Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 5, 2008

Did third parties try to force Virtual Console releases?

Three third parties, Capcom, Hudson, and SNK, all announced three VC games that would come out today in America: Megaman 1, Ys 1 and II, and Samarai Showdown II. Today, Nintendo announced the VC games of the week were Master System Sonic and Splatterhouse 2. How could three seperate third party companies confirm game releases only to all three be wrong?

What we know is that when a third party submits its game, it has no say of when it comes out. The makers of Gyrostarr thought their WiiWare title would be coming out fairly soon after the launch. Instead, Nintendo releases another of their games (the card game). Frustrated with how long their games are in the queue, third parties might have begun ‘announcing’ games to turn public pressure on Nintendo to release them.

From the third parties perspective, it does them no good to have sure fire selling games just sitting in the queue. They want them out there ASAP so they can reap the money for a good long time.

Nintendo has a different perspective on the Virtual Console. To them, the Virtual Console is a way to sustain Wii momentum when no games are coming out. Reggie has commented on this before. However, Nintendo has a major headache in America with supply. The constant sell outs and unpredictable economic climate has made the Wii American supply a very dangerous factor in the long term. Any day the bottom of the demand could fall out and tons of Wii systems would appear on the shelves. This would radically change the image of Wii to everyone start calling it ‘fad’ and would become seen as just a product instead of ‘hard to get thing that will make your friends jealous’. Nintendo has no interest putting up excellent games on the VC when momentum for the Wii is already sky high.

The first months of the Virtual Console were an entirely different story. Momentum was not assurred. Nintendo wasted no time putting out even its stable of classics. If the Wii was not selling so well in America, I’d imagine the VC releases would be far better.

The Wii is not performing well in Japan, according to Iwata’s expectations. The combo release of Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart Wii, Wii Fit, and Mario Galaxy was supposed to rocket the Wii up to the craziness of the DS of 2005. Mario Kart Wii sold fine, Wii Fit sold fine, and even Smash Brothers X sold fairly well. But Mario Galaxy essentially flopped in the Japanese market considering Nintendo’s expectations of it.

Reeling from this floppage, Nintendo will likely begin multi-colored Wii systems in Japan very soon to shoot up sales. But the VC releases in Japan are still going fairly strong since the Wii is still somewhat struggling there (struggling to Iwata’s expectations).

Much of the VC fiascos don’t make sense. We know Nintendo of Japan is who controls what games are released in the other territories. But this interesting new wrinkle of why three third parties would put out release dates that didn’t come true puts up two possibilities:

1) Nintendo lied to them.

2) Third parties did it to put public pressure on Nintendo to release them.

Remember this interview with Treasure that 1up did?

1UP: Speaking of online services, Gunstar Heroes recently released on the Virtual Console. Are we going to see more Treasure titles on there soon?

MM: There are four of our Genesis titles that are legally OK to release on the Virtual Console now, so it’s probably just a matter of time. We’re also considering putting them on Live Arcade.

1UP: So when are we going to see Sin & Punishment?

MM: Ah yes, it was on the Virtual Console list that Nintendo released a while back. They are planning to put it out on VC at some point, but it’s probably going to be a while still. It’s really up to Nintendo in terms of how they want to stagger things out – they could probably put 1,000 games on there tomorrow if they wanted, but obviously they don’t want to do that.

The interview took place on January 4, 2007. Sin and Punishment was released in September and October for America and Japan of 2007. So there is definitely a queue.

What is interesting about the announced games was that each one has reason of impatience for it to be up. Capcom wants Mega Man up because it is out in the other territories and plans on having Mega Man 2 out soon as well for the upcoming new Mega Man 9 a month away. SNK wants Samarai Showdown 2 up to get money before the Anthology version apppears. Hudson is probably getting tired of fans asking them why Ys I and II aren’t on the service yet and will want it to appear.

I don’t see Nintendo ‘punishing’ third parties for announcing their games as it is third parties impatient by a queue. With Nintendo planning a long lifecycle for the Wii, the VC releases will be forever staggered unless Wii drops suddenly in NA sales.

Nintendo made a statement.

A number of variables can affect a game’s release date. Therefore, the Wii-kly Update is the only authority for confirmed release dates of Virtual Console games. – Nintendo of America

The key phrase here is ‘only authority’.

What about WiiWare games? Will Megaman 9 come out in September or not?

While customers have griped about digital distribution as it takes control away from the consumer, it looks like we forgot about third parties. Instead of being ‘freed’ from the retail store, the console company BECOMES the retail store which gives them more leverage.

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