Talking Point: The Critical Importance of Black Ops 2
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
CoD always sells
For those of you that follow gaming news beyond Nintendo, one title has been dominating all headlines: Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The Activision behemoth has been everywhere, grabbing attention ahead of a 'global reveal' and then accounting for the bulk of news stories on many multi-platform websites in the aftermath. While it's tempting to be cynical about the breadth of coverage, and some may lament that the series is as unbelievably popular as it is, it’s a reality of these gaming times. Any game with Call of Duty in the title will dominate headlines, public attention and, ultimately, software charts.
Why haven’t we been covering the title on Nintendo Life? One simple reason: the much publicised announcement confirmed Xbox 360 and PS3 as platforms, but no mention of Nintendo formats. The only notable rumour that appears to suggest a version on Wii U is from Norwegian website pressfire.no. A basic translation of a section discussing Nintendo attributes Mark Lamia of Treyarch hinting at further console announcements, with mention of a ‘long tradition’ of working on Nintendo consoles. That could mean a Wii version, of course, but Wii U is far more likely.
When considered from a perspective of maximising interest and sales, it seems vital for Wii U to have its own version of Black Ops II, simply because it will likely be the highest profile game title in November; the same month that will in all probability herald the arrival of Wii U. Nintendo will no doubt attract plenty of attention of its own, as it’ll undoubtedly have a major marketing push and, we hope, major launch titles of its own to capture the imagination. Yet, if it’s truly Nintendo’s intention that these consoles will aim to accommodate so-called ‘core’ gamers, then should the Call of Duty series be front and centre in that effort?
Nintendo gamers have become accustomed to an entirely different games catalogue from those on the rival systems.
It’s clear, from what we know so far, that some major third party series that have previously skipped Wii will be arriving on Wii U: Assassin’s Creed III, Darksiders II and Aliens: Colonial Marines are all on the way, with many more either confirmed or strongly hinted. The big test for many of these titles, and by extension Nintendo, is how they will succeed on the Wii U platform. By November the Wii will have been on the market for six years, a lengthy period during which many cross-platform titles have either skipped Nintendo entirely, or in the case of many of those that did arrive Wii will have represented the smallest market share. Nintendo gamers have become accustomed to an entirely different games catalogue from those on the rival systems. Does the current Nintendo consumer base care about Black Ops II and titles like it, and will Wii U realistically attract fans of these titles away from their Xbox 360 or PS3?
One argument is that those issues aren’t important, that what counts is that Wii U owners have the choice of buying these major releases. There’s also the possibility that the concept of Wii U, which will surely be fully realised and shared at E3, will win over some who are attracted by a new, potentially innovative, gaming gadget. If some of these ‘Triple A’ titles accompany Wii U in its opening weeks and months, it may help to entice gamers who were driven away by the Wii’s modest capabilities or motion-controls, as well as those of us simply attracted by the fact that it’s a new Nintendo console.
Also important in convincing gamers to try the Wii U version of Black Ops II, or other high-profile releases, will be demonstrating that Nintendo’s system improves or enhances the experience of the title in way that cannot be matched by competitors. It’ll be all about the new controller, which will bring dual-stick controls alongside motion controls, NFC capabilities and that all-important screen. In the case of CoD titles, the second screen could be used for more imaginative uses than managing items and weapons, but also for alternative viewpoints and aerial perspectives when in the midst of a battle, as one example. FPS titles in particular will be ideal for not only the controller but also, of course, the Wii Remote pointer controls, so Wii U may represent the merging of both worlds in the eyes of the consumer. The focus is surely on developers, with assistance from Nintendo if necessary, to make the most of the gaming opportunities that Wii U possesses.
Back to the important question: does Wii U need Call of Duty: Black Ops II? In terms of whether the title will be integral to the console’s success, the answer is "probably not." The Wii enjoyed around four years of unmatched dominance without taking much of a share of the annual Call of Duty bonanza. With that said, Wii U will no doubt benefit from as many major third-party titles as possible, and at present they don’t get any bigger than the Call of Duty series. In fact, the last 12 months of declining Wii sales and popularity perhaps serves as a warning, that a console without a regular stream of big third-party hits will struggle to maintain success. Nintendo may be the master of its systems, consistently producing the finest gaming experiences itself, but in an increasingly competitive gaming market it may struggle to do all of the work on its own.
Black Ops II will be on a lot of gamers' minds in the coming months, as the hype rises through multiple levels of madness. If E3 or any other event unveils a Wii U version that boasts unique gameplay features incorporating the new controller it certainly wouldn’t hurt launch sales. With Sony and Microsoft planning their own next-generation consoles, Nintendo would be wise to quickly win over not only its established supporters, but also those more interested in CoD than Mario.
What do you think? Are titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops II going to be important to Wii U, or will Microsoft and Sony continue to be the home of those titles? Let us know in the comments below.