What the sales of Sega’s big 3 tell us about the Wii

Of all the publishers currently selling titles for the Wii, it was Sega who perhaps took the biggest risk by publishing 3 decidedly hardcore games on the console. Of the trio, the gratuitously violent and cel-shaded MadWorld seemed the title most likely to flop at retail, and Overkill, a new edition to the House of the Dead series (which had already seen success on the console), seemed the most likely to succeed. The Conduit’s success seemed largely dependent upon how well it would be reviewed by the gaming media – mainly because it was a new IP from a developer with a questionable track record. So how well did these titles sell, and what does it tell us about the market for traditional games on the Wii?

MadWorld

MadWorld is unique on this list as it can be directly compared to another cult hit on the Wii – No More Heroes. While Suda 51’s game has merited a sequel, a follow-up to MadWorld seems highly unlikely. NPD numbers show the title sold 66’000 copies in its first month on sale in the U.S., but nosedived very quickly afterward. The result was that retailers reduced the price to $30 far sooner than is typical for a hyped title. VGChartz has current sales figures at 260’000. Sega have said they were encouraged by sales of MadWorld, but stopped short of describing the game as profitable.

If MadWorld really has achieved sales of over a quarter of a million, it can be argued as being both a success and a failure. A success when compared to another cel-shaded game like  Okami, which failed on the PS2 despite beating Zelda Twilight Princess to many game of the year awards. A failure in that it seems to have made Sega little or no money. Another interesting comparison will be Spyborgs – when Capcom closed down Clover Studios, avoiding games like MadWorld and instead publishing more accessible titles like Spyborgs was exactly their intention. If Spyborgs does manage to exceed MadWorld’s sales, it will be difficult to argue that Capcom did not make the right decision.

Verdict: Sales Failure

The House of the Dead: Overkill

Having already seen The House of the Dead 2 & 3 do well on the Wii, Sega sensibly decided that Headstrong Games should produce an original entry to the series. The major differences were the extreme levels of  violence and sexual content and the higher price tag. While the $50 price tag may have initially put gamers off (it is now widely available for $30), its unusually explicit content seems to also have had a negative effect on sales, especially when compared to the earlier arcade conversion.

Overkill sold just 45’00 copies according to NPD in its first month, but has continued to sell steadily ever since, especially at its $30 price point. VGChartz currently has total sales at 330’000, and Sega has described the game as profitable, especially because of its long legs at its lower price point. The question is, by pushing the boundaries of sex and gore in a videogame (without providing any censored modes), did Sega and Headstrong Games hinder the title’s sales? There is no doubt the developer’s artistic vision would have been compromised by censorship, but how many more copies would they have sold if it was at least an option?

Verdict: Moderate Success

The Conduit

While The Conduit looks set to be the best seller of the big 3 from Sega, it’s also had the most mixed reviews. NPD data estimates the title sold over 70’00 copies in first week on sale in the U.S., and VGChartz has its current U.S. and European sales at 200’000 after six weeks. There is no doubt that game is selling faster than The House of the Dead: Overkill, so it’s not much of stretch to expect that the holidays should see the title quickly sail past the half million mark.

The Conduit was clearly developed on a strict budget with both the single and multiplayer being rather unambitious in scope. This strategy should pay off for the developer and publisher as it will not take enormous sales for the title to turn a profit. Its Teen rating, plot and genre were all conceived to make it as palatable to as wide an audience as possible – an interesting counterpoint to MadWorld.  Both Call of Duty titles on the Wii have sold over a million units, so for The Conduit to fall short of these established and popular IPs should be expected. High Voltage Software are already talking about a sequel, which also suggests that sales expectations have at least been met.

Verdict: Success

The Wii’s core market is Nintendo-centric and still worryingly small, and while it’s fairly straightforward to make a game that appeals to this segment, its easier still to make a game that appeals to the enormous expanded audience. Though MadWorld’s failure always seemed assured, titles like The Conduit and The House of the Dead: Overkill can make developers and publishers a reasonable amount of money. However it may require many months at retail and a lower price point for titles to generate a return. Another worry is that with 3rd party support for the console on the rise, many titles without a high profile will likely fail due to the small size of the core market. Likely casualties will be titles like Cursed Mountain and Overlord: Dark Legend, whereas Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles and Rabbids Go Home are almost certain to do well.

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