Take-Two Interactive Software, the video game developer behind Bioshock and the Grand Theft Auto series, posted a quarterly loss Wednesday and forecast less than ideal performance, going forward. But the real shocker came from the company's CEO, Ben Feder, who had some interesting things to say about Nintendo's Wii console and Mature-rated games.
Speaking to shareholders, Feder said that although he believes his company's "M-rated content...is much more appropriate for the PlayStation 3 or 360," he thinks it's incumbent upon Take-Two to "look at the Wii as a viable platform content across all" the company's titles. According to Feder, "you can't ignore the (Wii's) install base. You just can't."
If that's true, then why have the vast majority of developers "ignored" that install base? As Nintendo of America President, Reggie Fils-Aime, pointed out recently in a Forbes interview, "I will be able to say our licensees 'get it' when their very best content is on our platform. And with very few exceptions today, that's not the case."
So far, most developers have left the Wii out in the cold when it comes to Mature-rated titles. A quick search of Gamestop's entire catalog of 392 available Wii games reveals that only 13 of those titles are rated Mature. Compare that to the Xbox 360's 154 Mature-rated games, and the Playstation 3's 60, and it's clear that developers have little faith in the Wii as a "mature" platform.
You can't argue with the logic: so far this year, not one Mature-rated Wii game made NPD's top-selling list, even though mature games yield the most revenue.
Whether or not the Wii really is ready for mature games is very much in doubt. Consumers are more than happy to buy the console, but when it comes to games, they're much more picky. In fact, unless a title is either developed by Nintendo or offers some sort of multiplayer fun, it won't perform very well on the Wii.
Realizing that, developers have released half-baked titles on the Wii, with the hope that they will be able to turn a quick profit. In turn, they've kept their major, Mature-rated franchises on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Developers cite poor sales performance for the Wii's Mature-rated titles and additional development costs of porting the title to Nintendo's less powerful and Wiimote-enhanced console as the prime reasons for keeping their franchises on the Wii's competitors.
But how long can those developers ignore Nintendo's install base before they realize that Mature-rated games need to come to the Wii? Feder claims that he wants to bring some of his franchises to the Wii, but notice how he didn't mention any specifics and laid out no new plans for doing it.
In order to coax more Mature-rated titles to the platform, at least one mature game needs to sell extremely well on the Wii. But in order for developers to even consider making mature games for the console, they'll need to see some sort of track record, proving the Wii is a viable platform for those titles. So far, there's nothing of the sort.
Maybe the Wii itself is ready for mature games, but I'm not convinced that its install base is. Sure, it's big, and it has the potential to be profitable, but if history can be used as a frame of reference for the future, I don't see how any developer can justify spending millions of dollars on a Mature-rated game for the Wii.
At this point, it's safer (and more profitable) to offer games that are rated for Everyone or Teens, since those are the titles that appeal to today's Wii gamer more than any other.
Oh, and it wouldn't hurt a developer it if changed its name to Nintendo, either.