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Publishers jostle for first-mover advantage on Wii U

Ubisoft, EA, Sega detail early launch plans to GamesIndustry.biz; but Take-Two remains cautious

It may not yet have a release date, but the biggest third-party games publishers are preparing to hit the ground running when Nintendo releases the Wii U next year.

Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Sega are all backing the system day and date without hesitation, with only Take-Two remaining cautious of the first new home console to hit the market since 2006.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told GamesIndustry.biz that the publisher is pledging new intellectual property for the system and is keen to see early adopter feedback on the new hardware.

"We will announce one game that we want to launch day one that is a new type of game, which should be interesting. It is still very important, just because you can test a market and also see through the eyes of the first consumers.

Getting in early is partly about being a successful transition company and figuring out where the hardware is going to go

Frank Gibeau, EA Games

"They are the people that actually have the word of mouth factor. The trendsetters," he added.

For Electronic Arts it's a gamble to go big on the day of release, but Games label president Frank Gibeau is confident from previous form.

"It served us well on PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3," he told GameIndustry.biz. "Getting in early is partly about being a successful transition company and figuring out where the hardware is going to go.

"With the Wii U it's important for us to get there on day one so we can get in and build as big an audience as possible. We've been doing this for 25 years and trying to pick platforms and more often than not we get it right. I hope we have this one right. That's the gamble," he admitted.

Although some third parties were stung by dedicating separate resources to the Nintendo Wii and seeing poor return on investment, Sega West president Mike Hayes said his company was confident a long-tail approach would pay off even if day one was daunting prospect.

"At some point we were the biggest, certainly top three third-party publisher on Wii, so for us it was a great platform... we've got absolutely no qualms about [Wii U].

The recent launch of the 3DS highlighted how sluggish sales can be for Nintendo without one of its hit franchises such as Mario or Zelda, but again, Hayes is willing to play the long game.

"I just think we're all a bit premature in being a bit glass half full on 3DS. Everyone was clamouring 'oh please bring it out in March, you must bring it out' and then it's like you get to June and it's all 'sales aren't very good...' Well, they haven't got the software yet."

Karl Slatoff, chief operating officer at Red Dead Redemption publisher Take-Two was more cautious, suggesting his creative teams need time to assess the hardware before committing to launch.

"For us it's really about understanding what the hardware capabilities are and understand how it's going to fit into what our goals are from a franchise creation perspective," he told GamesIndustry.biz. "Really understanding what that platform can deliver and developing for that platform.

"So that's our philosophy, not just with the new Nintendo console but across the board. Whether we're looking at the 3DS or the PlayStation Vita or any of the new formats that are coming out. We can't look at them all the same way. We're not just going to port over."

Porting games from established Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 franchises is an opportunity now that Nintendo's Wii U is said to have comparable technology, and will help keep costs lower than an entirely higher spec console.

"It doesn't increase [costs] very much because the advantage is in being close to the other machines, you can do the game for all the formats at the same time," offered Guillemot.

But he also made it clear that Ubisoft is evaluating the Wii U for "both new content and a third location" for existing franchises.

Although the costs of bringing existing titles over to the Wii U won't be high, Hayes said Sega is willing to spend more money on implementing the unique tablet controller, helping to distinguish the Aliens: Colonial Marines experience on Wii U from the same game on Sony or Microsoft hardware.

"That controller is absolutely brilliant and we have to think of innovative ways to use it. We're doing high definition Sonics, we're doing obviously Aliens: Colonial Marines, so you can bring them across, and that's relatively low cost, which is good news.

"Then you spend your money on how do you use that controller effectively to make it unique and differentiate it."

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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