News Article

Talking Point: Does Nintendo Need to Exercise More Quality Control on the Wii?

Posted by Sean Aaron

Are shoddy ports and the tide of cheap cash-in titles putting the Wii at risk of meeting the same end as the Atari 2600?

Nintendo is right to be proud of the Wii: it has single-handedly put them back at the top of the console stack after two generations of consoles which, whilst not outright disasters, failed to capture the imaginations of the majority of the game playing public. The Wii has also attracted more than its share of dud software thanks to the expanded gaming audience attracting 3D parties who weren't as keen on Nintendo's previous offerings. As we enter the 4th year of the Wii's lifespan has the Wii's software catalogue reached the point where it's in danger of crashing under the weight of poor quality titles like the venerable Atari 2600? Is it time for Nintendo to take a harder line on what gets published for its white wonder box?

When Atari first released the 2600 in America no one really knew the impact it would have: it was one of the first consoles that played games contained on ROM chips housed in removable cartridges. Because the 2600 and its software was created in-house, Atari had no concept of other companies developing software for it and therefore no licensing scheme or any kind of technology in place to restrict what kind of code could run on the system. When a group of disgruntled Atari programmers left the company to form Activision and publish software for the 2600 on their own terms, Atari filed suit claiming they were trying to steal trade secrets, but failed to get the company shut down. Eventually Atari settled out of court and agreed to allow other companies to produce software for the 2600 in exchange for a royalty fee; and the 3rd party software business began to boom as companies started coming out of the woodwork to cash-in on the video game craze.

Atari collected royalties on games that ran on their hardware, but had no means of preventing the running of unauthorised code. Whilst this is great for hobbyists who still create software for the 2600 today, it was a big problem for Atari during the height of the console's popularity. The embarrassing publication of pornographic games by developer Mystique resulted in a lawsuit, but this was only a small part of a glut of substandard software that was rapidly filling the shelves in the early 80s and is widely blamed for causing the Video Game Crash of 1983. The catastrophic drop in software sales had an impact that was felt far beyond Atari, as many software publishers closed their doors overnight and competitors Mattel Electronics and Coleco exited the video game business - it was truly a disaster of epic proportions for the industry.

Nintendo came to the rescue not long afterwards, delivering the Nintendo Entertainment System: a version of the Famicom designed for overseas markets (ironically offered to Atari as a replacement for the 2600 in 1983). Nintendo appeared to have learnt lessons from Atari's mistakes: they not only collected license fees from 3rd party publishers of software on their console, but they also included hardware lockouts to prevent unauthorised code from running on their system to ensure they got paid. Whilst every software release on the NES isn't a gem, Nintendo was spared the woes of the American video game business resulting from unauthorised software publication and the industry has continued to grow over the past 25 years through a succession of console generations, delivering ever more compelling experiences to an audience still interested in playing games.

In some ways the current console generation echoes that of the late-70s to early-80s with a proliferation of small development teams finding an audience thanks to new software distribution models and console manufacturers making their development kits more accessible than they have been in the past. The Nintendo Wii is particularly well-positioned thanks to a combination of low development costs and solid brand-name recognition both amongst gamers and developers who grew up playing Nintendo consoles. Of course along with the increased number of publishers and developers eager to sell their wares on the Wii comes the potential proliferation of low-quality software: not only on the store shelves, but also the online WiiWare service - an example of what may be the future software distribution model for all video games.

Nintendo has little to say about the quality issue, normally choosing to focus on sales figures which show Nintendo's hardware and software outselling its rivals by a significant margin. Of course most of the software sales consist of games produced by Nintendo themselves, leading others in the industry to conclude that it's too difficult to get the attention of consumers. Whilst we can debate the reasons why some 3rd parties feel hard done by, anecdotally it's hard to deny that the Wii shelves at specialty shops are creaking under the weight of low-quality licensed tie-ins and mini-game collections with similar themes like sports, board/fairground games and pet sims.

On the WiiWare side of the equation we have no numbers - a shortcoming of download sales generally - but there is a sense that all may not be well. Developers have complained in the past about the required number of unit sales required before they get paid and the difficulty in getting a firm publication date from Nintendo. On the other hand it's been said that the sales threshold is a quality control measure, but in the wake of the addition of Flash support for WiiWare development resulting in the appearance of low-quality ports is that enough?

Atari not only suffered financially as a result of the Video Game Crash, but the Atari brand itself was tarnished - a blow from which it never really recovered. Whilst the famed "Nintendo Seal of Quality" on NES software only confirmed that software bearing it would run on their system, the threat of "brand poisoning" should logically play a part in determining what software gets published on a game console. Any company which values the impression consumers have of its products would reasonably be expected to block the publication of software which makes false claims about its capabilities, but this clearly isn't happening now. Small developers aren't the only ones guilty of putting out quick ports for download: even established players that have a long-standing relationship with Nintendo have seen fit to publish ports with a minimum amount of effort put into them on WiiWare.

The counter-argument is that Nintendo cannot be the ultimate arbiters of quality and certainly we agree that even amongst our own reviewing staff there are different likes and dislikes when it comes to individual games and game genres. Nevertheless if you look at the games that receive the lowest scores on our site, many of them have flaws that should raise red flags during the quality control process and would arguably justify a block early in the development process, but certainly at "lot check": the time when Nintendo notes bugs and other problems that need addressing by the publisher/developer before a game can be approved for release.

At a time when developers are calling for Nintendo to do more to promote the WiiWare service and the Wii is increasingly seen as a platform with less profit-potential for 3rd parties, we would argue that increased quality control is required. Nintendo successfully recaptured the support of many 3rd parties and the Wii has proved a hit with consumers, but that doesn't mean the long-term future of the company and its brands aren't at risk. Putting more of an emphasis on code quality over simple bug checking sends the right message to both 3rd parties concerned about too much product being on the shelves and consumers who may not be purchasing anything without the Nintendo label due to software overload.

We would argue that potentially alienating part of the publishing and development community by putting a stop to sloppy ports and quick cash-in software is a small price to pay to defend the Wii and WiiWare brands and ensure their continued success - what do you think?


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User Comments (74)



MasterGraveheart said:

I think Nintendo does. We probably could have gotten a better version of Dead Rising. Of course, if Nintendo DID meddle, would we get the same quality we saw in other gems like No More Heroes or Tatsunoko vs. Capcom? Don't forget, Nintendo put their Seal of Quality on some bad stuff too.



Golgo said:

The market for videogames was much smaller in the late 1980s. Despite popularity it was still seen as somewhat niche - even nerdy - and had nowhere near the spread we see nowadays. Now it's the biggest entertainment industry on the planet, apart from pornography of course, so I think the market is diverse enough to support all kinds of shovelware without imploding. That said, I do wish Nintendo would get a grip on it in order to re-associate their consoles with quality.



Objection said:

Quality control would be nice, but I don't think it's realistic anymore. With the sheer number of games coming out for the WIi each year, Nintendo would have to finishing looking at a game or two EVERY day.



V8_Ninja said:

One problem; Microsoft and Sony won't quit the video game market because another competitor is making millions while they're making hundreds of thousands. MS and Sony will only quit when the market becomes completely unprofitable, which won't happen anytime soon. And as Golgo said, the video game industry is way bigger than ever before, so lots of shovelware on one of the three platforms won't make the industry implode. And besides, Ninetndo has the DS, which is selling millions and is considered to have "quality control" even though I see about 35 casual games and about 10 serious games on the games shelf in my local Walmart. However, it would be nice if Nintendo did have quality control.



Sabrewing said:

EVERY popular console has had a glut of shovelware. The PS2 has quite a bit of it, especially overseas -- it's the home of the ungodly bad Animal Soccer World you might have seen on YouTube, after all.



Majora said:

"Does Nintendo Need to Exercise More Quality Control on the Wii?" Totally: YES. Great article. Thanks.



C7_ said:

Yes they should. There are so many games on Wii that shouldn't have even be considered as releasable seeing as they both suck and are incredibly glitchy, not to mention full of gimmicks and badly reused concepts.
I feel a twinge of sadness when I see that less than a row of games on Nintendo's entire wall in GameStop is actually worth considering.
It's ruining the Wii's image with actual gamers while the casual ones keep getting the same motion-based party game with a shiny new wrapper.



Egg_miester said:

the Nintendo Seal of Quality was a way to get americans to buy games there is just as many bad nes games as wii in shovelware



Hardy83 said:

I don't think Nintendo wants to make it any harder for third parties to get games out on the Wii. Many of them are already lowering support for the Wii as we speak.
It worked back in the day, but with the amount of money invested in even shovelware, it would be suicide for Nintendo to control games like that....
Plus even some of their own games now are questionable if there was a seal of quality.



DiggerandIndy said:

I usually let the critics pick at the games before I buy them. Nintendo needs to do something (besides twiddling their thumbs and justify the shovelware in the name of "casual gaming") about the stupid games that keep slipping through the cracks. I think 3/4 of the games sold on Wii and DS, download and otherwise, are too cheesy for their own good.



BobberyFan98 said:

Hallelujah! Somebody who agrees with me!

In my opinion, Nintendo has let too Much shovelware onto their precious awesome system. I love the wii, but because i buy titles like Brawl, MK Wii, Galaxy, City Folk, etc. So, Nintendo, i am OK if you release girl games or little kids games, but, please play them first




Guybrush_Threepwood said:

How would a quality control change the fact that all the important third-party-developers release their Triple A games almost entirely on PS3 / Xbox360? Nintendo won this generation concerning console selling numbers, but the Wii is by far the worst console in this generation when it comes to third party releases. No wonder since Nintendo64 and Gamecube did have a similiar problem (I think Gamecube had the best third party support comparing to Wii and N64). Many gamers bought a Wii mainly because of Nintendo's 1st-party-titles (Zelda, Metroid, Mario,..) for all the other games they own a more powerful PS3 / Xbox360.

The Wii is for third party developers by far not as interesting as PS3 or Xbox360 despite the highest selling numbers. This will not change since more and more Wii gamers gonna buy a PS3 or Xbox360 if Nintendo neglects their gamer audience further on. So it's up to Nintendo to increase and improve their 1st party output. Where the hell are Donkey Kong, F-Zero, Starfox, Kid Icarus for Wii? And will we ever see an entirely new Triple A franchise made by Nintendo this generation?



Bass_X0 said:

The seal of quality meant that the cartridges were guaranteed to work on the console. Thats all it meant. But the public misinterpretated it as being reviewed by Nintendo to be an enjoyable game that is worth the money paid for it. Not so. Yet these misconceptions continue to exist.



Mayhem said:

Shovelware never killed the first two Playstation consoles, so I can't quite see it doing it to the Wii either. Mind you, I was predicting another crash at some point because of it and nothing has come to pass in the last ten years so... who knows.



Making the comparison is absurd.The reason why the 1983 game crash is because companies that had nothing to do with games (purina, coca cola) started to make games and started to suck the blood from gaming. Funny, just like Sony and MS!

Nintendo is the only REAL gaming company that makes hardware and they are aware of that. If 3d parties make bad game is the 3d parties fault.

Seriously stop defending them!

And I am sorry but THERE WERE TERRIBLE GAMES ON THE NES AND SNES! why now is suddenly different?!



OldBoy said:

@Bass XO Spot on . I was just about to write the exact same thing. It really annoys me that people still think that the seal meant a guarantee of quality. There was some terrible games for the NES, SNES etc. As if Nintendo are going to start quality control.It ain't gonna happen. Its like saying Sony should stop people making bad films so they don't get played on one of their blue ray players!! Nicely written article but unfortunatley absolutley pointless.



PhoenixRising said:

I think The Seal of Quality meant something between the launch of the N64 and for the large portion of the Gamecube.'s life. Both systems struggled against their competitors and as such were the focus of smaller but highly dedicated (and very talented) teams which produced some of gamings greatest moments. Why just use it to prove the quality of the media?

There is no way anyone can guarantee that any media is flawless (even back then it was a ridiculous claim) so that doesn't make sense. Even if a cartridge or disc works at testing there's nothing to ensure it won't get damaged outside a controlled environment. Nintendo might have claimed that was the purpose but subconsciously which sounds better? A big sticker that says "this will work" or a big sticker that says "this is going to be the best game you've played in a long time" A sensible marketing strategy would suggest the latter. It's pretty damned obvious that no-one will buy your games if the media is consistently faulty so I'd say there was more than a little lateral thinking went into that idea.

As 'core' gaming popularity exploded within the NES and SNES era there simply wasn't enough resources to ensure game quality and now the market has once again exploded for Nintendo, there once again isn't the resources or hindsight to bring developers into focus. As far as they're concerned it's a mass market that will absorb all kinds of waffle as long as the games vaguely resemble something familiar to grandpa Jo, little Johnny or mummy dearest. Outside of well known franchises (like Monopoly, Tetris or Uno) who's to say an untested idea won't work?

Nintendo have been very clever in focusing their games around peripherals this gen. In fact without them, they'd be dead in the water. The Wiimote was a stroke of genius in that it looked like a remote and people could point it at the screen or swing it to roll or hit a ball. Likewise, the balance board combined with Wii Fit appealed to a whole lot of people who neither had the time or inclination to go out and walk. Hell, even the Wii-wheel worked well for Mario Kart Wii and has probably proven to be the most un-celebrated success. I'm a 'core' gamer and I bought two and I've played through Mario Kart at least twice (once with the wheel) How many 'core' gamers bought a wheel to do just that? I'm guessing quite a lot.

The trouble is is that while Nintedo have maintained a sense of quality by being first to bring out games that make good use of the peripherals, once the market releases one or two games for them, everything else (even it they use the peripherals heavily) starts to look old-hat and gimmicky. Developers seem to have picked up on that fairly early into the Wii's life and so instead of focusing on developing for peripherals, they've worked around them.

The result is the large proportion of the Wii's gaming populous are getting tired of having few titles that make use of the large pile of plastic building in their houses. Something even a slew of carnival / party / puzzle games can't resolve for long and it's an issue that's hit other peripheral heavy games like Rock Band and Dance Revolution. You'd think that MotionPlus might help (please, don't even utter Vitality Sensor) but a lot of people are wary, taking into account the total number of titles which (or will) make use of it it really doesn't seem a good investment - particularly when it's driving up the cost of controllers to almost ridiculous prices.

I won't go into the Wii 'core' games scene much because frankly, there isn't one. Yes there are a few (and by a few I mean a just over a dozen) good games out there but outside of first party titles there's been little that really stands out. In fact, the glut of half-decent original games seemed to arrive during the first year of the Wii's launch after which we've been treated to the odd good port, Nintendo's sequelitis and the rare gem like Little Kings Story and err... that game.

If there's one area Nintendo could focus on with quality assurance it's Wiiware. The service is still relatively young and given the necessary care and attention could be the core gamer's saviour, but a lot of things need to change.

Firstly, the size restrictions need to go. Despite criticism for the cost of the game and its DLC, I commend Square for releasing Space Invaders Get Even, it actually felt like someone wanted to make a game bigger than the rest. 2D gaming seems to have had a resurgence but even then, how many 2D platformers will people palette before a general malaise sets in like we've seen with puzzle games on the service. There are lots of other genres that are simply too restricted by the size limitations (and sales requirements) to produce recognisably good alternatives on the service. Nintendo need to allow DLC to be streamed from the SD card even if they won't allow games to play direct from SD.

Secondly, Nintendo need to encourage developers to go cold-turkey on puzzle games. There's simply too many of them and quite frankly most have short lived appeal. For me even the 'good ones' are starting to loose appeal before they've even hit the shores. I just don't want any more - the puzzle genre is hitting saturation level.

Thirdly, Nintendo need to re-structure their pricing plan. People look at games on XBLA and Apple's store and see prices amounting to $2 or $3 as opposed to Nintendo's $5 minimum and its a turn-off. Before the Apple store arrived, Wiiware could survive because - hell, we didn't mind paying a premium. But it's becoming more and more apparent that people don't have to pay a premium to enjoy a couple of hour's worth of entertainment and that's what a lot of Wiiware games offer.

Fourth, Nintendo need to re-design that god-awful Shopping Channel and integrate it with the Nintendo Channel as one so they can advertise games properly. I'd love to go to the shopping channel and be greeted with a video of the weeks releases and at a click of a button havethe ability to view information and download the game from one page without switching from one app. to the other.

Finally, and on a related note. Nintendo need to advertise their products using WiiConnect24 and the messaging system. The flashing blue light is like a giant diamond - it draws people in like crazy - yet Nintendo simply refuse to make use of messaging. I opted in to commercial messages from the Nintendo Channel expecting to a least seem something once a month. What have I had? Nothing. Nintendo need to redesign the messaging system to that they can provide web-based content directly - not through another channel, but directly - and get a message out to people every weeks letting them know what they can buy.

Of course, that's not the only thing they need to improve online but that's a different story...



Guybrush_Threepwood said:

buffalobob: "And I am sorry but THERE WERE TERRIBLE GAMES ON THE NES AND SNES! why now is suddenly different?!"

You find a lot of shovelware games on every successful videogaming console. The difference is that NES and SNES (the same goes for PS1 and PS2) were also massively supported by all major third-party-developers in contrast to Wii.



@Guybrush - so far shovelwere has been done by 3d parties. Ergo, is their fault. Nothing more and nothing less.



brandonbwii said:

I wish there was some sort cease and desist thing when it came to the amount of a certain brand being released within the span of a year. I'm talking there should be no more than 5 Imagine games or 2 Hero games. Yet with something like Imagine, we can get 5 in the same week. If that sort of quality checking was possible, that would mean the publishers would put all their efforts in the one or two games they could release within the year and then move on to something else.

It's stupid that a publisher like Ubisoft thinks that the DS market is shrinking because no more kids are buying the endless amounts of Imagine and Petz games.



primeris said:

@Mike Does everyone know if a game sucks before they buy?
I read reviews. I rely on them to buy games. Most people however buy whatever was packaged nicely. If most of the games are crap, and most people are discovering that what they bought was crap after they bought it, they will soon drop the Wii like a sack of crap; Nintendo will lose.



bbb7002004 said:

I think consumers should take responsibility for their purchases. If people are stupid enough to buy bad games, then that's their problem, not Nintendo's .



MrMartinLee said:

Excellent article! I've heard the argument that quality control from Nintendo would discourage development on their console in general, but I never really believed it. The really broken "games" are not that way by accident. They are blatantly and intentionally foisted on hopefully unsuspecting consumers, and I would be very encouraged to see anything at all done to put a stop to it. Not very likely, though...



Sean_Aaron said:

@buffalobob: Because we have the internet now and the media and blogosphere have the ability to alter perception in a way that wasn't as possible in those days.

I think there was an observation by Pachter or one of the other talking heads on Bonus Round about the Wii's catalogue being about the same size in the first few years as the PS2's was after 10. The problem isn't that there's no good software, but that the good software gets drowned by the mediocre and rubbish stuff. If it was spread out more, I agree it wouldn't be as big a problem.

Spacing out the WiiWare releases does help with that perception, though clearly if stuff like WarMen Tactics is coming out then Nintendo QA frankly aren't doing their job as far as I'm concerned. I was content to go along with the notion of 3rd parties making their own bed and sleeping in it, but these games only come out because Nintendo licenses them; at the very least they could force the release schedule to slow down a bit and space titles out more just like they do with WiiWare.

When I see major retailers shunning quality product like Muramasa in favour of the latest movie tie-in, that's a problem - the consumer isn't being given a choice because they never know that game even exists unless they look for it.



nasachi said:

in my opinion it's pretty normal that the most popular and successful console also has by far the most bad games, just look at the ps2...

i don't really care about it, i do only buy those great games and luckily there are plenty of fantastic games on Wii, especially those of Nintendo of course



Linkuini said:

While "shovelware" does seem to be quite a blemish on the Wii's reputation, I think the real problem is that GOOD games like Dead Space Extraction, Little King's Story, etc., aren't getting the attention they deserve. The same thing happens on other consoles. For instance, Nintendo's own Drill Dozer on the GBA received positive reviews and a fair amount of promotion on the (where Nintendo fans would theoretically take notice). Nonetheless, this fresh action game from the makers of Pokémon sold so poorly that I doubt we'll ever see a sequel.

It seems there isn't an easy solution to this.



@Sean - I agree but sometimes it seems that journalists and analysts only focus in the bad games selling on the wii and give them more importance than it deserves..

I mean ,we had internet on the PS2 too and it also has it huge ammount of shovelware but people didn't went and blamed sony or something like that. In this case with the wii it seems that is only what matters for them.

I dunno if is made un pupose or what but is too weird. Is like if they want people to think that Nintendo is the loser or something like that.



BrainBoxLtd said:

The NES had about 800 games. How many of those were awful cash-ins whose only purpose is fodder for the AVGN? And that was back when Nintendo WAS a ruthless tyrant who told companies how many games a year they could release and had tons of werid conditions attached to releasing games on their system.



Chunky_Droid said:

Who knows, the PS2 did exactly the same thing that the Wii is doing now (minus downloadable titles) and it still sold more than the PS3 during that consoles first year out.

I don't think Nintendo will have much to worry about, as long as the devs who DO release bad games learn from their mistakes in their next titles.



BulbasaurusRex said:

Shovelware is by no means a danger to the industy or Nintendo itself like it was in 1983, but I agree that some measure of quality control needs to be introduced. Yes, all systems have their share of shovelware, but the Wii is drowning in it in proportion to its quality games more than any console since the Atari 2600, and it has affected Nintendo's image enough to convince people not to buy one (or buy one and later leave it to gather dust) and experience all the great exclusive games it has, especially with this year's amazing lineup.



OldBoy said:

@Rex Errr but the Wii has sold the most this generation so I fail to see how its affected Nintendos image at all. Never in all my gaming years have I ever heard so many people talk about Nintendo from all ages and backgrounds than this gen. Nintendo has never been so popular than it currently is.
As for shovelware, people who blindly buy games based on the fact that it has 'Family' in the title and some crappy cover art deserve all they get IMO. There is more than enough access to various media scources in order to make an informed decision these days so there is really no excuse for buying crap games anymore. As for Nintendo they will not be bothered what sells well on their console as long as their first party games are up there, shovelware profits are still profits.



JebbyDeringer said:

What most people forget when they mention the video game crash is that there was a huge recession in 1981/82. This most definitely had some effect on the video game crash. During the current recession a lot of people are turning to video games (and movies) as a cheap escape so games are selling better than ever. I think once the recession ends we will see a somewhat significant drop as people become more focused and driven to do other things.

As for shovelware I agree it's not just shovelware that kills a system, it's a combination of the amount in such a short time period combined with the lack of marketing for the good games. Nintendo really needs to get their act together and help promote some of the better games on the system. They need to stand behind their third parties, perhaps buy a couple more development houses.

Oh and great article by the way. I think a lot of people are starting to realize that this is a real possibility.



motang said:

Yes I think so, as there are a ton of crap games on the Wii and because of it the Wii tends to get a bad rap for it.



odd69 said:

Ive bought many third party games, so i do my part in supporting them, but yea quality control does sound nice.



Sean_Aaron said:

Part of my motivation for writing this isn't just that we've had some lazy-ass ports released close together on WiiWare, but that the big publishers are making their announcements now which could be a sign that their next development cycle will lack a lot of the titles we're wanting this year. At the moment everything could be rosy, but in two years you might well have a calendar with nothing but Nintendo releases and rubbish to look forward to and that would be sad.

The gaming press has been disregarding Wii releases for a long time; that trend just gets worse as they see big publishers appear to reinforce the impression that the Wii is not a gamer's system. You already see it in shows like the Bonus Round where the Wii is an afterthought or almost referred to as being outside of the industry. I think the gaming press needs to grow up and aim to a larger audience to stay relevant, but it still has sway with a large group of gamers and industry people, so what people like Gametrailers, Eurogamer and IGN says matters.

I have more games than I know what to do with even if all the gaming companies shut their doors tomorrow, but I think it's sad that people who make games don't always seem to value their craft and try to make the best games they can. Nintendo does seem to value the artistry of game-making and they have the power to slap some sense into some of these johnny-come-latelies and rip-off artists and I hope they will!



Raylax said:

Yes and no. Whilst I don't believe they should outright ban games from their console (believe it or not, there are people who actually like stuff like Carnival Games), they should set higher standards for what gets approved. When a game lacks basic functions like controls that work, or correct screen display, then they should be sent back to be fixed before being given a license.
Overly short games, such as Ninjabread Man, pose a tricky problem however. On the one hand, you can't expect every developer to want to or even be able to afford to make games of huge 20+ hours length; but on the other hand when a retail game consists of 3 short levels, customers should never be expected to pay anything like full price for it.

I'd suggest that an independent gaming watchdog were set up, to monitor content on all platforms, retail and download, and provide specific information printed to the box (or download info screen), so the customer gets some idea of what they are getting for their money. Back on the Master System, there was a small section on the back of the box which showed the number of levels and estimated playtime of the game. Whilst this would be tricky to implement nowadays (especially the former, given the increasingly small amount of games that separate content into levels), a similar thing could be achieved. I'd propose the following information to be a mandatory addition to the back of all boxes:

  • RRP: I've seen many places selling games considerably higher than their official RRP, particularly popular games at launch. Books have their RRP printed to the back, I'd like to see gaming follow that lead.
  • Est. Playtime: Hard, even impossible, to define absolutely, but this could be shown as a "X to Y hours" - the average amount of time it is likely for a player of average ability to complete the main campaign of the game, and the most playtime they are likely to get out of it. Open-ended/plotless games (such as Brawl) could simply list their playtime as "X+ hours." This time would be determined by the watchdog so it couldn't be used as a marketing ploy by the developer.
  • Genre: I've seen a review on Amazon giving M&L3 1 out of 5 stars, as the buyer was expecting something similar to NSMB. Understandable, given that they contain the same main characters. This would use descriptive words but avoid acronyms - "role-playing" rather than "RPG" (yes, I know that you play a role in all games, but most non-gamers will recogonise 'role-playing' as being of the same style as the tabletop games from where the name originated), "shooter" rather than "FPS," for example.
  • Skill Level: A lot of people go on the age rating to judge the games' difficulty, which simply doesn't work. NSMBWii, for example, is rated 3+ but is really quite hard, especially if you're 3. And there's many higher rated games that are much easier. A separate value for this would be useful, but I'd avoid using age as it tends to have little bearing on the skill level of the player. I'd suggest keywords like "Simple," "Intermediate," "Advanced" and would be based on the lowest skill required to enjoy the game, which eliminates the problem of games with variable difficulty such as, again, Brawl.
  • Additional Warnings: This would cover things that the ESRB doesn't. Back to the M&L3 example, if you look on the back of the box you'll probably see a little warning that the game requires some reading ability to be able to fully enjoy. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be a standardized rule - on various games it's positioned in various places, often in a very tiny font. And if you're buying online, you probably won't be able to see it at all. Stuff like this would be added here. For the DS in particular, if a game is hard or impossible to play left-handed, this information could be supplied here too.


Raylax said:

The watchdog would also have the power to red-flag any game it deems unsuitable to be released. Whilst they wouldn't (or at least rarely) be involved in controversies such as 18-rated content, they would be able to prevent games that fail to meet basic requirements. I'm aware that there are at least a couple of Popcorn Arcade games that are nothing more than re-skins of each other but sold as different games, this is the sort of thing that would be pulled.



M00se said:

OF COURSE! theres more shovelware then quality. quality always beats quantity in my opinion!



nasachi said:

"quality always beats quantity in my opinion!"

yes, i agree, that (quality) is why i prefer Wii to my other two hd-consoles in terms of gaming (but PS3 is great as a multimedia station, i use it a lot for movies and streaming mp3s... gaming on ps3, ok, mediocre)

ok, quantity of crapgames/casualgames is also very heavy on Wii, but as long as Wii gets the best core games (quality) i don't care bout them



BulbasaurusRex said:

@Luigi78 Sean Aaron points out nicely why too much shovelware is bad for the Wii. Basically, yes, the Wii has always sold very well to this point, but the shovelware is the biggest reason why the Wii has a bad reputation among many mainstream/hardcore gamers, who buy a lot more games than the casual gamers who love the Wii, plus casual gamers won't even consider certain genres that are too complicated for them. This results in low sales of many good Wii exclusives, which creates the situation we have now where 3rd party developers aren't making very many quality Wii exclusives nor making Wii ports of good multiconsole games (or make them lazily). If not corrected, the next Nintendo console might inherit this problem even if the console specs are a lot closer to the competition than with the Wii.



Sean_Aaron said:

@Raylax: I like those suggestions, especially the RRP, Skill and Genre. Even if there wasn't a watchdog, Nintendo could certainly make that part of the packaging and a requirement for publishers as a way of advertising a more consumer-friendly approach. They're doing different colour packaging in Japan for adult-oriented titles, so why not?



TwilightV said:

I think the biggest difference between now and 1983 is that a lot of these terrible games are actually managing to sell. Sadly, some of these games manage to appeal to the younger audience, an audience that wouldn't understand the term "quality control". Still, the parents could do with some education so they know how to get more for their money. :3



astarisborn94 said:

This was an very good article to read. I'll explain myself.

I started gaming regularly just before the new millenium so I am probably not the most knowledgable gamer. However, I do know quite a few things about gaming, especially with Nintendo 64, SNES, and the Nintendo Wii. Being an loyal supporter of Nintendo (Even to the point that I'm delaying an PS3 purchase to get an Nintendo 64 first), I have to say that I am quite satisfied with Nintendo of today, despite the thousands of hate comments that are spread all over the Internet. However, that doesn't mean I have no beefs with the company.

One of the biggest problems I have with Nintendo is the Virtual Console. So far, I have been extremely disappointed with the Nintendo 64 catelouge as it is my favorite video game system and I have almost officially given up hope that it'll actually mature like it's predecessors. Because of this, I will be saving up money for an Nintendo 64. However, other sections have been doing at least okay.

But the main thing we're talking about is quality control on the Wii. First off, we need to account for the Nintendo DS as well. Everyone is too focused on consoles and sometimes pretend to forget handhelds. It's like this. If you don't like the main course (Wii), try the side (DS). Prehaps you'll like the meal. You can also try the deserts as well (Older systems).

Something like that. On to my second point, the games on the Wii. To be brutally honest, I really cannot keep up with the amount of great games for the system. However, there are also tons of shovelware available as well and they actually sell, which is the problem. Why are shovelwares like the Game Party Series doing so well while great, original games like Excitebots: Trick Racing bomb so horribly? My answer to that is the almost total lack of adversiting. While a small part of it is Nintendo's fault, they shouldn't completely be blamed for it. When I mean "small part", I mean a failure to adversite some of there games. The rest is the responsibilty of third-party games, and they are failing that miserably. This should explain why some third-party companies are docking out on Nintendo (EA Sports, Ubisoft (Not confirmed), maybe Sega).

It's because of third-party laziness that is pulling the Wii down and ruining Nintendo's reputation with critics and gamers. That's the main reason.

However, this has happen before. The Atari 2600 obviously had this problem. While the Nintendo Entertainment System is hailed as the savior of the gaming industry, it had a flood of shovelware as bad if not worse then the Wii. The Playstation and Playstation 2 also had this problem. The only leading console that did not suffer from boatload of garbage is the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (The Sega Genesis arguably has more shovelware then the SNES).

However, this is possible to repeat again. Nintendo probably saw this coming so they might be trying to correct it next generation with the next Nintendo console. If the next console performs and SNES, we might see the best video game system since the SNES, providing if the console wins eight-gen. However, I also do predict an intense console war between Nintendo and Sony, just like fourth-gen with Nintendo and Sega. Only that there will be a lot more arguing, the Internet will be even more on the two consoles, better games, and possibly nastier campaign. Either way, I think both companies will put forth all efforts this generation.

But what about Microsoft? If the Playstation 3 successfully takes over the Xbox 360 in the 2nd place spot, we could see Microsoft dropping out of the console manufacturing business and focusing solely on PC gaming. EA Sports and/or Activision will take Microsoft spot.

But I'm getting off-topic here, so I'll end my post with this.

Do I think Nintendo needs to exercise more quality controls? I would say yes. However, I do have a feeling they're going to do it next-gen when they know they have the potential to perform an SNES-like quality or better.



Hawker said:

Every popular system of each gen has tons of shovelware. NES had tons, despite the limits they put on 3rd parties. SNES & Genesis had lots of shovelware. Playstation 1 & 2 had lots of shovelware. even in this gen, PS3 & 360 isn't without alot of shovelware.

This trick is, knowing what games are worth your money. Those people that are buying the quickly made party games that will only entertain people for a week will stop playing games sooner or later, & some of these casual people will also become part of the true hardcore gamer crown, not the "it's only good if it's M rated with lots of gore cussing & sex crowd.

The real reason companies keep making games like this is simple, people that just don't know buy them. When that stops, so does the shovelware.



XCWarrior said:

I do agree with the article that they do need to put some limits on the shovelware. Hold them to a higher standard, and make it so less games are released. The sheer number of games out there probably hinders the quality games from standing out amongst the muck to the casual consumer and prevents higher sales.



Slapshot said:

Great article Sean! Im not going to go too deep, but I seriously doubt that the shovelware problem will cause a crash as there are too many systems. I do think alot of the "New Gamers that Nintendo got with Wii" that have gotten on this shovelware, may not be the true gamers down the road that Nintendo hoped to get (Nintendo Games are NOT at fault, please understand that guys). If you average all the games Metacritc Reviews on the 3 current systems the Wii is WAY below the other 2 systems average wich isnt good either. Nintendo Power is hurt by this trend of shovelware as the magazine is literally forced to focus on these crap games sometimes because there are few trickle of great releases to the masses of below average games. These are the reasons, Ive said this before here, that I think Nintendo may very well be hurting down the road big time if the other systems end up with some new something that brings in masses of casual gamers, I know several Diehard gamers who have become very unimpressed with the Nintendo Franchise over the last few years, its actually hurts to say it, but to me, in sales Nintendo is killing it, but in quality, they just arent there with anything but the few first party games. For all the insane numbers of consoles sold for the Wii, there are so few high rated games on the system. If the Core Gamers really have dropped significantly ( I know some who have Wiis still and havent bought First Party Nintendo game for the system at all, even with the releases of NSMB Wii) and they arent running to buy the games anymore, this could eventually become a problem, but then younger gamers are loving Nintendo too, so it may just be out with the old and in with the new, and I guess thats not too bad a thing either. Quality will always Trump Quanity!



GN0LAUM said:

" It's pretty damned obvious that no-one will buy your games if the media is consistently faulty..."

Ha ha. Then why do people keep buying Xbox 360's?



soniczelda_dude said:

I think that we (as gamers) simply fail to see the market that shovelware appeals to. The so-called "casual gamers" who buy these games will still have fun with them... (**sarcasm**)

But seriously, there's unfortunately very little that Nintendo can do about this. And as mentioned before, shovelware both has occurred before and will occur in the future, so unless the game can damage the system or is virtually unplayable, it will not be taken out of production and off store shelves.



StarDust4Ever said:

This is precisely why Third party games don't sell as well as 1st party, because 83% of them are crap!



Supermarioman said:

No. Nintendo doesn't need to do this. Its not like the NES days when the market was unstable and Nintendo wanted to make sure they could prove that their games were quality and they looked at the games then to get their reputation. However now after they have cemented their reputation as a company they don't have to make sure what everyone makes is quality because its now up to the third party's to start determining if their games are quality or not, they need to stop leaning on "The Seal of Quality" as their crutch and make stuff thats worth crap. Also the shovelware is there for casual gamers because they will sell with casual gamers and they will usually enjoy the game even if in reality it is crap. Its not up to Nintendo how a developer makes their game and if its quality its simply if they are allowed on the console and Nintendo wants to let everyone try out their games are their system with its cheap costs to develop on and learn from their mistakes. The third party's need to learn form their own mistakes and start doing things on their own.



BulbasaurusRex said:

I don't think even (most) casual gamers put up with shovelware. Yes, they like things less complicated and may buy something based just on the box cover, but they still appeciate quality within that branch of games. Wii Fit wouldn't sell nearly as well if it were truly shovelware, as I believe that it does well at what it is designed to do, even if I think its design is no fun. They don't buy much outside of Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Play, Wii Music, Wii Fit, and Wii Fit Plus, anyway, although you could probably find some of them who also enjoy Mario Kart Wii.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Bulbasaurous Rex: Mario Kart Wii is INSANELY popular right alongside all the other games you metioned (save for Wii Music). After all, when you can't find a game that was release almost two full years ago because it keeps selling out, you can't help but get the impression that people like it.

@People saying the 3rd parties need to learn from their mistakes: But they AREN'T learning from their mistakes, which is the whole problem! They either continue publishing crap indefinitely or cut support for the console altogether, neither of which is benefitial to people who want quality gaming experiences on the Wii.

Do I think Nintendo can or should do much to combat that problem? Only in as much as games that are horribly broken (check out NLife's collection of games that scored 1-4 or so out of 10) shouldn't be allowed to release without some level of fixing. A wash of mediocre games is one thing, but the deluge of utter crap is appalling.



jellodog said:

I'll say this for the Wii: it's the only console my parents ever bought for themselves to play, and I think that is awesome. That said, they only have wii sports, wii fit, and Mario Kart, and no knowledge of online capabilities.
The wii brings me a lot of joy, and I like to share that. There are quite a few
excellent games on the wii that are a steal at their prices, especially if you buy used. My parents are fans of wii sports? I show them wii sports resort. I bought the sequel to Boom Blox? Give the original away. Mercury Meltdown revolution? $10.00, and anyone can play. When my nephews birthday swings around, he'll probably get Excitebots, then Zack and Wiki or Lego Batman for Christmas. The point is, show new gamers that there is probably something right up their alley. This is how we are going to kill off crap like Carnival games or Ninja bread man, or the whole petz thing. The problem with shovelware is that inexperienced gamers pick these up, realize they are crap, and stick with wii sports only, because they think all games are crap. Also, realize not all games are for everyone. My wife enjoys puzzle/ trivia games because she loves game shows, and because the wii remote cleverly mimics a tv remote.
Will she ever play a metroid or zelda title? No. A pinball game is a maybe, but the new endless ocean is a pretty safe bet. The potential I see in the Wii is it might just live up to it's name. We can play together,
and it's not about HD, headshots, and complaining that Nintendo is lazy. ... As a quick aside, at a recent family gathering, my bro-in-law, a 360/ps3 fan asked my WWII veteran grandfather if he wanted to "shoot some Nazis" on COD or something. My grandfather said "No son, I think I've killed enough Germans." That says it all.



Rerun said:

The Wii was meant to be a console for everyone. And everyone has different tastes. What may be shovelware to you and me might be gold to another gamer. I'm a big fan of SHMUPs, and I spent good money on getting Ikaruga. I have a friend who's a casual gamer who thought I lost my mind when I spent my money on a "stupid spaceship game". And what does he spend his money on . . . mini games!

I agree with jellodog. We, as gamers, have to do our part to help others enjoy their Wii by mathching them with a game that they'd like. I normally hang out in the local video game store and I talk to other people who buy games. I share my thoughts and recommendations and they end up buying the titles that I recommend. And more often than not, they thank me when I bump into them, sharing how much fun they had playing with the game that I recommended.

IMHO, Nintendo should be strict with Quality Control, focusing on the control and playability of the game. If they give the seal of approval, it means that the game is playable.

Shovelware wouldn't be much of a problem if Nintendo would have an actual DEMO system in place. Imagine if you could try really try out a game before you buy it. They did this on the WiiWare. Why not regular Wii titles?



Sean_Aaron said:

In in case it wasn't clear from the article I don't want to come off as slating entire genres of games and I certainly don't think that all games based upon movie/tv licenses are rubbish, but how many "Game Party" games can you have before they all start to look the same? Having five or six different collections of "beach sports" or "winter sports" titles does dilute the market and cause confusion.

The Wii is certainly a place where anyone open to playing games should be able to find something to enjoy. I'd just like to see Nintendo tighten that tap a little bit and put a stop to the cookie-cutter games we're seeing too much of.



JimLad said:

I think a bigger problem is the lack of advertising from 'quality' developers.
Gone is the age when you can just place your game on the shelf and wait for people to find it.

How you sell games: Gain a reputation by making something that blows people away, then hype either its sequel, the brand name, or your name.
Hype hype hype
The machine maybe sickening to think about, but it's what sells product these days, just look at the 360.



Slapshot said:

@Sean.... I think it was extremely clear. If anyone says that a 1st Party Nintendo title is horrid, they obviously dont know what they are talking about. Nintendo developed games (though they may not fit everyones playstyles) are always highly polished and extremely fun, yes (please dont faint those that have been around awhile) even Wii Music has its audience that loves it, because Miyamoto knew there was an audience for the title and he created it very well to serve it up to them. Nintendo titles deserve every bit of the Quality Stamp, its just the 3rd Party that doesnt....... by the way, I wonder how the 2nd Party Developers are doing these days?



jonas said:

what! you think the wii is ending like atari




Vizion28 said:

I am a firm supporter of the free market so I don't think Nintendo should implement any standards. The free market will eventually sort everything out. I heard huge retailets are giving up on stocking shovelware games because not many people are buying them they end up in bargain bin. I don't see shovelware as a potential catalyst for a game industry collapse when the top quality games on Wii are the best sellers (which mostly are Nintendo games). Even the Nes, PS, and PS2 had loads of shovelware but it was usually the top quality games that sold the most. Heck, even the DVD movie market has the equivalent of shovelware (you'd be surprise to see how many garbage movies are released every month) and that market has been doing well for years.



Willy105 said:

Giving Nintendo a reason to leash developers would end up making the third party publishers go away. Nintendo's super tough polices towards third parties is what caused publishers to leave Nintendo when Sony came out with their Playstation, which promised much better deals for publishers.

Now that Nintendo lifted their old ways, now they are being criticized with allowing shovelware into their systems.

There is a lot of gray area here, and it will take more than just exercising quality control to fix the issue.



PhazonBlue said:

I like to believe that every game is someones favorite. Who is Nintendo to judge what should be released as long as it works? Now, if it's broken then that is one thing. But what I personally think the Nintendo Seal of Quality represents is knowing that when you buy a game you know it will work and that the game is not broken. There are two different definitions of quality; What Works and what is Broken or what is Good and what is Bad. The first is a matter of opinion, the second is not. How many games on the Wii are actually broken? Bad game or not, it deserves a chance. Look at the movie industry, for example, there are hundreds of movies that suck and get slammed by critics. But I promise you, someone, somewhere loves the movie.

Dilution creates Innovation. It causes developers to do something different if they want to stick out and make any money.



BulbasaurusRex said:

@PhazonBlue I disagree. I think there are some games that nobody, not even casual gamers, will honestly enjoy even without being broken to the point of unplayability. There may not be many numerically at first glance, but comparitively to other current and past consoles since the Atari 2600, there's so many that this issue has come up.



Big_A2 said:

@2.Golgo: "Now it's the biggest entertainment industry on the planet, apart from pornography of course"

I'm 100 percent sure that it isn't. Bigger than film? Music? Television? Come on.



DavidAxel said:

Most definately I've purchased alot of crappy games sadly. The ones I have that are decent are all offical nintendo games though



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Big A2: Well...I think it was the year before last that the video game industry raked in more cash than the home movie (primarily DVD, but also Blu-Ray) industry, which I'm pretty sure has been bigger than music for a while now (though I could be wrong). TV is, of course, difficult to quantify since people don't pay for it on an easy-to-measure scale (especially those of us without cable, who don't really pay at all save for electricity and whatnot).

Of course, that's a big fat nitpick any way about it. Golgo's point was that gaming is HUGE and can handle the shovelware better than it could in the 80's, which is true. Same way, as it's been said in these comments, that there are loads of crap movies released every year.

That said, it's still discouraging that the majority of the real crap games all seem to be on Wii, and good games have difficulty selling. That's far less of a problem even on DS, and I don't get why the Wii's taking so much longer than the DS to reach the point of balance.



Wardy said:

The Wii suffers from more than just bad games. Online play is the new wave of gaming and it seems like there is little support. I don't play online so I could be wrong. I think the controller limits what can be done too. Metroid Corruption is a great game but my wrist is killing me after 90 minutes of playing. The gripe with Nintendo over the years is that it's a kid's toy. There can be a balance. Not every game has to have gore in it, but some explosive action games would be nice. Yes, there have been bad games throughout time, but nothing interesting is coming out. Some of the games I see in the stores make me wonder who would buy this crap. I like the ReBirth's and all that, but it would be nice to see some franchises get the "Mega Man 9" treatment for lack of a better term. Produce some new 8 and 16 bit games to draw in the people in their 20's and 30's. Why is Nintendo always a step behind the industry standard? I own every Nintendo home console, but only own a GC and Wii for the first party games. I'd like to see the quality control be stepped up as well.

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