its relative success and entirely unrelated factors. Pricing and presenting a compelling catalogue for enough people are the deciders. The PS3 and more recently the 3DS fixed those and corrected their course in spite of months (or years in PS3's case) of pundits confidently pronouncing them dead.

Aside, it boggles my mind that there are people that still ascribe the Wii's success to a 'gimmick'. It hosted multiple games that sold tens of millions of units (Mario Kart Wii, Wii Fit), as well as a handful of the very best games of the last gen. A 'gimmick' wouldn't have sustained its growth for the first 4-5 years.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jason Avent Studio Head / Creative Director, TT Games Publishing8 years ago
The 'gimmick' gave the Wii the credibility and virality (even before we all used that word) to engulf half the last-gen console market. The way you say Gimmick is that it's a cheap and plasticky - frivolous word. This gimmick was vital and important. It drove an incredible installed base. That installed base then was enormous enough for most of the Nintendo core products to sell tens of millions each. But that's all anyone ever bought. Third parties were effectively locked out because consumer buying habits were so loyal to Nintendo. Then the Wii ran out of puff and left people with nowhere to go. The hand-held screen is not on the same scale of innovation. It won't have the same effect. You don't have to call it a Gimmick if you don't like that word.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
The 3rd party sales fallacy. *sigh*

3rd parties had plenty of good sales on the system. What didn't sell were farmed out ports slapped together hoping to cash in on hype.
It didn't help they flooded the market with garbage and then cried how dirty the water was. But that doesn't mean every 3rd party game sold poorly. Where they overshadowed by the consistent quality from Nintendo? Yes. But having a shadow over you doesn't mean you can't make bank. You just can't make bank on $50 titles with all the quality of a box wine mixed with castor oil.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd8 years ago
@Jason Avent

The use of 'gimmick' suggests to me some kind of deception taking place. I don't think many people on either side of the transaction are lamenting that there weren't huge numbers of high quality third party games, or that the machine ran out of puff. I agree that the Wii U has a harder job, if the aim is still to cast a net as widely as possible.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jason Avent Studio Head / Creative Director, TT Games Publishing8 years ago
3rd Party Fallacy?! Have you seen the all-time charts?

It's all Ninty for the top 9 and then nearly all for the top 20 with only Ubisoft and Activision really getting a look in.

Compared with quite a bit more colour on the other platforms:
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
2013 and beyond I see the Game industries biggest problem being price points. The AAA title has been stuck at the 69.99 price point ceiling for over 20 years now and I dont see that changing. With inflation and production cost continually rising this puts the AAA titles under increased pressures. On the other end of the spectrum, mobile and other forms of games are rushing toward the zero price point., which wont allow the vast majority to make a living in this industry. In between we have many companies trying FTP schemes, which have to rely on creating inconveniences in order for player to pay to avoid them, or some other fine print bait and switch.
I just hope and some point the industry can be allowed to return to simply charging an honest price for the hard work that is game development.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 3rd January 2013 9:02pm

2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd8 years ago
Six iterations of CoD, loads of colour there. ;)
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jason Avent Studio Head / Creative Director, TT Games Publishing8 years ago
Yeah true. There are a lot of fps generally. Modern Warfare was the game of this generation though. I too have Halo and CoD fatigue.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jason Avent on 3rd January 2013 9:54pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
@ Jason The fallacy is that it's even worth comparing. Of course the Wii didn't sell 3rd party games. When did a 3rd party ever put any sort of budget or advertising into a Wii game? Spinoffs and lightgun games and all sorts of half-assed little minigames will never sell like an Assassin's Creed or Grand Theft Auto.

@ Dan Judging the entire lifetime of a platform you know nothing about based on preconceptions and distaste of the concept is pretty silly. I assume you were just the biggest fan of the 3DS right? Cause that's doing really well and obviously your brilliant analysis of "my friends and family don't get it so no one does" is totally a legit measure of market potential.

I don't think anyone is suggesting the Wii U will sell anything like the Wii's numbers, but then no one is suggesting the 3DS will sell anything like the DS's numbers. That doesn't make the 3DS unsuccessful, nor will it by itself make the Wii U unsuccessful. In general consoles are becoming more specialized and enthusiast, and the Wii U may indeed enjoy a smaller market of success in that area. Or, hey, maybe it won't and it'll die. That's certainly possible, but claiming any real knowledge of the lifetime potential of a device that has existed for a month is ludicrous.

But hey, if you want to bank on the survival of enthusiast gaming on the Nextbox and PS4 with doubling to quadrupling dev costs in a market that already generally operates on a loss, good luck with that. Personally, I'm quite happy with the Wii U and PC as my current primary sources of gaming, despite being a 360 and PS3 owner.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Nicholas Pantazis on 3rd January 2013 11:40pm

3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jason Avent Studio Head / Creative Director, TT Games Publishing8 years ago
I love this website. : )

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jason Avent on 4th January 2013 9:36am

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent8 years ago
I can taste the sarcasm, and it's delicious.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Calvin Fordham Graphic Design 8 years ago
When I read statements like this it really cause me to question, "What do people believe is the future of video games?" As a consumer who wants to become a developer someday, I'm interested in the Wii U for many reasons, including what may be a gimmick to others, since I welcome new mediums of gameplay as well as the infamous online community of the Miiverse, that could be a perfect place for underrated games to gain attention and potentional customers. Other than that, I actually do miss a lot of Nintendo's first party titles since they feel more like classics than the games I currently own.

My Xbox 360 has been the first console I've owned that wasn't by Nintendo or Sega, and while I am satisfied with the service I've had over the years, XBL/A and having so much access to so many 3rd Party games, especially fighters (Awaiting to purchase Anarchy Reigns next week, which i believe will fail to sell well due to Sega's horrible lack of marketing for such a unique game.), I've grown to yearn for the quirky, unique, and arcadey games I was used to playing on Nintendo and Sega platforms. 360 and the PS3 has an over abundance of games, many not very unique or pushes for a new way of gameplay or any technical depth, and as for those that doesn't gets overshadowed by heavily marketed "AAA" titles.In the end, it upsets me because it causes companies to discourage anything unique. The people who gained praised for unique approaches were usually Indie Devs, and a lot of their games were definitely hit and miss.

Along with this overbundance this generation was flooded with a fickle audience and fickle games, while attentions constantly focused on game of the month, instead of a game that they may find interesting or want to support. Narratives and strong storylines ran strong on the 360 and PS3 this generation with the occasional huge multiplayer online title or rehash.Other than that it started to become more and more painfully obvious that they wanted to make gaming consoles more than gaming consoles, so much that they almost forget to focus on games. (E3 2012 was a Prime example of that tragedy.)

If Nintendo wants to make a comback, they simply need support and marketing.

I knew Nintendo were going to have a hard time do to various things, how they handled revealing the Wii U and the information on it, along with the time frame between the reveal and the release, without any real marketing to the basic consumer. Yes, reintroducing different IPs and newer games, would be great but that is only if people would take advantage of them, I don't think too many took advantage of games like Sin and Punishment: Star Successor and Kid Icarus: Uprising (though I may have to check the numbers of Kid Icarus).

Also, they would have to gain the attention support of those earlier mentioned underrated devs that make quirky and fun games, that struggle to gain attention on the 360 or PS3. Their recent deals with Platinum Games is a great example of this. Platinum Games is a good developer, but they struggle to sell and market games on the the other two consoles. I think switching support to Nintendo would basically be the same as feeding a starving audience, also they could gain outside interest in their games through exclusivity. Support for the Wii U from 3rd parties could result in the success of newer IPs and franchises, due to the fact that people are looking forward to them to begin with. If they can market those games to the Wii U's consumer base and encourage them to feel as if they need to experience these titles they would be good to go, a long with the added word of mouth through the communities of the Miiverse, (which seems to be the Wii U's "killer app")

Nintendo as a first party company is however alright, say what you want about most Mario games, only SMG2 was more of a repeat of the same thing, and even still it was good. Nintendo's games are used for prime examples of the gaming capabilities using the hardware, devs should study it more than just label it as a "gimmick". I still feel many more developers could learn from the two DS games, Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword as great examples of ways to approach touch screen gaming. It's a joke that so many smartphone games use Virtual D-Pads!!! Instead of controlling a character by pointing to a direction and touchscreen commands, they prefer to use something as inconvient as Virtual D-Pads. It's reasons like that I find it difficult to take smartphone gaming seriously.

The Wii U may have taken a stumble, but it's only been 2 months, too soon for so many people to place so many high expectations on it.

With that said, nice metaphor, but I disagree. A lot of vets have proven time and time over again, all who take part in the industry, marketing, journalism, or consumers, don't know how things could develop.

Nintendo still makes great first party games, even excellent hardware, I enjoyed the Wii U demo, but the only real reality that must be faced is that Nintendo alone can't sell their hardware they need games that set them apart from the other consoles, and appeal to go along with it, which is going to take more than 2 months to develop.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.