Ubisoft won't release more games exclusive to the Wii U until Nintendo sells more Wii U systems, the president of the French gaming giant told Kotaku here at E3 this week.
"We need more sold," Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot said during a brief interview. "They are coming with five of their biggest brands ever. And the Yen went down. So maybe they will take steps that will increase the number of consoles sold."
He was referring both to Nintendo's franchise-stacked Smash-Bothers-Mario-Kart-Zelda E3 line-up and to an improving exchange rate that may help Nintendo diminish losses and improve profits. Sales on Nintendo's new console have been mediocre at best.
The company behind Assassin's Creed and Just Dance, Ubisoft supported the Wii U better than anyone else other than Nintendo last fall. Ubi released Wii U versions of some major games but also a Wii U exclusive, the critically-acclaimed first-person permadeath survival game ZombiU.
This fall, Ubisoft will release Wii U versions of Assassin's Creed IV, Just Dance and Watch Dogs to Wii U, though none is exclusive to the system. The formerly-planned Wii U exclusive, Rayman Legends, is now also going to release on Xbox 360 and PS3 alongside Wii U by year's end.
Guillemot acknowledged that Ubisoft's focus on Wii U had changed. He suggested that the Wii U and its dedicated second screen in its controller was a good test bed for game concepts it is now applying to games on other consoles.
"Our job is to be agile," he said. "We have to adapt the company to the potential of the market. So, what we did last year, was we knew we could learn second-screen with Nintendo, so we went full-speed to use this capacity the console was bringing. And we were able to develop Rayman, which will come at the end of this year and which is fantastic, using this second screen. What we saw is that, in learning that, we can also use it with the other consoles with [Xbox] Smart Glass, for example, and it’s a good option that is coming to us. If you look at us this year on Wii U we will have a lot of products."
Notably, Ubisoft showed second-screen tablet functionality for its non-Wii U Xbox One and PS4 game The Crew during its E3 press conference on Monday. The company clearly loves second-screen gaming and is committed to that, if not to churning out Wii U exclusives.
Ah, but if you like ZombiU, here's a flicker of hope that—future Wii U exclusives or not—there will be more. "We are still following the gameplay that was created [for that game,]" Guillemot said, "so you will see something emerge one day.
To contact the author of this post, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo
I didn’t plan for back-to-back features on zombies, that’s the way it worked out. I also don’t usually publish an article separate from Worth Reading on a Friday in an effort to cleanly spread that material out. Thankfully, my ability to outsource a rough draft of my interview transcripts (I always double check ‘em) means I’m able to turn around features much faster than ever before, and this reflects that. I’ve already got a few that should be out the door next week.
“Eight Women, Eight Responses, and One Dead Island Riptide Statue” generated quite the firestorm, which anyone could have predicted that a mile away. When a story generates a forum thread before it’s even gone live, it’s going to provoke a reaction. Hopefully, my commitment to spend 30 minutes responding in the comments was worthwhile, as I’d like to do that more often, even for features that aren’t going to explode. With my ZombiU feature, for example, there was plenty of material that didn’t make it into the piece, and that's a place where I reveal more than what was published.
Many of you suggested some feature ideas last week, too, and I’ve taken notes. Someone proposed a look into the speedrun community. It reminded me how I went down really deep down that rabbit hole an afternoon at the office, and never followed up. There's something really compelling about watching people straight up break games.
All that said, let’s turn down the heat a bit and enjoy the weekend. See you guys next week!
Hey, You Should Play This
Westerado by Ostrich Banditos (Browser / Free) -- http://games.adultswim.com
The first time someone told me “hey, pay attention to the games Adult Swim is producing on its website,” it was hard to take them seriously. Then, you start running down the seriously bizarre, interesting, and seriously fun list of games (full list here) they’ve commissioned, and it’s a different story. It's...crazy. Westerado is one of the more ambitious games I’ve seen Adult Swim commission, an overhead, relatively open world 2D western action game. Our expectations for what is possible with web games grows every single day, and Westerado is a game I’ll be returning to over the weekend. Great visuals, fun soundtrack, weird story, and a lovable ability to pull a gun on anyone.
And You Should Read This, Too
"Jason Rubin Talks About THQ's Struggles And Final Days" by Andrew Reiner for Game Informer
It’s over for THQ as a publisher, and it’s hard to imagine how much of that is Jason Rubin’s fault. It was just too late. The now former THQ president has only given a single interview about his tenure at THQ since the asset sale took place this week, and while the interview is hardly exhaustive, you get the sense Rubin truly does regret what happened with Vigil Games. Darksiders II was not the hit THQ needed to financially stand on its own, and Vigil Games was years away from releasing a new game. The other studios and franchises picked up in the sale had games ready to roll, while purchasing Vigil would be purchasing potential. Here’s hoping folks land on their feet.
The best example of this is Vigil’s title, codenamed Crawler. When the teams got together recently to show each other their titles, Crawler dropped the most jaws. It is a fantastic idea, and truly unique. The fact that nobody bid for the team and title is a travesty. It makes no sense to me. If I weren’t barred from bidding as an insider, I would have been there with my checkbook. I’m sure that’s little consolation to the team, but that’s a fact.
"Anatomy of a Game" by Jeremy Parish for Telebunny
The media is, too often, laser focused on what’s ahead. There are plenty of reasons for that. One, the audience is also excited about what’s ahead. Two, the relationship between game publishers and media is one that necessitates talking about what’s ahead. Three, there’s more potential in generating traffic for what people are interested in right now. But there’s so much for us to learn about what’s already happened, and I’m really curious to see how Jeremy Parish’s “Anatomy of a Game” project pans out, in which he’s dissecting tons of old games stage-by-stage.
The seventh block along Castlevania III‘s alternate path brings us to the end of Sypha’s route, and the game marks your arrival at Castlevania proper by swapping out the standard regional map for a castle floor plan patterned after the first game’s stage map. In case you had forgotten about the way the journey diverged several levels back, the new map shows hints, partially obscured, of a route down beneath the castle. “You’ve missed something,” it declares. Another neat detail to nudge the player to explore the game in greater depth.
If You Click It, It Will Play
Kickstarter Has Promise, And Hopefully Developers Don't Screw It Up
You cannot help but root for someone trying to bring back games like Daytona.
Maybe fans of Sonic the Hedgehog can make the modern game we've wanted with Freedom Planet.
Not exactly a game, but this augmented reality installation just sounds really neat!
Yeah, Greenlight Still Has Issues, But Some Games Look Pretty Cool
Rocketgirl just might be the most absurd thing I've seen on Greenlight so far (in a good way).
BoneTown just might be the most absurd thing I've seen on Greenlight so far (in a bad way).
And Project Temporality just looks cool.
Patrick's Watching TED Talks As Part of a New Years Resolution, So Here You Go
Oh, And This Other Stuff
An in-depth look at the anti-bullying initiative from a group of game devs that I linked to last week.
If someone wants to send me this Lego version of the village from Fez, I'll happily accept.
Edge Online has a big profile on Bungie, as the company gears up to finally reveal Destiny.
A heartfelt goodbye from an employee at Vigil Games.
I would very much like to put dynamic pixel art on my wall. I'm guessing you would, too.
With its release so close, Alexander Bruce speaks about the ups and downs of making Antichamber.
You've probably never played Pac-Man like this.
With all this discussion about gun control and mental health regulation, one player speaks up.
A solid list of video game-related literature, if you're looking for some winter reading.
It was probably unfair to write ZombiU off so quickly, but...it was called ZombiU. Between my disappointment in Assassin’s Creed III, Ubisoft’s track record with Nintendo launch games, and the silly name, anything more than surprisingly mediocre seemed like a longshot. But as the horror guy at Giant Bomb, if I wasn’t going to play it, who?
A few hours and a few completely unexpected deaths later, it became clear ZombiU was special. Besides being scary as hell, the game managed to turn me around on the whole idea of animation priority as it relates to game design (see: Monster Hunter). That’s no small feat, and it’s why ZombiU ranked in my favorite games of the year.
When I asked for the chance to fire off some questions to the developers at Ubisoft Montpellier, I had to ask about the damn name. There are no great revelations to behold, however. ZombiU was chosen because it was both descriptive of the game’s content, and it was a Wii U launch title. That Ubisoft’s first game was 1986’s Zombi had no bearing on why it was called ZombiU, either.
“As odd as it may seem, it was a pure coincidence,” said producer Guillaume Brunier in a recent email exchange. “Some of us on the team did play that game way back in the old days, but that’s it.”
The original Zombi was a first-person, point-and-click survival game heavily influenced by George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead film. Zombi gave players control over four different characters fending for themselves in a mall. Besides trying to stay alive amidst the zombie apocalypse, there’s not much overlap between Zombi and ZombiU. (That game actually looks pretty cool, though!)
ZombiU was not always ZombiU, either. When Nintendo first revealed Wii U at E3 2011, Ubisoft also announced a first-person-shooter called Killer Freaks From Outer Space. It didn’t look that great. While some of the concepts created for Killer Freaks From Outer Space carried over, including a multiplayer mode where one person acts as a humanized Left 4 Dead AI director, much of the game design was overhauled.
What the team always knew, however, was the game had to eventually ship for Wii U’s launch.
Killer Freaks From Outer Space was shown at E3, and then never seen again before ZombiU.
“Being tied to a release date always has an influence on what we are able to produce,” said Brunier. “For ZombiU, we decided early on what we did not want to compromise on: Wii U GamePad use, and a true survival experience. For the rest, we sometimes had to manage our ambitions.”
Managed ambitions explains why, besides guns, your character can only swing around a cricket bat for melee attacks. By the end of the game, you’re intimately familiar with that cricket bat. As someone who never quite understood why anyone could enjoy games where you were forced into canned animations, after spending 15 hours with a cricket bat, I became closely acquainted with its specific timing. There was certifiable merit in knowing a weapon that well, given how much precise timing played into surviving longterm in ZombiU. That said, the only reason there weren’t more weapons is because there just wasn’t any time to make them.
When the box for ZombiU showed up on my desk, I wasn’t sure what to think. All I’d heard about was a game vaguely influenced by Dark Souls. Truth be told, I hardly suspected that would mean a game interested in excitedly punishing the player every step of the way. I suspect ZombiU isn’t nearly as challenging as Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls, but it operates on the same principle: act with purpose. If you try to bite off more than you chew, if you try to act like the badass that other games actively encourage, the game will smack you to the ground and laugh.
That doesn’t seem to line up with what you expect from a launch game, and while I’m much happier with what ZombiU became, didn’t it make more sense to make a more mainstream experience?
“We figured if we worried about that and made decisions accordingly, we would have delivered a lukewarm experience,” said Brunier. “And we really did not want to do that. We want people to remember ZombiU as a game that lived up to its promise as a true survival horror game.”
“Actually, being so harsh with the player was not a goal in itself,” said story design director Gabrielle Shrager. “We were driven by our wish to deliver a realistic experience. Just for one moment, picture yourself, I mean really try to picture yourself in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Would you feel empowered? This powerlessness makes every zombie encounter epic, and the reward of surpassing oneself all the more satisfying.”
The moment more than one zombie shows up, you might as well turn around and run away.
Powerlessness was crystallized roughly an hour into the game. You’re returning from your first mission--an initial, brief flirtation with the outside world. Surviving a one-on-one encounter with a shambler in ZombiU can be intense, and that’s about all you’ve dealt so far. Then, moments before returning to your safe house, the one place you can reliably count on, you’re shut out, and told to defend the incoming horde. Horde? Yeah, horde. That’s not just one or two zombies, it’s a whole crowd of them. I barely survived the encounter, but it mostly felt like luck. It was a moment where players were supposed to die, learn about resurrection, and not have to walk very far for your precious, precious equipment.
Shrager pointed to another moment where this was true, as well: ZombiU’s very first sequence. When the game opens, there’s a brief cutscene where players encounter The Prepper. In most games, you're given control in a safe, quiet moment. Nope! Suddenly, you’re thrust into this screwed up world, and dozens of zombies are chasing you.
“We wanted unprepared people to die so they’d understand what the game is about,” he said. “ [...] We are quite comfortable with killing your survivors in the game, because it is faithful to the zombie genre where most of the main characters die, and significant for the experience. Plus, you don’t ever see a game over screen. The story picks up with a newbie survivor where your last character left off...sort of like a deadly relay race.”
“A deadly relay race” is one hell of an accurate way to describe ZombiU. You’ll spend six hours with one character, make one false step on a platform, fall to your death, and start back at the safe house. Your "progress" is saved, but you don't spawn nearby. If you're lucky, maybe you were coming back from a successful mission, but chances are that area is infested with the undead, and the prospect of trudging back there, no matter what treasures were in your pack, aren’t worth it. These are the most infuriating moments of ZombiU, and also what makes it work.
Having players performing ambitious corpse runs upon greeting death came up early in the development process, the team told me, and quickly became a central pillar the rest of the game
All of these concepts mold a game I suspect many people might not finish. It would be no great surprise to me if someone bought ZombiU on launch day, and quickly shut it off. The developers aren’t losing sleep over this idea.
“The idea of players not finishing the game is not upsetting to us,” said Shrager. “The idea of players not being scared witless and not having a memorable experience does. “
One of ZombiU’s most memorable moments (this will be a mild spoiler!) comes during an extended sequence investigating a nursery. Nothing good happens during nursery sections in horror games, movies, or novels. Hell, hospitals in real-life are creepy enough, and it’s only made worse by someone dripping blood from the ceiling and sending the walking dead after you. What’s amazing about ZombiU’s nursery is how little actually happens. There is one jump scare from a closet, and otherwise...nothing. it’s quiet tension until a nail biting battle with one of the game’s few boss characters, a zombie nurse with the ability to zap around the environment. When you eventually take her down, you’re asked to use the in-game tablet to examine the zombie. You’ve never been asked to do this before, and so you don’t even really think about the request that much. As the tablet nears the zombie’s face, you look down at your real-life GamePad and BOOM! The zombie emerges, and utterly paralyzes the player.
“After that fight is over, the player is relaxed, relieved that he got rid of that ‘monster’ after a stressful fight,” said Shragrer. “At that particular moment, the player is definitely ‘off guard.’ It’s the perfect moment for a jump scare that takes you by surprise when you least expect it.”
Yeah, well, you got me.
Messing with players isn’t limited to scripted events, either. ZombiU was built with certain dynamic elements the development staff can tweak on-the-fly and without issuing a patch. Not long after the game was out, Ubisoft Montpellier started taunting the community for not having finished the game’s vaunted Survival mode, in which you’re only given one survivor to finish the whole game. The tauntings came in the form of in-game text that prodded players.
“Some players have spent more than 100 hours in the game!” said Shrager. “That surprised us. Some others are still trying to beat the survivor mode after 50 tries! That’s dedication. It’s been amazingly fun and rewarding for the dev team to watch players get the crap scared out of them in all the viral walkthrough videos--I think they hate us and love us with equal measure for making them feel so vulnerable.”
For the moment, Ubisoft isn’t talking about any downloadable content for ZombiU, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we never saw any. The developers do have the ability to spawn zombie hordes, craft new events, and deploy new challenges, though, and it sounds like that may be coming.
“I can’t talk about new content but I can say we will continue messing around with players,” said Brunier. “We’re having quite a bit of fun doing it!”
A demo on the Wii U eShop today will allow you to get your first taste of our #10 game of 2012, ZombiU. Perhaps that's not the best phrasing for a zombie game, but nonetheless. An NBA 2K13 demo will also be available.
Meanwhile on 3DS, there's fishing, hunting, DinoPet...ting, and Hello Kitty Picnic with Sanrio Friends, a minigame collection with unlockable "supercute outfits for Hello Kitty."
Let me tell you: if the zombie apocalypse ever becomes a real thing, I sure as shit hope I have a Wii U Game Pad that not only tells me the precise location of all zombies in my vicinity, but that could also drop me hints from survivors (hopefully not asshole survivors). More »
Ubisoft realizes just how tough it is to get through ZombiU and live, especially in Survival mode. That's why they've honored the first player to do so! Let's hope Ubisoft gives more Survival Mode survivors the nod when they complete the mission.
A horror game that's actually scary. A survival game that's tough to survive. A first-person Demon's Souls with zombies that uses the Wii U's controller better than any other Wii U launch game So.. why not?.
Anyone looking for a challenging and highly immersive experience with some real heft behind it is definitely going to come away pleased, despite some relatively minor niggles relating to that ground-breaking GamePad. There might not be a whole lot of choice on store shelves yet, but even if there was, ZombiU still absolutely deserves a spot in your Wii U library.