One of the many announcements made this week regarding the Wii U - along with its price, release date and the fact that Mario games will continue well into the next century - was the news that one of its exclusive titles will be Bayonetta 2. This means if you're one of the gamers interested in playing the sequel to Hideki Kamiya's excellent fighting title, then you may find yourself having to buy a brand new console.
If you were feeling magnanimous you could say the decision to feature Bayonetta 2 exclusively on the Wii U is a little strange. If you were feeling a little less charitable and you're a hardcore fan of both Platinum Games and its whacky pistol-wielding witch, you may feel like the decision to hand over exclusive rights to your beloved fighting game to Nintendo is a massive poke in the eye.
The latter reaction may explain some of the venom that's be spewed all over forums and social media networks in the last day or so - most of it aimed at Kamiya personally - though, I hasten to add, we condone none of it. Being passionate about your hobby is one thing; firing off a death threat at a videogames developer is quite another. If you think the latter is acceptable behaviour under any circumstances, I believe it's time you unplugged your console and sought some professional help.
That having been said, making the sequel to one of the most beloved hardcore games from this generation of core consoles a Wii U exclusive does seem a little weird. After all, the original Bayonetta debuted exclusively on the Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms, so it's not like Nintendo aided and nurtured the cult following it has. Furthermore, Nintendo had nothing to do with the original game at all - it was developed by PlatinumGames and published by Sega.
So what's behind the new partnership between Nintendo and PlatinumGames that studio boss Tatsuya Minami talked about following the announcement? And why would Sega sign up to a deal in which Nintendo publishes an IP they own the rights to as a console exclusive?
Well, one reason for the deal could be to show core gamers that Nintendo are serious about winning them over with their new platform. While the Wii was a massive unit seller for Nintendo over the last half decade, Nintendo's brand has come to be more associated with casual core players than with the audience who currently pray at the altars of Xbox 360 and PS3. The sort of audience, you know, that's been clamouring for a sequel to Bayonetta for the past two years. There's overlap in the audiences, sure, but a game like Bayonetta 2 being a Wii U exclusive is a statement of intent in anyone's language.
The move could also be seen as a way of attracting third party publishers to the Wii U. Nintendo's console won't be short on offers for IPs, but it's worth remembering that a lot of publishers were burned financially by the Nintendo Wii.
While the console sold by the truckload, it soon became apparent that many of the people who bought it weren't the sort of gamers who would shell out vast amounts of money on games on an almost monthly basis. Many of them were satisfied with a copy of Wii Fit, Wii Sports Resort and maybe a couple of other party games. They didn't buy a Wii because they were interested in playing a copy of either Dead Space: Extraction or MadWorld.
That last title, as it happens, was made by PlatinumGames. PlatinumGames, if you aren't aware of their work, is a developer based in Osaka that's in partnership with Sega. To date, nearly all of the games that have been created by the super talented folk who work there have four things in common:
- They're unique and immaculately created
- They're aimed at resolutely hardcore players
- They garner tons of critical acclaim
- They sell rather poorly
Well, perhaps 'poorly' is a relative term, but they don't shift the numbers a lot of publishers expect from a Triple A title they've invested quite heavily in. To give you an example, MadWorld sold 640,000 copies globally after its release. Protoype 2 shifted about the same amount across platforms and it was judged a flop by its publisher, who then effectively shut the studio that made it.
It takes a lot of money to put a Triple A title into the market and when the game in question is aimed at the super-hardcore market there's always a gamble involved. Thanks to their dealings with PlatinumGames, Sega probably know this better than most publishers; as a point of interest, Sega is still undecided as to whether Anarchy Reigns, the latest critically lauded gem from the PG production line, will get a Western release (the thinking being that it may be too hardcore for us Gaijin).
So with reference to Bayonetta 2, it may be that Sega found the idea that another publisher was prepared to share the costs of developing and promoting a title made by PlatinumGames quite appealing. It also may be the case that without Nintendo's input, Sega may have felt that a sequel to Bayonetta wasn't lucrative in the slightest.
There's a very good chance, that unless Bayonetta 2 was a Wii U exclusive, it may not even exist, and even the most crotchety of fans will probably agree that the sequel appearing on the Wii U is better than no sequel at all. Think about that before you fire off your next death threat to PlatinumGames, ye hardest of hardcore. And then listen to some whale sounds. We hear they can be quite calming.