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The problems with being a console launch title
The problems with being a console launch title
August 20, 2013 | By Mike Rose

August 20, 2013 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, GDC Europe

Although being a launch title for the Nintendo Wii U secured Chasing Aurora plenty of press coverage, the team behind the title now wish that they had waited a few extra months before releasing the game.

The Broken Rules team was working on a flight exploration game called Secrets of Raetikon when Nintendo asked them if they'd be up for creating a launch title for the Wii U.

Felix Bohatsch and his team had previously been working on a multiplayer prototype based on Raetikon, and decided that the Wii U GamePad would work great with this prototype. This eventually became Chasing Aurora, and was released at Wii U launch after just five months of development.

But in a postmortem at GDC Europe today, Bohatsch admitted that releasing the game at the Wii U launch had bad points alongside the good.

"There is a lot of press coverage for launch games," he said. "As there aren't that many games around at the start, your game will be covered on every major gaming site."

Yet despite the huge amount of press that Chasing Aurora received, the game didn't get a sales spike at launch at all -- in fact sales of the game at launch were around the same as sales throughout the game's life.

That was even with a lengthy feature on the eShop storefront. As it turns out, the majority of people who bought a Wii U at launch were so focused on playing the larger retail games, that Chasing Aurora didn't get a massive look-in.

Notably, Bohatsch said that "people thought $15 was pricey" for a downloadable title, especially after they had bought a couple of big retail titles.

In hindsight, the Broken Rules team now wishes that it had spent a couple more months working on the game to polish it up more. "We rushed Chasing Aurora for release," admitted Bohatsch. "It would have been a better game with one or two extra months of development."

And he reckons that if they had launched a couple of months after the Wii U launch, the game may have even received more downloads at release as a result.

He reasoned that a couple of months after the Wii U launch, gamers had exhausted the larger games, and were now looking for smaller downloadable games to grab. Therefore releasing during the launch window, rather than on launch day, would have probably been more beneficial.

Notably Secrets of Raetikon, the larger game that Chasing Aurora was based on, will not be coming to Wii U when the game launches later this year. Bohatsch says that looking back, the team now regrets launching on Wii U exclusively and using the Wii U GamePad features so heavily, since it made porting the game to other platforms impossible.

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Eric Geer
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Probably doesn't help that the game wasn't very entertaining.

Bob Johnson
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I played the demo. But didn't buy. The price seemed high for the type of game it was. It seemed like an iOS time waster type game.

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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Yeah, I tried the game too. It was entertaining for a while, but I tough that the game price was too high for what it was.

John Flush
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"the team now regrets launching on Wii U exclusively and using the Wii U GamePad features so heavily, since it made porting the game to other platforms impossible."

And this is why innovative hardware isn't really worth programming for. It also pretty much sums up the reason why most consumers think it is a gimmick. If it won't be used as to differentiate gameplay then it isn't really worth having in the first place.

Bob Johnson
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It is why 3rd parties don't like unique hardware. Similar hardware covers their butt in case one platform doesn't do well and makes it easier and cheaper to get their game in front of as many consumers as possible.

On the other hand that same mentality will keep a company like Nintendo in business because there are fun new gaming experiences out there that require new unique hardware along with new software.

Let's watch what happens with Kinect as MS is arguably trying to do both unique hardware and standardized hardware. But MS came out $100 more than Sony in order to include Kinect. IF Sony comes on strong we may see MS dump Kinect to get the price down. AFter all, 3rd parties don't like unique hardware. I doubt they put many resources towards Kinect features in their games to justify the higher price for many customers.

Not that this is or will be the only factor in how successful the nextbox becomes.

Melanie Struthers
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This game had very limited value as a one-player, solo game. Local multiplayer was pretty cool, but how many people buy $15 downloadable titles on a Wii U for the local multiplayer when many already own Nintendo Land?

Rafael Brown
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The article is a bit of a misnomer. The title likely should read "The problems with being a multiplayer-focused downloadable" console launch title. It seems like this title ran into a few problems:

(1) OS Update - percentage of WiiU e-shop users that was not high at launch due to a required OS download of 5GB prior to accessing general online functionality,
(2) Low Digital Adoption - Nintendo users were slowly moving to digital purchase since Nintendo in the Wii generation has had the lowest rate of online/digital engagement of the three consoles,
(3) Small Comunity - a multiplayer-focused title on a console with a small user base from a small developer means a small community to play, this further decreases sales
(4) Price - multiplayer game charging a premium downloadable price ($15) when its becoming increasingly clear that multiplayer-focused games need to be freemium to enable as large a community as possible (see also Shadowrun 360/GFWL)
(5) Onramping - the lack of a coherent single player campaign to draw in users and teach them tactics and mechanics.

What these points say is that they had a great idea for the title and didn't think ahead about what their market would be on the WiiU or how people would view their title. That developer shortsightedness is sadly all too common.