Back in 2006, while pundits were snickering about the console’s name, publisher Ubisoft threw caution to the wind and devoted substantial development time and marketing to the Wii.
Exclusive titles, shovelware, rush jobs like Red Steel that were panned by critics yet managed to carve out a cult following’Ubisoft touched all those bases in its quest to become the de facto third party Wii publisher that year and the next.
And now, it’s doing it again with a decision that is arguably the riskiest yet: Red Steel 2, when it arrives later this year, will be MotionPlus-only.
But is it really that risky? Most signs over the past month point to no. Red Steel 2, like EA’s upcoming MotionPlus sports lineup, will undoubtedly benefit from the $60 bundle treatment. For those of us already committed to picking up MotionPlus through EA Sports games or Wii Sports Resort, there will be a $50 version too, of that you can be 100% sure.
Additionally, by the time Red Steel 2 drops, I predict (again–lots of predictions coming out of Infendo these days…) that the video game world will again be abuzz about the Wii. Mainstream media will have picked up on it too; partly because of all the Tiger Woods and tennis segments we’ll see in the summer and fall, but partly because of Wii Sports Resort as well. The “delay,” to me, indicates this title has the potential to be something special.
Nintendo has been even more tight-lipped than usual about Wii Sports Resort. Naysayers will tell you this is because the game was delayed or whatever, which is partly true, but I think it has more to do with E3 than anything else. That’s E3 2008, btw, not 2009. Oh, Nintendo will definitely be marketing the heck out of Wii Sports Resort and who knows what else at this zoo of a tradeshow, but once again the real reason for the big reveal at E3 2008 and then months of silence is due to the fact that Nintendo legitimately thought Sony and Microsoft were going to reveal motion controls last year, instead of at E3 2009. Nintendo, in a rare moment of mild panic, played their MotionPlus hand a tad early, before quickly withdrawing it once no motion control news came out from the other camps (doubt that? Then why else would Nintendo fire off a MotionPlus press release moments before Microsoft took the stage?)
But back to “being special.” There’s a pretty good chance that Microsoft, at least, is going to reveal some kind of 3D controller-less interface for the Xbox 360 at E3 next month. Nintendo, after seeing Microsoft’s
Mii’s avatars, needs to be extra careful with whatever IP it creates that will take full advantage of 1:1 motion controls. We’ve seen frisbee, wave racing and fencing so far, but there are more, and all are ripe for stealing–sorry, “innovation.” Again, if E3 never happened, we wouldn’t have learned about any of this–Wii Sports Resort, MotionPlus, the individual games demos that journos got to play–until much later. Possibly this year.
Now, just as Wii Sports defined for gamers and developers how to best implement the console’s limited motion controls, so too will Wii Sports Resort define how to take the next step (but by all means, Tiger, you’re welcome to get the ball rolling with a great golf title). I imagine high profile developers like Ubisoft, et al, have already seen such examples behind closed doors, and that these inspirations made it into Red Steel 2. In fact, we know this was happening because of EA’s recent announcements concerning the accessory.
So Ubisoft’s “gambit” in this case isn’t really one at all, is it? It’s actually a combination of keen vision and incredible timing, with a little bit of uncharacteristic ballsiness, at least for a video game publisher in this day and age of brown and green FPS’s (seriously, have you seen what they did to Bionic Commando? Have you?!). Sword fighting games will be a dime a dozen on the Wii next year, but Ubisoft, just as it led the way in 2006, will be at the front of the pack again. I myself can’t wait for 1:1 motion control Dogz and Catz, can you?