North American Ubisoft president Laurent Detoc recently showed concern over his company’s Wii titles. According to a recent Gamasutra article –
“He acknowledged the Wii in particular has been difficult for Ubisoft to find success with. Pointing to the console’s generous sales, he noted that games published for the Wii made up only 10 percent of Ubisoft’s sales last year, and added that the company will need to work harder to create games that will ‘sell as well as Nintendo’s own Wii titles.'”
Let us run through the list of games Ubisoft has published for the Wii as it may elucidate the company’s problems.
No More Heroes – A great game, by far Ubisoft’s best reviewed Wii title, also made by a talented developer (so obviously not Ubisoft). Given zero marketing, guaranteeing this quirky ultraviolent title’s demise.
Red Steel – An ok launch title for the Wii, sold over a million copies despite obvious flaws.
Raving Rabbids – A decent party game and good early effort.
Raving Rabbids 2 – Rehash of game that was only decent to begin with.
Nitro Bike – “The makers of Excitebike 64 return to the motocross circuit with a disappointing wreck of a Wii game.” -Nintendo Power
My Word Coach – Cool title if you’re into words, say because you write for a website, but why get this instead of the portable DS version, that you could say play in the morning on your 40 minute train commute?
Cosmic Family – “It also feels like a game that was meant to run in flash on an Internet browser and not a full-fledged Wii product.” -IGN
Prince of Persia Rival Swords – A port of a PS2 game with tacked on motion controls.
Blazing Angels – “Piling on an unfortunate number of bugs and glitches, Blazing Angels on the Wii is undoubtedly the most disappointing version of this game to date.” -GameSpy
TMNT – Multiplatform title with Wii controls tacked on and crappier graphics. Also worse than the TMNT games of our youth.
CSI – “…if you’re looking for a challenging mystery adventure, look elsewhere.” -Games Radar
Cranium Kabookii – “Sadly there are a few niggles that prevent this from being a must-buy, especially given how the board game itself is a much cheaper alternative.” -Cubed3
Petz Horsez 2 – Crap
Petz Dogz 2 – Crap
Petz Catz 2 – Crap
Surf’s Up – Licensed crap
Open Season – Licensed crap
Driver Parallel Lines – “Although it does benefit from better controls, that doesn’t disguise how boring the storyline is, or how mediocre the missions are.” -Eurogamer
Far Cry – “One of the Wii’s worst games, an underdeveloped mess that will turn off most of its players by the middle — or possibly even the beginning — of level one.” -Game Daily
Splinter Cell Double Agent – “With its sloppy controls and a total lack of online multiplayer mode… it’s tough to justify this version’s existence.” -Gamepro
Monster 4X4 – “Monster 4X4: World Circuit is a budget port of an Xbox title, we’re getting it almost a year later and at full price. The game wasn’t great originally and it still isn’t.” -PALGN
GT Pro Series – “I find it appalling that publishers can get away with charging $50 on a game that might be worth $10 on a good day. The only thing you can do to let publishers know that we’re not going to put up with this kind of crap is to not buy GT Pro Series, a task that should be easy considering the quality of the product.” -Nintendo World Report
Emergency Mayhem – “It may be one of the best of its breed, but that’s like saying smallpox is the best communicable disease.” – n-Revolution Magazine UK
There are two main points to take away from this list. The less obvious one is that Ubisoft seemed to be trying harder earlier in the Wii’s life cycle. If Red Steel and Raving Rabbids were stepping off points that led the company to something better we would have some excellent Ubisoft titles to choose from today. Instead, those were the pinnacle of the developers effort and everything since (besides No More Heroes) has been mediocre or terrible.
The second and more obvious point is that Ubisoft just makes shitty games. They are trying to compete directly with Nintendo and are getting crushed, and rightfully so. Besides the dubious logic of “Nintendo has captured this audience, forget going after a different audience, let’s fight then head on for the casual market,” Nintendo makes good games. This point is mostly overlooked by Ubisoft. Sure Nintendo releases a stinker here and there, but they bundle a remote with anything really bad. They also release amazing games, like Twilight Princess, Mario Galaxy, Fire Emblem and a little title called Wii Sports.
Ubisoft cannot compete with Nintendo directly by releasing bad games yet that is their business strategy. Their folly is obvious to all industry onlookers yet in the boardroom the execs will scratch their heads and wonder why Petz Spider Monkeyz 2 didn’t topple Wii Fit.
My biggest concern is that these suits know something I don’t. Are they really used to exerting absolutely no effort, simply shoving crap out the door and making big profits? Will the Wii’s downfall be at the hands of lazy 3rd parties who are not comfortable with making quality products? Or is it just this new casual game boom that’s convinced so many publishers they don’t need to make good games to make money?