I had to shake my head when I saw that MadWorld didn’t even manage to chart in the latest NPDs, although it wasn’t exactly an unexpected event given the underperformance of No More Heroes, which seems aimed at a similar – apparently non-existent – demographic. Sad, but like I said, not unexpected. You can make your game as violent and funny as you like, but some are just too artsy for their own good.
What should be worrying for fans of more traditional games on Nintendo platforms, however, is how Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars appears to have flopped massively, selling 89,000 units against analysts’ predictions of anywhere from 200,000 to several million. If a game with a score of 94 on Metacritic and, oh yeah, a title containing the little-known words Grand Theft Auto can sell that badly, it doesn’t bode well for more mature titles on the platform. As much as I love my Ouendan and Phoenix Wright, I’m only human and would like to deal some heroin on my lunch break when that itch needs scratching.
Some blame piracy, and anecdotally I know of a lot of people who downloaded it, but R4 carts can’t be that prevalent. The fact is that Nintendo hasn’t been what it used to be for a lot of fans, myself included, since the disappointment of the GameCube, and I know many for whom the great library on the DS is the only thing keeping Nintendo from being written off as a lost cause. If that dries up completely you can see why Nintendo domination is a scary thought for some.
I’m not one of those who’s ready to cut Nintendo adrift, because I still see flashes of brilliance in games like Twilight Princess and Metroid Prime 3 to make me forgive Wii Music or Wii Play, but if decent adult games aren’t going to do anything on the Nintendo platforms I think it’s time to admit that, as some have suspected since the GameCube, Nintendo machines are for Nintendo games. The Wii is a great secondary console to play that odd gem that won’t show up anywhere else, but I think most hardcore gamers will agree when I say that the lion’s share of modern gaming will be done on the HD options.
And if you own Nintendo’s consoles and haven’t bought MadWorld or Chinatown Wars, congratulations. You’ve forfeited the right to complain when all Nintendo gives you at E3 is crushing disappointment.
It’s fair to say that I’ve been critical of EA in the past, accusing the company of everything from single-handedly bringing down the industry to the ritual murder of virgins… maybe. It’s been massively improved recently, though, somehow turning Pro Evo into the football franchise that’s resting on its laurels with the really rather good FIFA 09 and, for every questionable decision, releasing a few games that are actually pretty risky and unique.
In the last year, for example, Burnout Paradise was a major departure from the previous games’ successful formula, and it has since been supported by some incredibly diverse downloadable content, most of which has been free. Bearing in mind that this is the company that has charged for in-game money and that’s incredible.
Rock Band 2 came out and, understandable licensing fee aside, Harmonix was allowed to patch in the ability to export almost every game from the original game for the new one, which made me happy.
Then, this Christmas, we’ve had Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge, both new IPs that bring new things to their respective genres – if Mirror’s Edge could even be considered part of a traditional genre – and have allowed a couple of clearly talented studios to cut loose from their usual licensed pap and Battlefield drudgery respectively and flex their creative muscles.
So it’s good that the new, risk-taking EA is reaping the benefits, then, right? Oh…
It’s not all that surprising considering that people are going to be picky about their games and new stuff like this has to go up against guaranteed sellers like Gears 2 and a new Call of Duty, but it’s still a huge shame. I’ve seen some pretty good deals on both of those, and Dead Space in particular is brilliant, so if you’re looking for some late Christmas presents at least consider them because otherwise the new EA will take over from Activision as the new old EA… or something.
I know I really shouldn’t care about them. As an owner of all three consoles it doesn’t matter in the slightest which outsells which because I can buy the games wherever they end up going. Particularly so with American numbers, given that I don’t live there.
And yet… NPD day is like Christmas every month.
At about 11:30pm on the second Thursday of the month you’ll find me refreshing NeoGAF, waiting for someone to post the freshly released numbers and the fanboys to come out to play. The NPD threads are a smorgasbord of gloating, graphs, desperate spinning, meltdowns, animated GIFs, clever Lord of the Rings analogies, historical revisionism, and a terrifying glimpse into the psyche of those with an emotional investment in a brand when confronted with the oft-bitter truth of cold, hard numbers.
I consider this my soap opera. While some rush home for the more socially acceptable pleasures of Eastenders or Hollyoaks, or even the WWE for those men for whom puberty was a purely physical exercise, I like to pore over launch-to-date and year-to-date figures and to know exactly how the PS3 is tracking compared to the GameCube. Seeing just how someone will try to spin the worst numbers into a positive is infinitely more exciting than finding out who killed Liam.
I’m not a smoker or a heavy drinker, and I don’t do drugs, so this can be my vice; my secret shame. I hope I’m not the only one who doesn’t care but somehow really does.