Friday, September 14, 2012

Wii U Scores Bayonetta 2 As An Exclusive

Ridin' off to new platforms....or just the one, really.

So, arguably the most talked about piece of news from the entire Wii U media blitz dust-up and such is the fact that, at some point in the future, which is undetermined currently, Bayonetta 2 will debut on the console exclusively.  As in, the direct sequel to Bayonetta, the game on PS3/360 which is touted as one of the best action games ever, will only be available to anyone who goes out and buys a Wii U when it comes out.  Or, you know, at some point between when it comes out and when the actual game itself comes out, which is probably going to be a good half a year at least.  Probably more, seeing as Platinum has a lot on their collective plates as is, which is a bit of good news, at least.  This is probably the busiest they've ever been, and it's most likely going to make some good bank for them.  And good - it couldn't happen to a better studio, I should think.

That said, I still have yet to play Bayonetta.  I know, I know, I'm a filthy heretic and such, but as you all might know, I haven't had a whole lot of PS3 time in these summer months and it's only now that the temperatures are falling....sometimes....that I have been able to really turn the system on and have some fun with it.  And that said, my first task is to finish Sleeping Dogs since I absolutely adore the game and not being able to play it has been torture for me because of that.  After that, I'm not sure - it depends on what strikes my fancy.  But I can't definitely say it will be Bayonetta and it's for now two very, very clear reasons.  The original, which was the one that gave me pause to start with was that I -know- that it is a technically inferior version of the game, and that sort of thing eats at me and just really kills my enjoyment.  Even with the patch, I've seen accounts that say the 360 version is like playing a whole other game and that is not something I like to hear.  The second reason is now that I know if I actually enjoy Bayonetta and want a sequel, I'll have to shell out $400-ish to get to it in about half a year or better, provided the Wii U hasn't price-dropped by then.  (It probably won't.)

But it could always get ported, right?  I mean, that would be the sensible thing, right?  Sensible or not, it is not a game that is going to get ported and that's just simple fact right there.  There's two basic reasons floating around out there with the people discussing the game, and they have a bit of the truth in them, but neither of the reasons is -the- reason, and one of them is actually just kind of poorly thought-out.  The first, biggest reason that people don't expect a Bayonetta 2 port is because Nintendo themselves is publishing the game on Wii U.  It's actually being suggested that Nintendo is putting a little more money than just that into it, but it's hard to say if that's for sure or if Nintendo is just sort of 'guiding' the game as it's being built.  Regardless, the case generally is that if a company publishes the game, they're fronting some dough and just having that game out there to generate revenue isn't going to cut it in terms of their own benefits for doing so, so generally some exclusivity is guaranteed to make it so that you're the only place someone can go for this particular game.  Everybody does it and there are very well-documented cases of it out there, but there are also many, many cases showing that Publishing a game doesn't mean it can't stray elsewhere.

Publishing contracts are just sort of a nebulous thing that generally infers -some- expectation of exclusivity, but really, just how much of that is never assured.  XBLA exclusivity with promotions like Summer of Arcade and the like, where Microsoft -does- publish the game seems to last something like a year, after which the developer is free to take their game to whatever else platform they desire using whatever the hell means they want, basically.  And even on-disk publishing isn't an exact guaranteed 100% exclusive thing, as Ninja Gaiden 2 showed us all, releasing on PS3 a year (again) after the 360 release as a self-published game from Tecmo KOEI (then Tecmo).  So for anyone saying "Nintendo's publishing it, which means end of story", that really is not completely true, as history has proven.  It solely depends on just what sort of contract they have with Platinum Studios (and Sega by proxy) regarding the exclusivity, which is likely determined by just how much Nintendo is doing to help fund it and/or what additional resources they're putting into the game (actual development time or even just marketing).

The other reason that I've seen for why the game simply 'cannot' be ported to PS3/360 is because, and I am probably directly quoting someone with this, "it just won't work because the Wii U is just so much more powerful" which is...well I won't say patently ridiculous as I wanted to, but it's not an accurate comparison.  Firstly because we don't -really- know what kind of power the Wii U is pushing, as in the CPU/GPU, and we probably will not learn this for some time, but it's not going to be -miles ahead- or anything.  All we do know is that the Wii U apparently has an entire gig of (console) RAM (which is different than Computer RAM) dedicated to the games, where the other gig that it has is dedicated to running the OS and such.  This is not an uncommon practice.  None of it is indicative of the Wii U being 'so much more powerful' than the PS3 or 360 that you can't put Wii U games on those consoles, and made much more a silly notion when you consider just how many friggin' PS3/360 ports are scheduled to release on the Wii U.

Despite all that, the core of the matter is that, while it's not going to be a launch window title, Bayonetta 2 is slated to release fairly early into the console's lifespan and unless Nintendo are stepping in to show Platinum just how to make the game sparkle and shine with technical wizardry, it -likely- won't be making full use of whatever power the console has to offer.  Which means that power is honestly not much of a variable to bet on in this whole situation.  Nor how little 'power' actually means in down-porting which is, as we know, still a fairly common practice and if you're really looking to make some extra sales, you're going to do it right.  In such a case, I'm sure Platinum -would- do it right, but I'm not quite sure who would publish it which is, honestly the issue here.  This is precisely the reason why Bayonetta 2 is likely going to stay exclusive to the Wii U, if there is any.

As we all know, Sega, not Platinum Games, is the owner/holder of the Bayonetta 2 IP which means any game in the series has to be done with their blessing.  Platinum Studios was the developer of that game as per a four-game deal they signed with Sega (the other three games in the deal being MadWorld, Vanquish and Infinite Space) but that and the fact that they're working on Bayonetta 2 doesn't mean they hold reign over the Bayonetta series.  Being the IP holder, Sega could arrange for just about any other studio out there to make a Bayonetta game, and that's where the problem is.  Sega has themselves convinced that they just can't afford to pay attention to games beyond their basic top-selling series and has basically pulled the plug on any sort of Western releases of anything beyond those series.  (Which, unfortunately leaves Yakuza up in the air for now, but that's another issue entirely)  It could likely be inferred that Bayonetta 2 is only a thing that exists because Nintendo fronted the cash they did, which means for the game to show up on any other platform, in theory, Sony and/or Microsoft would probably have to front the same amount of cash to make it happen.

Worldwide, between the two platforms Bayonetta released on, the game sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.3 million copies.  Again, worldwide.  It didn't set the world on fire with sales, is basically what I'm saying, as generally a good-selling game could break or come close to a million in a single region.  So it's already a hard sell to Sega because of that, and then you have to consider just what you're looking at in costs otherwise.  Nintendo's already fronted for Bayonetta 2 so Sega has that money and they likely don't care anymore beyond that.  But to convince them that they need to work out a publishing deal with -somebody else- to take Bayonetta 2 to PS3/360 would require that they can prove there's reason to.  And this is where it gets tricky because this is where splitting your fanbase really, -really- comes around to bite you in the ass in the end.  Or, at least it should in theory.

What I mean by that is that even if we're not all heavy in somebody's corner, we're likely going to follow series rather than platforms.  Platforms grow by featuring certain series to them exclusively or at least in a way that makes it the place you want to get it on so that when the next iteration of the platform comes along, you can bring along those people by continuing the series.  It's pretty simple really and to use something as an example, we'll go with Yakuza.  The first two were on the PS2 and the second two on the PS3.  This is just a basic progression, as it's not that much of a stretch to think if you bought a PS2, you might buy a PS3.  It's linear logic in a vacuum, basically as it doesn't account for anything beyond that, but you'll be hard-pressed to tell me how it doesn't make sense on some level.  You lose that when you try to say "Because you bought a PS3, you'll buy a Wii U" or "Because you bought a DS, you'll buy a Vita".  The actual words to quantify what I'm getting at escape me at the moment, but using 'something like linear logic' as a vague indicator will probably work, as I'm sure you're all understanding where I'm coming from.

What -that- all means is that those 1.3 million copies sold on PS3/360 for Bayonetta does not, in any way, shape or form, guarantee 1.3 million copies sold on Wii U.  Generally speaking, even if the majority of games are bought as a series by the same people (meaning people who buy game 1 buy game 2 and 3 when they come out), not all of them are, as you have to account for people who didn't care for the first and thus don't buy the second as well as people who buy the second without caring about the first existing.  So, by that logic, Bayonetta 2 could really out-sell its predecessor if a lot of people who didn't play the first buy it, but if you're trying to market the game -to- the people who bought the first, and counting on them jumping ship as it were, you are definitely not going to get all of those people.  Even in a straight console progression, you don't get all those people, so that much less for abstract console progression.

So -basically- what I've danced around saying without just getting to it is that the real reason Bayonetta 2 won't see a PS3/360 port is that the game probably just isn't going to sell well enough to justify it to any one party.  For a Bayonetta 2 port you're going to have to A) Make it worth it to Sega (which will be hard enough) and then B) Hope Platinum can port it.  Point A pretty much entirely depends on Bayonetta 2 selling well on the Wii U which is an entire gamble in itself as for that to happen you have to assume that everyone who bought the first buys this, as well as many, many more people, which would entice Sony and/or Microsoft to approach Sega to do it.  I say it's this way simply because of Nintendo's involvement as Sega was clearly ready to step away from the series entirely for the time being before Nintendo threw some money at them.  And in all reality, Bayonetta 2 selling really well on Wii U would signify that your potential buyers elsewhere have already bought it.  It's a vicious circle, really.

A lot of people, including myself, don't really like it, but that's pretty much how it is.  For my part, I only dislike it because I just don't like abstract console progression since I like following, and when I cannot without throwing down cash beyond the game itself, I lose interest rapidly.  That's why I never bought into Dead Rising 2, as the first is never going to come to the console I want to play 2 on, so I simply wouldn't enjoy it.  Dead Rising isn't the best example, of course, as it's not particularly story heavy, but it doesn't really -matter- to me; if I have to cross platform lines to play a whole series that is linear, then it has to be damn well worth it, and I'm not convinced a whole lot of games are.  Of course it becomes a lot more palatable if I have both consoles that the series is on, but not entirely so because I am picky like that.  Again, this is just with the sort of crazy jumps across platforms and not the natural progressions.  And I suspect I'm not alone in this, but I do like to think that I'm at least a bit more rational about it.  I really don't hold any ill-will to Platinum, Sega or Nintendo over this whole Bayonetta ordeal, but I suspect it might be because I don't have an attachment to the series yet.  Still, if it tickles my fancy enough, I suppose I'll have to weigh it against the other prospects of owning a Wii U, since I don't expect Bayonetta 2 to stray anywhere else from there.

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