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Why "The Conduit" Will Have Trouble: The Wii and Hardcore Games.
by Ian Fisch on 03/18/09 11:11:00 pm   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


With the recently announced sales figures for Madworld clocking in at a measly 66,000, the pile of evidence that hardcore games can't succeed on the Wii is getting larger. Or so it would seem.

The refrain I normally hear from analysts and pundits is that hardcore gamers aren't interested in the Wii.  They claim the large user base is concentrated around casual gamers and children.  What else could explain why critically acclaimed games made for hardcore audiences such as No More Heroes haven't managed to sell well?  

How many hardcore gamers do you know?  How many of them own Wii's?  If the answer is “most”, then you probably support a basic premise of my argument - that a ton of hardcore gamers own the Wii. 

It's difficult to find data to support this claim because the obvious way of proving it would be to show evidence that a lot of hardcore games sell well - which we obviously can't do.  Based on sales data alone, one could argue that the hardcore install base for the Wii is small.  Yet if we take a step back and look around us we can see that's not the case.   

Assuming hardcore gamers own the Wii, it seems odd that hardcore games on the platform are not selling better.  Perhaps the answer is that hardcore gamers do not exist in a vacuum.  Hardcore gamers who own the Wii are also likely to own either an PS3, an Xbox360, or a suped-up PC. 

When a hardcore Wii game is released, it doesn't only compete against other Wii games; it competes against all games.  So MadWorld isn't just competing against Disaster: Day of Crisis.  It's competing agaisnt Ninja Gaiden 2 and Grand Theft Auto 4.  Suddenly it doesn’t stand out quite as much.  It would most likely not have earned those 80%-90% review scores had it been released on PS3 – graphics and all.  Yet this is the manner the hardcore gamer will use to judge it when it comes time to make a purchase. 

Thinking along these lines, it makes sense that games like Resident Evil 4, Mario Galaxy, and Zelda: Twilight Princess have been sales successes.  At the time when they were released, they could all stand up side-by-side with the competition on Xbox 360 and PS3 – maybe not graphically, but as an overall package.  They were experiences you just couldn't find on the other systems. 

How many platformers of Mario Galaxy quality can you find on the other two systems?  I would say maybe Ratchet and Clank on PS3, but that is it.  Likewise when Zelda: TP was released, it had no competition in that genre; Fable 2 was still over a year from its release date.  The only survival-horror competition Resident Evil 4 had at the time of its release was from Condemned on the Xbox360.   

These Wii games show that if you want to have success with hardcore gamers, you have to give them something that they can't get on the other systems.  Just doing a Wii version of a Xbox360/PS3 game won't do it because the Wii version will always have the huge disadvantage in the graphics department.  

This theory will be tested in a little under two months from now when The Conduit is released.  The game has been viewed as a symbol of hope for hardcore Wii developers for a long time now.  It has been praised because it is a pulls-no-punches first person shooter that has been built for the Wii from the ground up.  It's also garnered attention because it apparently pushes the Wii to its limit graphically.  Yet when compared to Gears of War 2, it looks like a heavyweight bout between Evander Hollyfield and Tiger Woods.

The Conduit aims to be a very competent shooter, but one that wouldn’t look out of place on the original Xbox.  It doesn't seem to bring anything new to the table - at least nothing that can be communicated through video or screenshots.  If it were being released for Xbox360 or PS3, competence alone might be enough.  Afterall, the uber-selling Call of Duty 4 wasn't exactly oozing innovation. 

Yet by virtue of being on the Wii, it has to overcome a huge graphical disadvantage as well as the disadvantage of having to utilize the Wii’s lackluster online matchmaking system.  Sad as it is, I can't think of any reason why a hardcore gamer would choose to buy The Conduit instead of its competition.

So is it possible for a hardcore game to be a sales success on Wii?  I would say yes.  It’s just very difficult.  The game has to fill a gap that isn't filled by the other two consoles.  This gap has only gotten smaller as time has gone by.  Could a new Wii Resident Evil in the style of Resident Evil 4 sell as well now that the gorgeous Resident Evil 5 exists on PS3 and Xbox360?  I would say no.

Yet if a studio can find that gap, I think the Wii is a good platform to go with.  One advantage the Wii has is that anything on the Wii that aims for the hardcore audience will get more press coverage than it would if it were launching on another console.  If a game like The Conduit were to be developed for Xbox360, it would probably be unknown.  By virtue of being on the Wii, it will probably grace a few magazine covers. 

Another advantage is that a Wii game can get great reviews with lower-budget graphics since reviewers tend to compare Wii games to other Wii games.  There is a real opportunity for launching a successful hardcore game on the Wii.  It just takes the right idea. 

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Ken Masters
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Just a few questions for the author:

- If No More Heroes bombed, why is a sequel in development for the same console it supposedly tanked on? Certainly it the game was profitable. It was reportedly Suda 51's best selling game ever.

- Why are games like MadWorld and The Conduit suddenly a litmus test to see how hardcore games can sell on the Wii? Especially considering there have been plenty of hardcore successes on the Wii - three of which are mentioned in the article.

- Saying Zelda did well only because Fable 2 - which has much better graphics - wasn't out is just... crazy. I hope I'm just inferring and that's not what you're actually saying.

- If graphics were such a determining factor, I would think Wii would be the least selling console.

- How do you explain the success of Call of Duty: World at War on Wii given the fact that two far superior skus exist?

Craig Stern
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"Sad as it is, I can't think of any reason why a hardcore gamer would choose to buy The Conduit instead of its competition."

You can't think of one reason? Really? You can't *point* to one thing that would *control*, even *remotely*, a player's actions? :P Hint hint.

Bruno Dion
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I can't remember who said this but props to them : Who's more hardcore ? Someone playing Halo 3 1 hour every 2 days or someone playing Peggle 4 hours everyday.

steve roger
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We are a household of gamers with two boys 7 and 10. The Wii was literally the most wanted of all the gaming hardware we have. And we have it all (PCs (laptops, desktops, macs) PS2s, XBOXs, GCs, Dreamcast, SNES 360s, PS3, Wiis DSs, and PSPs). However, since we got the Wii on launch day it has fallen to dead last in playing game play time, rentals, and purchases. At the tme it came out my sons would have died if I wouldn't have bought one, but now, I could trade it in with the promise of buying 5 360 and PS3 games for each of them and they wouldn't shed a tear.

The Wii, is a bust in our house. I thought when I bought it my younger son would be drawn to it due to the intuitive and ease of use control system. But that turned out to be completely untrue. Sure it worked for Wii Play, but since that title only Raving Rabbits has garnered any interest. Actually, there was that Pokemon title that worked with the DS was popular for about a month. That is it.

For the most part, the controls for the games we bought have not been as near as good as Wii Play or Raving Rabbits. In fact, they have been down right wonky. Further, we have burned too many times with low quality titles with awful controls. My youngest now expects the games to suck. When he rents a Wii title and his brother rents a 360 title at the same time, the younger one always feels disappointed with his selection and ends up coveting his brother's choice. So he has stopped shopping for the Wii entirely. When they save or pool there money, or figure out trade ins. The Wii titles always go and they never are bargained for.

And my older son is a hardcore gamer (I suppose that makes me a bad parent but I know plenty others like me) and Madworld should be on his radar. But it is not at all because it is a Wii title.

Also, when the kids have parties and friends over. The Wii never gets played.

If I was a developer, I would stay away from the Wii entirely. Especially for a game like Madworld.

Jamie Mann
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This is an interesting post - especially in light of the recently announced low sales of GTA:CW on the DS. I think you've raised a very valid point: the casual games so beloved by the Wii demographic generally don't have any counterparts on the other mainstream consoles, whereas the hardcore (or traditional) games do.

Personally, I own a Wii and an X360, and the vast majority of my gametime is spent on the X360 - the last time I fired up the Wii was to play World of Goo: I'd estimate that the machine has seen about 10 hours of play this year, mostly at family parties (where Wii Sports and Raving Rabbids get fired up).

@Craig: I understand what you're aiming at (and the pun is intentional), but the benefits of the Wiimote are generally outweighed by the fact that developers feel under pressure to incorporate movement-based actions in games - for instance, De Blob forced you to shake the Wiimote whenever you wanted to jump, which is both messy and imprecise. There's something to be said for the speed and precision available to Wiimote pointing, but there's also something to be said for abstracting complex and/or time-sensitive behaviour onto a simple button press! Personally, I've grown to actively dislike the overuse of motion controls in games: it quickly grows old and repetitive outside of the minigame arena.

It would have been interesting to see the results of RE5 being released on the Wii - after all RE4 did fairly well, selling 1.8 million copies (compared to 1.6 million on the GC and 2 million on the PS2 - numbers taken from wikipedia articles). It's odd that Capcom haven't gone for a port to the Wii, given RE5's availability on the three other major platforms.

Charles Forbin
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It's also possible that Madworld failed because news of it's tiresome control system got around. Let's just say I'm glad I rented it. After the tenth time trying to pick up a tire and grabbing air or running in circles around to get the camera pointed the way I wanted, well, that was enough. It's hard, IMHO, to beat the basic control system of one stick moving the character and one stick controlling the camera. There's a reason so many games use it: it just works.

Not sure how you would do the two stick control on the Wii. I'm curious to see how The Conduit handles it. I really think I would have enjoyed Madworld a lot more if it had a standard two stick control setup.

I loved No More Heroes, but my main activity on the Wii has been quirky stuff like the Strong Bad games and Sam & Max. Looking forward to the Wallace & Grommit game.

richard holding
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Not read any posts but im commenting on the hardcore gamer aspect.

All hardcore gamers have a Wii. Im a hardcore gamer and my other 6 hc gamer friends all have one. We want to play all games and being in good jobs we buy anything and everything . . that said we dont buy for the woo. Yes we bought mario kart, galaxy, zelda, metrod and smash bros and although we love ther games we are playing more virtual console than any of those games.

The games for the wii that are released across the plaforms i would never even consider, i really dont like the remote. the ps3 against the xbox i feel is terrible, the online in ok, but the xbox just wins hands down through pure games. All 6 of us agree but we do love a bit of little big planet and wipeout HD, warhawk and F1.

The wii we all bought and agree for the novelty but that quick wore off, although we like the console we are really only waiting for rehashes of old skool titles. the ps3 we are all disapointed about as the games are more expensive and as we can put them side by side against the xbox there has only been 1 game which actually looks plays better . . . but all that is negated when we get online. xboxlive party is just the best idea EVER and works instantly.

I love all the consoles they do what they do with the games they have but as for hardcore, you will never sell well on that console unless as you say it fills the gap or gives the experience no other console can give. Lets face it thought even then mario kart was good for a month but we are now back to playing left for dead on the pc counterstrike . .as always(will that game EVER get old?), halo3, forza 2 and to a very lesser extent making stuff on Little big planet

Tom Newman
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While most "hardcore" gamers I know own a Wii, I know not one who does not also have either a 360 or a PS3. I also know many Wii owners who are not hardcore gamers, and when they talk about the Wii, they are usually talking about Wii Bowling. My Wii has not been used for anything but Wii Bowling since No More Heroes came out, and I will eventually buy Madworld, but "The Conduit" does not spark my interest. There are more than enough great hardcore shooters on PC and 360, and with the graphical limitations of the Wii, it takes some really special gameplay to get me to overlook the max480 output resolution.

Also, I may be alone, but I dislike the motion control, especially for shooters. Metroid Prime on Wii made my arms tired long before I was ready to stop playing. I'd rather sit back on the couch where the controller does not leave my lap.

Armando Marini
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Of the people I know that own only one console, those who have a Wii as their console of choice have it for their children. They have the odd game that is also appealing to adults (in a social party sense).

The consensus among those who I know that have the Wii as well as a PS3 or Xbox360, tends to be that they are too wrapped up in games on the other system. They don't find Wii exclusives to be compelling enough in comparison to the heavy hitters on other consoles. I suspect that is a general trend.

Josh Strodtbeck
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How do you define a "hit"? A number of violent action (I assume that by "hardcore," you mean "violent") titles have reached platinum status, or at least approached it, relatively recently. The respectable sales of COD:WaW on the Wii suggest that, while there perhaps are not enough action fans who own only a Wii to make a game a Halo-like success, there are at least enough to be reasonably successful, at least successful enough for a small studio with budget constraints to target it.

John Paul Zahary
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When "The Conduit" is released it will be up against many different factors – one being the "non-hardcore" stigma that the Wii has developed - something that Nintendo originally tried to steer clear of but is now in the thick of again.

The Gamecube, one of my favorite systems to this day, was a casualty of low 3rd party support and lack of proper online avenues. The Wii has garnered this support, supplied a form of online gaming, however there is a shovel-load of gimmicky software and Nintendo IPs seem to be the only "hard-core" games that sell.

If you ask any hard-core gamer who owns a Wii, I am sure their library consists of Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Smash Brothers…the Nintendo published titles.

When Red Steel was available at launch, it was supposed to revolutionize the First-Person genre with its Wii-mote aiming and sword-fighting motions. Even though I respect the game highly, it garnered harsh reviews.

FPS faired better with Metroid Prime (another Nintendo IP) and World at War Wii which surprisingly did well a muli-platformed game.

The Conduit, although not boasting higher def graphics than the PS3 and 360, has held a strong buzz since its E3 08 demo. It is supposed to offer the strongest customization of Wii motion/shooting controls and a broad online experience including Wii Speak.

Another "buzz" pushing the game has been that it was pain-stackingly developed from the ground up for the Wii in a considerable amount of time before Sega was announced as the publisher.

Being dubbed by some as Nintendo's "Halo, these aspects, if coupled with a compelling story should create success, if they were executed properly.

Michael Mitchell
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The reason RE4, SSBB, SMG, LoZTP, and MPC sold tons was because they were all recognizable franchises. And saying that LoZTP only sold because Fable 2 wasn't out yet is dumb. They're two completely different games and LoZ is way more popular.

You wanna know why MadWorld didn't sell much? Because we're not idiots. Why would I spend $50 for a 5 hour game that just is going around chopping random people up. I spent $10 on Lostwinds and got a 2.5 hour game that required strategy and was tons of fun. I'm gonna spend $30 in May to get Klonoa a game that I know will be fun and last me a while. And I'm gonna spend $40 soon for Excitebots, a multiplayer racing game that will allow me and my friends to have tons of fun together.

If Sega wanted MadWorld to sell they should've made the game longer or made it a cheap WiiWare game.

And in all honesty, can you really compare MadWorld to the Hardcore titles on PS360 consoles?

I'll tell you the reason The Conduit won't sell. The reasons will be because: it ends up being nothing special, short, or Nintendo doesn't advertised.

Lets think. Fallout 3, Assassin's Creed, BioShock all sold like cake. Whats this though? They had advertisements in magazines? Oh more? They all were on the cover of GI and had huge articles about them in that issue? What theres more? THEY HAD FREAKING COMMERCIALS!

Steve Mac
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I picked up Red Steel when I bought the Wii and enjoyed it immensely from start to finish (except perhaps the later sword battles where the remote couldn't seem to keep up).

I was eagerly awaiting some more shooters, but was let down. Far Cry Instincts was poor, Metroid Prime was good though perhaps not my usual style. RE4 I couldn't justify buying again since I already had it on PS2. So I'm looking forward to The Conduit. I'll give it a go.

But I'm still surprised... You have a guarantee everyone has the required equipment for at least a rail shooter, and the nunchuck opens the door for FPS games. I don't think graphics are standing in the way. I knew it wasn't a powerhouse when I got it, but I have my PC for that. I was sold on the control concept, and while I've found some interesting titles in other genres, I was expecting a few more games I'd want to play.

So the white box lays dormant. It's not that the novelty has worn off. I still wonder at what fun I could have on that machine, if only the games were there. I wasn't at all inspired by MadWorld. I played God Hand and didn't see MadWorld doing much different.

david vink
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"Sad as it is, I can't think of any reason why a hardcore gamer would choose to buy The Conduit instead of its competition. "

As some already mentioned, the controls that the Wii offers are the main selling point for a game like The Conduit. I've played Gear of War 2 and Killzone 2, but in comparing the single-player gameplay I find Metroid Prime 3 to be much more pleasant to play. The Wii controls just work really well for first person shooters and I would probably still get The Conduit for Wii even if it came out on PS3 as well.