Going Gold

Going Gold: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Christian Ward | 2 Dec 2009 17:00
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It's been a long time since we've had a good hardware launch - three years since the Wii and PS3, four since the Xbox 360 and five since the DS and PSP. It's the type of lull in an otherwise restlessly churning industry that has some publishers reevaluating where they stand.

EA Montreal's decision to abandon their stance on the Wii and refocus their efforts on the HD consoles is indicative of the way the wind is blowing. EA Montreal is only one arm of a massive corporation, but EA CEO John Riccitiello has already made his frustration with the Wii market known, and the failure of Dead Space Extraction is unlikely to lighten his mood. EA has been one of the most vocal supporters of the Wii - an apparent rethinking of that stance is a worrying sign of the times.

It seems that there are more than a few publishers who are delighted that the 360 and PS3 user base has reached something of a critical mass, so they no longer have to think too hard about the awkward Wii market. EA Montreal's decision is something I think we're going to see more of in the coming months. It's a situation I referred to over a year ago as a self-fulfilling prophecy; third parties view the Wii as a fad, and therefore they make no software for it, fearing that two years later it will no longer be a viable platform.

Two years later, the only third-party software is lower quality, and sells less than on competing platforms; the same publishers turn around and use this as evidence to say that third-party games don't sell on Wii.

Gee, you don't say.

Dead Space Extraction is the latest example brought up to prove this logic. I don't mean to say that it's a bad game - by all accounts, it's a great title, but one that has not met expectations at retail. But the problem here is not one of the title - it's a problem with the initial expectations.

The only games that sell in the games market anymore are the ones that are exceptionally high quality, or exceptionally well marketed. Look at the titles that launched in the October to November window this year: Assassin's Creed 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Uncharted 2, Left 4 Dead 2. All competing for the same general audience; all with massive marketing budgets and bulging Metascores. Extraction was neither exceptional nor exceptionally well marketed, and thus its failure should come as no surprise.

What is a surprise is that so few realized the odds were always stacked against Extraction. Dead Space itself disappointed at retail, despite being the beneficiary of the type of marketing campaign that would make Extraction weep. Extraction is a rail shooter, a genre whose market share has shrunk so much over the last decade that it would now probably be dead, if they weren't so easy to make on the Wii.

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