Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Metroid Prime Trilogy Not Selling?

There's a bit of controversy that Nintendo has stopped selling the Metroid Prime Trilogy for the Wii. Of course, the Wii-haters are loving this. "Hardcore gamers don't use the Wii! It's doomed! DOOOOOOMED!" while they maniacally cackle and wait for it to die. Here's a list of other games that Nintendo has stopped selling:

  • Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree
  • Donkey Kong Barrel Blast
  • Endless Ocean
  • Excitebots: Trick Racing
  • Excite Truck
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
  • Mario Strikers Charged
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
  • New Play Control! Pikmin
  • Wario Land: Shake It!
  • Wario Ware: Smooth Moves
  • Wii Fit
  • Wii Music

Some may call this troubling news. Nintendo is abandoning games! What's happening? Even RawmeatCowboy, the leader of the GoNintendo clan, offers this up: "I still don't see how this fits into a longtail strategy." Should we be afraid? Is this a really big deal?

First, no other gaming company gets as much scrutiny as Nintendo. If Nintendo burps, everyone runs to smell it, and then they try and analyze what Nintendo had for lunch and how it will affect them next year and the effect their lunch will have on other people's lunch choices. It's a tangled analogy, but I think you get the idea: Nintendo gets overanalyzed. They're analyzed to death when they're successful, they're analyzed when they're NOT successful, they're analyzed by their fans and analyzed by their haters as well. With this level of scrutiny, when Nintendo decides not to ship copies of a certain game, in this case the Metroid Prime Trilogy, everyone hears about it.

Compare this to Sony. In the last generation, how long did they ship copies of the original Ratchet & Clank? How about Dark Cloud or Ico? What about Square? Did they keep shipping Final Fantasy X? Who knows? We don't really know the answer, because Sony doesn't get scrutinized like Nintendo does. Certainly, they didn't keep shipping them for a long amount of time, especially a game that flopped initially like Ico. They may have sold well, but not enough to keep on pushing copies out the door indefinitely. No company does that.

Second, the Metroid Prime Trilogy is a compilation. No matter how good the compilation, you're not going to sell that many copies of it, because it's not a new game. The audience of a compilation is limited to people who bought the game and want to buy it again, people who heard of the game but haven't bought it, or only played one game out of the compilation and want to play the rest. In the case of Metroid Prime, it sold a little over a million copies, which is respectable. After the inital sales batch, it went to the used game bins, where it could be purchased for as little as $6. It's sequel could be purchased for $12. If you hadn't purchased either game the first time around, there was probably a really good reason for it.

Third, unlike normal compilations, the Metroid Prime Trilogy is expensive to make. It's not a normal plastic case with a crappy manual. It's a metal tin surrounded by another plastic sleeve with a manual and art book in it. The disc itself is multicolored, a rarity among Wii discs. They put a lot of money into this product and can't keep pumping out copies willy-nilly just because a bunch of game journalists say it's a great game, especially if it's going to sit on shelves because it's a compilation.

Now, the other part that disturbs people is the list up above of games that aren't being made anymore. Some were released relatively recently, like Excitebots or the new Pikmin. Is this also a bad sign?

Not really. See reason number one. Companies discontinue games all the time. Some games find a niche and stick there. Some games simply don't. There's no rhyme or reason to it, it just happens. You can't always predict what will work and what doesn't. On top of that, some of those games are almost launch games. Mario Strikers Charged, for instance, was very nearly released at launch. Can you really expect Nintendo to keep on putting out more copies of it indefinitely?

All told, while it is a shame that more people didn't jump on the Metroid Prime Trilogy bandwagon, it's totally understandable why they didn't. It's also understandable why Nintendo ended certain other games as well. The doomsayers are wrong once again.

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