Going Gold

Going Gold: A Totally Outrageous Paradigm

Christian Ward | 23 Jul 2008 17:00
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In the same interview, Molyneux - technically on Microsoft's payroll - gave a word of support to Nintendo's efforts to take gaming mainstream. But there's only so much that Nintendo can do. Without support from third party developers - big titles and new ideas, not minigames and low-quality ports with added motion controls - the "fad" moniker that has been unfairly applied to the Wii will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Third party games don't sell on Nintendo" is the familiar argument as to why third parties are so unwilling to take the plunge, but we are no longer living in the Gamecube era. The Wii-owning market is far more diverse than just Nintendo fans, and the success of full-featured games such as Guitar Hero 3 - noted in Nintendo's press conference as having sold more copies on Wii than any other platform - points to a market for quality third-party product.

There are admittedly sensible business reasons why third parties are so reluctant to take the plunge on high-quality Wii titles. Most are not set up to market games to anywhere outside of their core audience. Top developers want to make games that they and their buddies will want to play, who may not fall into the Wii's target audience. And the success of previous games on the same console by rivals are used to approve or reject concepts, so the longer no one makes AAA titles for Wii, the more vicious a circle it becomes.

But gaming has never been a market for the faint-hearted. Even without Iwata's paradigm shifts, "common sense" can be dangerous thinking in a market as fast moving as gaming. Guitar Hero itself is a worthy example, being a Westernized concept of a game Konami thought was too Japanese to sell to the West. If you told any executive at a major third party five years that the biggest thing this year was going to be plastic instruments for rhythm games, you'd have been laughed out of his office.

Nintendo is doing much of the hard work, having put consoles into the hands of people who would not otherwise have given them the time of day. Games that are easy to understand - particularly the new wave of music games in Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Singstar - are also attracting people to other consoles. We must not shy away from them, bury our heads in the sand or deride them as "casuals" that are somehow fundamentally different from "real" gamers like us. They are users, potential customers who have already taken the plunge in buying a console, the biggest step any user has to take. $250 is not cheap, not with gas prices rising at a rate that makes you wonder if you're using Zimbabwean currency, and if users are willing to go that far, then the fault lies with us if we cannot come up with something to amuse them.

It would be a tragedy if the failure to successfully ensnare these new markets caused people who should be our customers to fall out of love with gaming again. An industry like gaming should be growing exponentially. Regardless of the platform, we as an industry must learn to follow the example that companies like Nintendo and Activision are setting - to look beyond our traditional audiences and learn to satisfy not only those who are already in, but also to reach out to those looking to join.

Christian Ward works for a major games publisher and, the content of this article notwithstanding, believes that 'paradigm' is indeed a buzzword that dumb people use to sound important.

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