Nintendo Wii Is Just Another Victim of Gaming Industry ‘Overkill’

Pat: The Wii’s latest arcade-style shooter, “The House of the Dead: Overkill,” inadvertently sums up a potential problem for the console’s upcoming lineup, and a trend in the industry in general.

I don’t necessarily dislike Sega’s title — in fact, it’s one of the best on the system and Sega should be commended for releasing an “M” rated title on a Nintendo platform, but the game does feel quite a bit like Capcom’s “Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles,” which, incidentally, is already getting a sequel, “The Darkside Chronicles.”

Overkill, lately, seems to be the norm for publishers. As the leading console, Wii bears the brunt of this trend. On one end of the spectrum, Ubisoft unloads buckets of cute, non-functional shovelware on casual gamers with its “Imagine” series, from “New York Fashion Designer” to the laughable “Imagine Party Babyz.”

While Nintendo once led the way with its games, the developer is now literally re-releasing GameCube games, adding sloppy Wii motion controls, as part of its “New Play Control” series.

On the other end of the spectrum, third-party publishers are finally trying their hands at mature titles on Wii, but, nevertheless, wind up following the tired trend toward shooters, violent survival horror games and cookie-cutter sequels.

Sometimes “cookie-cutter sequel” is an understatement. Like Nintendo’s “New Play Control” line, some publishers are simply digging into their stable of games and re-packaging them, such as Sega with its “The House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return” or Capcom with “Okami.”

Other companies are giving the Wii dumbed-down versions of its mature titles, not just continuing the trend toward overly cinematic, uninspired M-rated content, but also watering down production values to shoehorn an HD title onto the Wii instead of producing original content. Capcom has done this with (surprise!) another zombie title, “Dead Rising: Chop ‘Til You Drop,” a poorly produced port of its Xbox 360 game, “Dead Rising,” with muddy graphics and fewer features.

Activision is never loath to release rough Wii ports of its inevitable “Call of Duty” sequels, alongside dozens of “Guitar Hero” expansions.

Electronic Arts (EA), the industry’s biggest publisher, is going down the same path. Besides its innumerable Madden, Tiger Woods, NCAA, et al. sequels (if they can even be called that), it’s also forcing a port of “Dead Space” on the Wii, another survival horror title, this time turning it into an on-rails shooter, like “House of the Dead.”

So goes the cycle in the industry. The economy is surely a factor in the plethora of “safe” titles, but given the Wii’s innovative features, it’s sad to see fun, experimental titles like Capcom’s “Zack and Wiki” sell a paltry few thousand units while a sports port or a shoddy shooter can carry the market. Not that I have a problem with violent video games, but there is such a thing as overkill.

Take it, Chapo.

Shapan: What up homies.

Shooters are a blast. I know a large chunk of people who spent a summer obsessing over “GoldenEye 007” before spending the rest of their lives obsessing over “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” The key is a shooter’s easy accessibility. A friend can jump into a shooter at any time and feel completely welcomed. Sure, there are often stories, but most of the main point of a shooter is not to die.

It’s easy to see why these games sell so much. Nintendo’s Wii has so much room for innovation, but it’s scary to take risks on making a game that might not sell. While many critics have lauded the intelligence of a game like “Zack and Wiki,” there are sure to have been a decent amount of casual gamers who were confused when they initially played the game. The difference between a hardcore gamer and a casual gamer is that a casual gamer would stop playing “Zack and Wiki” and replace it with something more instant while a hardcore gamer would continue to tap the game’s real potential. Unfortunately for fans of gaming innovation, the majority of the market consists of casual gamers.

How can a problem like this be fixed? It’s hard to say. Wii is banking on a combination of easy accessibility along with revolutionary control innovation. Finding a balance between the two can be tricky. One compromise that proved fruitful was with popular fighter “Super Smash Bros. Brawl.” Here, the gamer was given an option of either using traditional GameCube controls or taking advantage of the new Wii controls. This proved to be a smart decision and sales were excellent.

However, the compromise there was to appease casual gamers. Hardcore gamers would no
doubt get used to utilization of motion sensory controls, even on a game as nostalgic as ‘Smash Bros.,’ but casual gamers would likely pine for the conventional old days. Finding a way to move forward and fully embrace the Wii’s capabilities might prove intimidating to most of Nintendo’s audience.

But for now there are a few easy solutions, and one is especially clear. Aim. Shoot. Bang. It’s so easy. It sells. It definitely satisfies casual gamers while keeping hardcore gamers temporarily content. The supply of these mindless but entertaining shooters is so high because there’s a pretty decent demand. Once more, gamers are willing to give time to something outside of their comfort zone, originality in games will likely increase.

Until then, I need to kill some zombies.