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Bethesda: It's too late for third-party support on Wii U
Bethesda: It's too late for third-party support on Wii U
September 3, 2013 | By Mike Rose

September 3, 2013 | By Mike Rose
Comments
    51 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



"The time for convincing publishers and developers to support Wii U has long past. The box is out."
- Bethesda vice president Pete Hines says that it's too late for Nintendo to gather third-party support for its Wii U console.

Bethesda currently has no plans to release games for the Nintendo Wii U, and when asked on GameTrailer's Bonus Round show whether there's a chance the company will bring games to the Wii U at some point, Hines said, "Honestly, it's not something I spend a lot of time thinking about."

The problem, says Hines, is that Nintendo didn't approach third-party developers early enough into the Wii U's development.

"You have to do what Sony and Microsoft have been doing with us for a long time," he notes. "It's not that every time we met with them we got all the answers that we wanted, but they involved us very early on, talking to folks like Bethesda and Gearbox, saying, 'Here's what we're doing, here's what we're planning, here's how we think it's going to work,' to hear what we thought, from our tech guys, and from an experience standpoint."

Nintendo did not provide any of this upfront legwork, Hines adds, and as such it was much more difficult for companies like Bethesda to choose to support the console.

"You have to spend an unbelieveable amount of time upfront doing that," Hines says. "If you're going to sort of decide 'Well, we're going to make a box and this is how it's going to work, and you should make games for it," - well, no! No is my answer!"

"I'm going to focus on other ones that better support what it is we're trying to do. You've got to spend more time trying to reach out to those folks before you even make the box when you're still designing it and thinking about how it's going to work."


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Comments


Merc Hoffner
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"Hey, we've got this new platform everybody knew was coming. Want some business on it?"

"No, we'll leave business at the table thanks. We didn't know it was coming, so we'll just put our eggs in the other baskets"

"Oh, I see. Well then would you like some business in the future?"

"No, we've found our best strategy is to make every decision six years in advance and forget about it"

"Well, coul..."

"No!, just no. Look, we were trying not to say it, but last time we met, you didn't pick up the check and you didn't call us right away. There's no chance here"

Great attitude guys! Keep up the good work :-)

Hugo Cardoso
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The way you say that makes it sound like they are dumb and leaving free business on the table.

I'm pretty sure they don't have a magic button on their engine to instantly make a Wii U version with tablet support. Meaning to do a Wii U port they need to get a bunch of their engineers to add Wii U support on their engine which I'm assuming costs quite a lot of money to do.

With the low sales numbers of the Wii U I find it pretty easy to understand his comment. If the Wii U suddenly had a 30 million install base then yes his comments would be silly.

John Paduch
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Congrats on having absolutely no idea how this business works.

Michael Wenk
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Well congrats on perpetuating what looks from the outside to be a dying business model. While I realize this is pretty much what has happened for 20+ years, I also look at devices like the iPad and Android and figure the low end competition is likely to knock 1-2 players (either MSFT or Nintendo, or both) in this cycle or the next.

The games industry seems like the last or one of the last high tech industries to avoid lean/agile in business planning.

Daniel Lau
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I'm sure there was more going on behind the scenes regarding Bethesda's decision to not support the Wii U than is being described here; however, the lack of third party support is telling.

Adam Rebika
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Michael: Nintendo, being knocked out of console gaming for every generation since 1985.
Don't worry, they'll be doing just fine once again. I'd rather be worried for Microsoft and Sony actually.

Mike Higbee
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Imagine how buggy a Bethesda title would be on a system unfamiliar to them with how many problems they have for the platforms who work with them.

Maurício Gomes
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I would never buy a Bethesda game on Wii U... I might want to throw the fragile tablet on the wall after some random crash or suicidal quest giver character or... you get it...

Harry Fields
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Heck, the WiiU could barely run Oblivion at 360-grade performance. To make Skyrim run on it would require a return to N64 levels of clip-plane or turning off details left and right. The Wii was novel. The Wii U, at its 300-350$ price point is just "huh wha?". At $150-180$, it would be an impulse buy for sure. Best thing the big N could do right now is half the price, take a temporary splash on hardware revenue, put out a new, evolutionary Zelda, Mario, Metroid and Earthbound title and get 20+ million units out there in the next year. If there's a market... developers will bring something to the party. It may not be their A game, but it will be something. As with most Nintendo systems though, the Big N will have to carry this beast on the merits of milking and re-milking the same properties they've been milking for decades.

Remember the first time you played Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time? Or Link to the Past? Or Super Metroid? How it was almost a religious experience? They need to get back to that effort of pushing the envelope on the internal development front instead of taking games from the past and re-packaging the same mechanics with a fresh coat of paint. That may have worked in the Wii generation, but if they're to survive on the "gameplay trumps graphics" paradigm, they damn well better give the gameplay it's due overhaul.... and not in a gimmicky "oh look, I have a tablet and can activate my tanooki tale from here" way.

Tom Baird
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Where do you get these performance assumptions? The GPU itself is plenty up to par compared to the last generation of consoles, and the RAM (Probably Skyrim's largest bottleneck on the current gen consoles, and part of the core reasons the PS3 version has the issues it does) is at least 4x the PS3 or Xbox 360.

I understand you wish the Wii U was more powerful, especially looking at Sony and MS's upcoming consoles, but that first part seems like wild speculation and misinformation.

Harry Fields
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GPU isn't the problem inasmuch as CPU. The thing's a dog. it's fine for Mario and the like. Or even titles like Splinter Cell wherein the GPU is doing most of the heavy lifting (thusly making the WiiU version on par if not better than 360/PS3). TES game do tend to want more memory from what I've read and that could be rightly assumed by the whole PS3 version debacle. The titles are also, if the PC version is any indication, heavily CPU dependent. I dunno'. As I don't have a Wii U dev kit and profiler, I am making assumptions. In that, you are correct, but many other shops tend to echo the sentiment that it's just not a very solid piece of tech to last an entire generational cycle. So, it all comes down to Nintendo first party titles... again, because no third party is going to create a game with the WiiU as it's lead platform. The only third party support WiiU will get once Xbone/PS4 are out is in the form of craptastic ports and a few Indie e-shop gems.

James Yee
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"Remember the first time you played Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time? Or Link to the Past? Or Super Metroid? How it was almost a religious experience?"

Nope.

Which is why Nintendo never did anything for me. None of their games are really in my wheelhouse of game types, and since as you say their first party stuff is basically ALL Nintendo has going for them the Wii U basically doesn't exist for me, and other gamers like me.

Stefan Park
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Actually (IMHO) the best games for the N64 were made by Rare, not by Nintendo. All the memorable titles for me were 3rd party, even on the Gamecube.

I never really got in to Nintendo as a kid. NZ was more in to Sega

Bob Johnson
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news at eleven! Not.

Michael Pianta
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I think Bethesda and many other Western developers are really just PC developers, and they want the consoles to be more similar to PCs so that they can port their PC games easier. But Nintendo comes out of an arcade culture where proprietary hardware was the selling point. In the west, the thinking goes like this: The PS4 and Xbox One are both X86 based, as are many PCs, so this becoming something of a standard. So therefore Nintendo should follow suit or else they'll be left out. But I bet you over at Nintendo HQ the exact opposite philosophy holds. Everyone is moving towards X86 so therefore we should NOT do that, or else we won't be able to differentiate our platform. There's an interesting quote from the book Nintendo Magic, pertaining to Yamauchi and his philosophy with regards to the industry. I don't have the book in front of me, but it was something like "When you went to him with a new product idea he would ask you how it was different from the competition's product. And the worst thing you could say was, 'Well, it's not really different, it's just a little better.' That was completely unacceptable."

Bob Johnson
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Exactly.

Harry Fields
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Virtual Boy sure was different. RIP Gumpei-san. Yamauchi was cut-throat, that's for sure. I guess that's what kept the company alive and operating on a cash basis for so long. I think Iwata is a little less radical in his philosophy, but the Yamauchi way is so ingrained in Nintendo's DNA.

That said, how was SNES different than Genesis beyond being "just a little better"?
How was GameCube different than Xbox/PS2, really?

There have definitely been cycles where the big N has been the innovator. There have been just as many cycles where they were just "another platform".

I kind of wish Nintendo would go back to SNES mode operations. Jesus Christ, that system had fantastic third party and first party support. You kids who are too young to remember the SNES really should go and buy some used titles and a system on Ebay.

Michael Pianta
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Right, I hear you. I think it's just a matter of degrees. I mean, there are several things that separate Genesis and the SNES. Shoulder buttons, Mode 7, and sampled audio come to mind. The Gamecube is actually a good example of Nintendo's contrariness. Instead of opting for CDs or DVDs like literally every other console they created a proprietary disc format. But actually, I think I read that Yamauchi considered the Gamecube a mistake because of how fundamentally similar it was to other systems. He blamed the poor sales on that. Anyway, philosophically I'm sure the main point is that they aren't looking at what anyone else is doing.

Bob Charone
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But the Wii/Wii U is already very different, alienating developers is just suicidal.

"I kind of wish Nintendo would go back to SNES mode operations. Jesus Christ, that system had fantastic third party and first party support. You kids who are too young to remember the SNES really should go and buy some used titles and a system on Ebay."

Games from those times aren't relavent anymore unless you're making retro games, even so you can emulate it free (if you want to support Nintendo/developers then get it on Virtual Console)

Michael Pianta
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Bob, I must disagree. Many of those games are better designed and more entertaining than most of what gets made today. I feel like developers could learn from them.

Harry Fields
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Emulation isn't free and it's illegal in many/most cases. Much is often lost in the process, anyway. All but the most rare of games can be had for pretty cheap second hand (usually cheaper than you'd pay on VC).

I also think that you'd be surprised how refreshing some mechanics from the classics would be with a fresh coat of paint. So many publishers are missing goldmine opportunities to revisit classics and drag them kicking and screaming into the next generation.

...For some reason, I'm looking at you, Legacy of Kain (I know they attempted a resurrection, but still)!

Michael Ball
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Gonna copypaste my comment from the vg247.com article:

“Hines addressed the question of why third-parties like Bethesda haven’t thrown their support behind the Wii U. “The time for convincing publishers and developers to support Wii U has long past. The box is out,” he said.”

Says the company that has published all of 8 games for Nintendo systems in its 27-year history, the 3 of which that were internally developed all being NES games.

It’s painfully obvious that Bethesda is just shit-talking and would never have supported the Wii U in the first place, no matter what the system ended up being. And yet game sites are treating this as newsworthy.

Not even fanboying here; Nintendo dropped the ball hard with the Wii U.

Jakub Majewski
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Hey, that's some nice manipulation, Michael :). Why not also mention that of those eight games, five were published during the last generation of consoles, including two Nintendo DS titles and three... ahem, Wii titles?

Why not? Oh, I know. Because that would ruin the shit-talking theory, as Bethesda's increasing support for Nintendo's platforms in general might have suggested that yeah, they would have been wiilling to support the Wii U.

By the way, a few years back, I had a job interview with a Polish game developer who at the time was negotiating the development of a Wii game proposed to them by - whaddaya know! - Bethesda. I did not end up working for this company, so I don't know what happened to this game: it evidently was never published, and I suspect development never started. That's not the point - the point is that Bethesda was openly seeking out opportunities to expand their business on the Wii platform. Presumably they gave up when Wii software sales started dropping through the floor, but logically - they could have been enticed to work on the Wii U.

Bob Johnson
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Well to be fair Bethesda just was never going to make a Wii U game anyway.

The way I see it is AAA console game development is now getting set in its ways sorta speak. More processing power, same controller. All systems the same. This will be the 3rd generation of this. They like this.

Meanwhile Nintendo deliberately wants to zig when others zag. They want to stand out for better and worse. They believe new hardware is part of what keeps gaming fresh. And that new hardware doesn't just mean more processing power.

You can see the conflict here. You can see the large canyon that separates Nintendo and western AAA developers. It would take a real "360" by all for this to change.

Leon T
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@ Jakub
Why are you acting like the shovelware that Bethesda put on the Wii was some kind of real show of support? Nintendo didn't talk to them about Wii hardware development though so that goes against what they are saying now. All they did with the Wii was try to put out some crappy games to try and cash in on the consoles success.

Jakub Majewski
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Leon - because it's not the quality of the support that's at stake here. Bethesda has essentially stated that they will not even do for the Wii U what they did for the Wii - release shovelware.

In a way, the fact that Bethesda had previously only published externally developed games on the Wii, and was not renowned for their quality, is far more damning than any statement you could get from a company that developed games internally for the Wii. Bethesda's policies regarding the Wii appear to have been guided by simple perception of a sales opportunity, and they were willing to release *anything* as long as it could earn a profit.

When your console is doing so badly with third-party support that even opportunists don't see a chance of making a profit, that's a big issue. It's certainly not the end of the game for the Wii U, but very clearly Nintendo has a lot of work ahead.

David Paris
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But as always the question is simply how many sales can I reasonably expect to make on the system compared to how much it will cost me to port to, deploy, and support on it. None of these activities are free, so if I waste my resources porting to a system that doesn't generate enough sales to pay for it, then all I've done is lost money.

If your system is difficult to port to you raise my expenses. If your system requires a lot of work to keep up with updates (hi Mac!) you raise my expenses. If your system has a poor install base, you lower my expected sales.

Pretty standard stuff.

That said, Giana Sisters launches on the WiiU on Sept 5th, so clearly not everyone had the same experience as Bethesda :)

Chris Hendricks
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All this says to me is that it's too late for certain large developer's third-party support. For indies and small developers, all things are equal... it's not like they were consulted about the Xbox One or PS4 either.

Salim Muhammad
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They weren't consulted for MS and Sony's consoles?? I thought they were.

E Zachary Knight
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Salim,

He is referring to indie developers. The indies were not consulted for the XBone and the PS4.

Chris Hendricks
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Thanks for clarification, Zach. Yes, that's what I meant.

Cordero W
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My belief is that you have to balance business with risks. Always. I would like Bethesda to dev for the Wii U because it would allow them to make use of the gamepad for more immersive capabilities for their elder scroll games, which are already good at immersing you enough. It's not like their games aren't popular. They could probably make an Elder Scrolls game exclusively for the Wii U and it would sell on the name alone. Just put a smaller team toward it and have them try to do the best they can with a limited budget. A lot of good games did well on a limited budget cause it allowed creativity to sprout. Primary example, Goldeneye from Rare for the N64. Became one of the hallmarks of the console and all because Rare let one programmer and his small team in the company make use of the license.

So spend a million or so to test the waters and get your name out there. Compared to the money they spend already, that's only a drop of a bucket in investment. As long as they don't make the games as lacking as Zombie U and Red Steel. Those two series are examples of bad games without any creativity polish to it. Just tech demos. They'll make profit regardless. Just sell the game for $30 to $40. With the install base of the Wii U already over 3 million, they can expect at least 20K sales. That alone will make them back money. The rest is just easy cash, incentive, and good publicity.

But what do I know. I'm just a lone game developer trying to get my foot in the door. I couldn't possibly know the merits of good business.

Emory Myers
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You might not be wrong, but if they were interested in creating a very small game... why choose the Wii U?

Going with PS4 and Vita would allow those developers to gain more experience on platforms which will probably have a larger install base moving forward... not to mention that when sales taper off they could approach Sony for inclusion in the IGC.

Ron Dippold
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The Wii U was very obviously rushed out the door for last Christmas. I suspect that 'Nintendo didn't approach third-party developers early enough into the Wii U's development' because they were running so late and were probably only working with their usual biggest third party partners (Ubisoft). Not that it makes it any better, but it would make some sense of things.

Salim Muhammad
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Why do people keep blaming Nintendo's lack of 3rd part support on 3rd parties? This is nonsense. Nintendo just doesn't really ask for 3rd party input when making their consoles. They always have. This is perhaps their biggest and most overlooked problem by people.

Nathaniel Smith
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This seems to be true. Which is part of the reason Sony stole the market away from them with the original Playstation. This really isn't news, Nintendo has long had a bad rep for embracing 3rd party. Maybe its finally caught up with them with the Wii U. Maybe.

warren blyth
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I'm not clear if Hines is saying "if they'd involved us earlier in development, we" :
a) "... could have pressured them to make it more like xbone and ps4."
or
b) "... might have bothered to think about unique game designs for their 2 screen, tablet system."

After watching the video for context, I think his key quote is "I'm going to focus on other ones that better support what it is we're trying to do." This kind of echoes Gabe Newell's early criticisms of PS3 being a weird hardware innovation that no game developer was asking for. It was innovation that just made things harder on developers.

On the other hand, it seems like Nintendo was trying to say "lets try asymmetrical multiplayer game designs! and personal screen experiences! and touch screen control input for current gen console engines!" and nobody wanted to try (except zombiu).

Bethesda isn't "trying to do" those sorts of innovations. Not sure any fans of their games are eager for them to try, either. but it seems kind of sad for the industry that third parties aren't interested in certain forms of innovation.

Jakub Majewski
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Why would they be, Warren? Would you buy a fancy new DVD player that allows you to watch movies with no power by the use of pedal power... or would you rather just buy a Bluray?

Similarly, what's the first lesson developers learn when making FPS games? Don't change the user input! Whether you're doing a gamepad-based console game, or a mouse-based PC game, the smart developer always copies the most standard input configuration out there. It may theoretically be possible to come up with a far better, far more comfortable and ergonomic input configuration. Maybe, for instance, it would actually be better to use shoulder buttons for walking (hey, one could operate one leg, and the other, err, the other leg!). Who knows... but ultimately, why would anyone want to try it?

We're not here to innovate. We're here to make fun games. Sometimes innovation is very helpful in achieving this, but really, a lot of the innovation out there is merely a dead end.

I am not saying this is the case with the Wii U. It may yet be that a few first-party games will really prove the Wii U's weirdness is great for users, and other developers will try it too. I don't know. My point is merely that there is no need to bemoan an unwillingness to try an unproven new configuration that doesn't *immediately* appeal to players (like the Wii did). We're in the consumer business here, we give consumers what they want.

Jay N
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There's no reason to mourn these comments. Only the publishing arm of Bethesda bothered with the Wii/DS, and then only briefly. No internal projects were expected from the company, and so none will be missed.

If Nintendo had approached developers and gotten their feedback early in the system's development process, and done as the third-parties had wanted, the Wii U would most likely be more or less another PS4/Xbox One clone – there would be no Wii U GamePad, there probably wouldn't be a Wii Remote even, just something like the Wii U Pro Controller. It wouldn't have been Nintendo's system, it would have been the third-parties' system. Would that have been any better?

The biggest single thing holding the Wii U back is Nintendo's own rate of output. They've recently reorganized their internal teams to be more efficient in that regard, which will hopefully result in a brisker pace of releases starting next year. Couple that with a select few second- and third-party big hitters, and there might still be some life in the old dog. It is a bit too early to discount it when its rivals haven't even launched yet.

Eric Geer
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My only problem with the WiiU, is that it adds onto the problem(IMO) that the Wii had. Peripherals.

On the Wii I had less, now I have a Gamepad, Wiimotes, WiiMotion plus adapters, Wiimotes with adapters included, nunchucks, pro controllers(wii), pro controllers(WiiU).

On ps3--3 ps3 controllers

I probably could have done without additional peripherals---which would have/could have come from input by the 3rd party devs/publishers. I would have considered this a plus.

Jorge Ramos
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Well, maybe before Bethesda starts throwing stones, it should focus first on making games without glaring and game-breaking glitches and bugs out of the gate and trying to charge for DLC to fix it.

While it is true some people find said glitches to hilarious entertainment value, it's never sat well with me that they charge $60 with a straight face for an intentionally broken game that hasn't had its bugs worked out. While Rockstar isn't entirely innocent on this, their games usually have significantly more polish, and many of the physics-breaking bugs are usually only discovered months or even years after release. A Bethesda game is practically expected to be broken from Day One, and likely to be fixed never. And I have a fundamental problem with this.

It's one thing already that the games leave you with a constant sense of "what the heck am I supposed to do?" to the point that boredom can set in within minutes of starting. But it really sours the value when things that can break the game, make it unwinnable or even crash on a console are allowed to persist for so long... their long-running problems with getting Skyrim to work on the PS3 is a poster example of what is wrong with how that studio treats its projects, and it's one reason I have a hard time even considering a game from them, much less buying one. The last bethesda-based anything I'd bought was the Doom 3 BFG edition, and that was only because they published it.

Jakub Majewski
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News flash: when a game gets rave reviews and sells tens of millions of copies, whatever reservations you personally might have about it, you need to admit it's a good game. Otherwise, you wind up looking a bit like this:

http://ccdesan.livejournal.com/pics/catalog/481/69022

Leon T
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Even developers working for Nintendo didn't know about the console at first. Nintendo went to EA, Ubisoft, and Warner about the console and asked for feedback and gave early access. Doing that mostly got them ports at launch, EA dropping support after a few months , and the other two cutting back support. . Sony and Microsoft went to Bethesda and who knows when their game will launch for those consoles or if it will still launch if their consoles tank.

Bethesda poorly supported the Wii but it was support and Nintendo didn't go to them before the box was out. If the Wii U was selling like the Wii did I doubt they would be saying this.

Eric Geer
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I wouldn't consider the following... "support"

Wheelspin (Publishing in Europe only): "Ladies and gentlemen, Meet The Worst Wii Game Ever."

Star Trek: Conquest: Metacritic score 49/100.

Bully (Publishing in Japan only)

Kyle McBain
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I'd like to know what he is tallking about specifically here. Is he saying that simply reaching out in the early stages is what makes a difference here? Or is he saying that they need actual knowledge of the product and the chance to give feedback... and is that feedback being taken to heart? If he just wants someone to kiss his ass prior to involvement then he can go to hell. That should not be the reason for choosing a platform. Although, Wii-U has shown some prejudice as of late as to who can interact with there system from both a player and dev standpoint so I probably would not go with them either only because it's bad for business and Nintendo is known for it's 1st party titles more so than anything else.

Kyle McBain
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their*

Adam Rebika
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I'm pretty sure Nintendo wouldn't even accept most Bethesda games on their consoles. Remember that they have very strict standards when it comes to polish and stability, something Bethesda is famous for not having in their games. Every Bethesda game is filled with bugs, and Nintendo wouldn't accept it at all.

Chris Hendricks
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While I'd like to believe you, the Wii had plenty of unpolished games.

Francisco Valdenebro
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Well, I'm sure Bethesda have perfectly valid reasons to not support the WiiU. However, when they launched Oblivion for PS3 in March 2007, the installed base was well below that of the WiiU, and the PS3 is anything but developer friendly.

I guess Nintendo could have given them a PC inside a pizza box and they would still say they don't like it for some reason.

Francisco Valdenebro
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I also think Bethesda, EA, and all those companies not supporting the WiiU would finish faster if they simply said they are unable to make a profitable game for a Nintendo platform.
That's nothing to be ashamed of. Most companies can't. In fact,I think the only ones who consistently do are Nintendo themselves.

A W
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Bethseda developers continue to throw salt in to the wounds of Nintendo's poor Wii U sales as if what they say really matters on how well the system will sale or not. Every month they have a new rational for why they aren't doing something, and every month they get rewarded for their rationals as if it was gospel by gaming journalist, and fandom. What will it be next month, or the month after that. Really. Wii U owners already know they aren't going to develop games for the Wii U so why keep making up stories about it. They didn't come to us they didn't give us money, whatever. It's not a big deal that they aren't going to make anything. Didn't affect my purchase then, doesn't affect it now. Won't affect the purchase of any new Wii U owner either. They can do whatever they think will make them rich. Most game developers are these days.


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