Thursday, July 22, 2010

Please Let the New GoldenEye Be Good

Why have First Person Shooters struggled on the Nintendo Wii? I'll choose to apply Occam's Razor - most of the FPS games aren't very good. Good games find an audience. And the Wii market will not settle for leftovers and shovelware by the third-string development teams. They demand quality and they're entitled to it.

Last year's Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition seems to have done fairly well (I still haven't played it myself, but I've respected Treyarch ever since their Tony Hawk Pro Skater ports on the Dreamcast). But notice that this was the previous Call of Duty. Meanwhile, the HD Twins got the brand-new Modern Warfare 2, one of the year's hottest games. Where was the Wii version? Why was the most successful console ignored?

This only reinforces the belief that third-party developers do not respect the Wii and its audience. Rightly or wrongly, that audience will become more skeptical over time, and less willing to shell out money for future games. We see this unfold many times. Cartoonish, dumbed-down EA Sports games (notice how Tiger Woods '10, the one "serious" title, is the biggest hit). Dead Space Extraction and Resident Evil Darkside, first-person and third-person adventure games reduced to lightgun shooters, for a console over-saturated with lightgun shooters. PS2 ports like Need for Speed. Yadda get the idea.

The bottom line is that developers must respect the platform. This is a motto for all developers, whether it's console, handheld, standard, hi-def, online, or cell phones. Respect the Platform - and respect the audience. Understand what they want, and understand what voids need to be filled. You can't just dump anything on the market and expect a hit.

Are there any great FPS titles on Wii that include 4-player splitscreen? I can't think of one. That's something I've wanted on the Wii ever since the beginning - a fast, intense, multiplayer deathmatch game. I want arcade games. I want Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament. And this void has yet to be filled.

GoldenEye was a shocking surprise to me at E3. I never would have expected it, even though it's precisely what I've been craving. This fits perfectly with the neo-retro vibe of the times, with Donkey Kong Country and Kirby and NBA Jam and Super Mario Bros 5. The Wii has quietly evolved into the second coming of the Super NES, and I think it's long due. Finally, here is an angle for frustrated third-party developers.

The issue of lapsed gamers has never been fully addressed. It's assumed that people always jump to the next generation console, but this hasn't happened. Many classic gamers, fans of 2D games, were left at the side of the road since the Playstation generation. I personally lost most of my interest after Dreamcast died. The arcade game values were discarded, in favor of cinematic games. I think the rise of the new media (internet, mobile, Wii) and social gaming has helped to bring these values back.

I don't know if GoldenEye Wii will become a great game or become a hit. Like many gamers, I remain skeptical but hopeful. I want this game to succeed. I think most of us want that. It does manages to fill a niche in what will be a very crowded holiday season, with Donkey Kong Country, Wii Party, and Just Dance 2 getting all the attention (to say nothing of Mario 5, Wii Fit, and Mario Kart). But the video game scene has always been highly competitive. The arcades were always densely packed with machines, and if classic games could survive and thrive in that highly competitive environment, they can do so here.

I'm terrible at predictions, but count me as cautiously optimistic. I'm crossing my fingers.

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