It may be hardcore, but does that mean high sales?

With past ‘hardcore’ failures like No More Heroes, House of Dead: Overkill and (more recently) Madworld, the Wii is getting a reputation for being a casual gamers’ machine first and foremost.

This certainly doesn’t bode well for Sega’s upcoming FPS title The Conduit. Developer High Voltage Software has gone to great lengths to stress that this is a game for ‘proper gamers’, not the soccer moms introduced to the Wii by the allure of Wii Sports and Wii Fit.

However, does The Conduit have what it takes to break the trend of ‘core’ experiences selling poorly on Nintendo’s platform?

Writing for Gamastura, games designer Ian Fisch (previously of Gameloft, Pyro Studios, and Nerjyzed Entertainment) makes the compelling point that although many dedicated gamers own a Wii, they also own a PS3 and Xbox 360, which makes it more difficult for ‘hardcore’ Wii titles to get the attention they deserve:

Assuming hardcore gamers own the Wii, it seems odd that hardcore games on the platform are not selling better. Perhaps the answer is that hardcore gamers do not exist in a vacuum. Hardcore gamers who own the Wii are also likely to own either a PS3, an Xbox360, or a suped-up PC.

When a hardcore Wii game is released, it doesn't only compete against other Wii games; it competes against all games. So MadWorld isn't just competing against Disaster: Day of Crisis. It's competing against Ninja Gaiden 2 and Grand Theft Auto 4. Suddenly it doesn’t stand out quite as much.

It’s a valid argument, and with this knowledge in mind, Fisch seems skeptical of The Conduit’s chances at retail:

The game has been viewed as a symbol of hope for hardcore Wii developers for a long time now…yet when compared to Gears of War 2, it looks like a heavyweight bout between Evander Hollyfield and Tiger Woods.

The Conduit aims to be a very competent shooter, but one that wouldn’t look out of place on the original Xbox. It doesn't seem to bring anything new to the table - at least nothing that can be communicated through video or screenshots…by virtue of being on the Wii, it has to overcome a huge graphical disadvantage as well as the disadvantage of having to utilize the Wii’s lackluster online matchmaking system. Sad as it is, I can't think of any reason why a hardcore gamer would choose to buy The Conduit instead of its competition.

However, before you pick up your pitchforks and set out in the direction of Fisch’s house in an angry mob, it’s worth noting that it’s not all doom and gloom from his perspective:

So is it possible for a hardcore game to be a sales success on Wii? I would say yes…one advantage the Wii has is that anything on the Wii that aims for the hardcore audience will get more press coverage than it would if it were launching on another console. If a game like The Conduit were to be developed for Xbox360, it would probably be unknown. By virtue of being on the Wii, it will probably grace a few magazine covers.

Another advantage is that a Wii game can get great reviews with lower-budget graphics since reviewers tend to compare Wii games to other Wii games. There is a real opportunity for launching a successful hardcore game on the Wii. It just takes the right idea.

It should be noted that Fisch himself is merely putting this forward as a ‘theory’ and there’s every chance that The Conduit could sell like cakes that are exceedingly hot, but you have to admit his point of view does carry a tremendous amount of weight – especially when you consider the high-profile ‘hardcore’ casualties that the Wii has experienced so far.

And of course let’s not forget that retail sales often have no bearing whatsoever on the overall quality of the game…