According to Screen Digest, one major Japanese third party publisher said, “We’re running a business, not to win awards but to make money — if we make breakeven plus on Wii then we are happy.” This translates to “We will port a lot of PS2 games to the Wii and develop real games for other consoles. The neutrality of Screen Digest has been disputed on some popular gaming forums, but assuming this quote is accurate, it still boggles my mind.
I was an economics minor and want to pretend my parents 120k were well spent, so please roll with this haphazard attempt at a proof:
First, we must necessarily assume that profit comes first because the quote indicates this is true. This rules out the idea that 3rd party publishers are saving their big games for HD and fancy processors simply because the developers want to work on them. Pet projects and artistic babies don’t fit into this business mindset, so for any AAA title on the PS3 or 360 we should assume the publisher expects to make a profit.
Now the next few assumptions are not explicitly stated in the quote from Namco. Err, assuming it’s Namco, that is. We must assume a piece of shit on the Wii makes more profit than a piece of shit on other new consoles. This may be true due to the number of Wiis out there and the lower cost of developing a Wii game.
Next, a AAA title on the Wii will make less profit than on the PS3 or 360. If the Wii has a larger install base (which it does when compared to the PS3 and will soon when compared to the 360) this assumption seems faulty. Especially so when you consider how much more expensive a AAA title would cost to develop on the other systems.
In order to prop up the last flimsy assumption, it is often coupled with this one – Wii owners are not discerning and quality does not ensure sales. There is not enough evidence that Wii owners are less discerning than other gamers. Plenty of shit sells on other consoles. May I remind you the 50 Cent game sold much better than Psychonauts on the Xbox, Ico on the PS2 and Eternal Darkness on the Wii. The connection between awesomeness and profit has never been concrete and I doubt the PS3 and 360 will change this.
The final assumption is a progression of the previous one – Casual gamers will not buy more copies of a good game of minigames than a bad one. This one mostly stems from gamers’ superiority complex, which is probably well deserved. Just as a film student scoffs at his brother who loves Steven Segal movies, we too turn up our noses at the grandmothers playing Cooking Mama. The key is there still is some set of criteria that makes a bad action movie appealing or unappealing to its audience. So you may hate casual games, but that does not mean they’re all going to equally appeal to casual gamers. To hammer this point home, Avril Lavigne is an ignorant slut and completely talentless yet I could not write music for her that would capture the infantile brains of tweens across the country. It’s not easy to make shit.
Ultimately, the question is why doesn’t the quoted third party release good games on the Wii? The DS is casual friendly yet Squeenix is releasing Dragon Quest IX on the handheld and it will sell a bajillion copies. If making crappy games for the Wii yields profit, why spend the effort making big AAA titles on systems that don’t sell as well? This situation is akin to a publisher deciding that the PS2 is selling so well and so many terrible titles are making profit that they need to just port games to the PS2 and keep their AAA titles for the graphically superior but sales inferior GameCube.
Obviously, this makes no sense though it may hint that the issue is very much a psychological one. The Cube didn’t get many AAA titles because it was another failing Nintendo console. Now that Nintendo is doing well…well, why put good games on the Wii, it’s just another successful Nintendo console.