The lead developer behind "Mushroom Men" tells me about the opportunities and the setbacks of making Wii games for a hardcore crowd -- and takes a shot at "Deadly Creatures."
Released in early December by Gamecock, "Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars" garnered praise for its audio (by Primus' Les Claypool), visuals, overall presentation, and a lot of times, for simply being a Wii title that isn't a mini-game collection.
I asked Dan Borth, CEO and creative director of developer Red Fly Studio, how he thought his game would do amidst a landscape where more casual and family fare, like "Wii Fit" and "Carnival Games," tops the sales charts. Here are his responses via e-mail:
MTV Multiplayer: Why do you think "Mushroom Men" will sell? Do you think it will be a hard sell amongst the "Wii Fit" folks?
Borth: I don't know if "Mushroom Men" will sell –- that is not up to us. I certainly hope it will. Traditionally, launching a new [intellectual property] on the Wii is difficult, and since it is also our very first game and we are a brand new studio, the deck is stacked against us. We could get lost in the holiday shuffle and among the shovel wear, but ultimately it is up to our publisher [Gamecock Media Group, recently acquired by SouthPeak Interactive] to make sure people know about the game.
I think that the "Wii Fit" crowd is a much different group. "Mushroom Men" is a throwback to old-school platfomers with some simple combat focusing on a new and amazing world to explore.
MTV Multiplayer: Why do you think that there aren't many games aimed at hardcore gamers on the Wii?
Borth: When initially released, [Nintendo] seemed as if they were purposely going after a more casual market. Once publishers (and developers) realized the hysteria that followed, a lot of shovel wear was thrown at the system that would turn any proper hardcore gamer off. But the system is capable of doing some tremendous things, and there is definitely enough of gamers out there who are eager for some real games. For an indie developer, it is actually a great platform to introduce a new IP. We hope that Nintendo supports more third-party developers so quality content can be added to their console.
MTV Multiplayer: Why do you think third-party "hardcore" games haven't sold that well on the Wii so far? Do you think this is related to the lack of such games for the console in general?
Borth: Totally a lack of the games. You hear of consumers "wanting to dust off" their Wii for a good reason. I think that if Nintendo and publishers put a valiant effort in properly supporting developers to create great games, there could definitely be an increase of "hardcore" games on the console. And, at the end of the day, they will have to sell at retail. At the moment, if you look on the store shelves and watch what people are picking up, there aren't a lot hardcore gamers in Wal-mart and Target buying games at any rate to make a significant impact, so it is the wacky games that get bought. That and many of the Wii owners own other consoles, and right now they are the folks playing "Call of Duty," "Fallout," "Gears of War," etc.
MTV Multiplayer: In making "Mushroom Men," how do you bridge the "core" gamer and the casual Wii user? Do you feel like it's difficult to appeal to both?
Borth: We made "Mushroom Men" accessible so that anyone should be able to pick it up and play. There are a lot of intricate bits of gameplay that should appeal to the core gamers. We didn't have a specific goal to target one segment of gamer over another, but more a design philosophy built around making something fun. I think we lean a bit more to the core gamer side, but at the same time, we've seen the way people are able to just pick it up and play. Also, having the second Wiimote active to help the player is fun for little brothers/sisters and girlfriend/boyfriends. Really, I think it is more rewarding to play something that is a comprehensive game experience with a solid story and fun gameplay.
MTV Multiplayer: Have you seen or heard about THQ's upcoming "Deadly Creatures"? It's also a Wii title aimed at core gamers with the same perspective of tiny protagonists in a big world. What are your thoughts on it?
Borth: I have heard about "Deadly Creatures." I have many opinions on that game, especially how it came into being right after THQ received our pitch document for "Mushroom Men." I will let you draw your own conclusions.