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Videogame Child Support

posted on January 3rd, 2008 by christian

Here is another article lamenting of the poor sales of Zak and Wiki on the Wii, courtesy of Blend Games.

Since many here at Videolamer have also advocated everyone to buy the game, I appreciate Blend’s promotion, as well as their warning that the game is starting to vanish from some shelves already. I am not so sure about their mentioning of a hot, sexy villain if they are referring to the girl pictured on that page, but no big deal. The important thing is that I am here to tell you that I did not buy Zak and Wiki yet, and I do not feel very bad about it. Or rather, I am not sure if I should.

You see, supporting the best of the lesser known releases during a year is a responsibility I take a little too seriously, often buying a game just for the initial sales number regardless of how much I may like it. Last year alone I picked up Odin Sphere, The Red Star, King of Fighters XI, Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, and Persona 3, none of which sold nearly as well as they should have, but have all turned out to be very good games in their own ways.

But when Zak and Wiki rolled around, I had no job, and couldn’t afford it. Then a job came, and I had bills to pay. Then the bills were semi-cleared, and the holidays rolled around with a boatload of good games to try out. Zak and Wiki had one glimmer of hope of being bought in ’07, and it was squashed once KOF XI got a concrete release in November. Now it is early ’08 and I have no reason to be buying new games for a very long time. Zak and Wiki will have to wait much longer, possibly until it is too late.

It is asinine to feel bad about not buying a game, and yet that is how I feel. Did I really have to support a bumbling company like SNK twice in a year? Did I really have to buy Odin Sphere just because its 2d graphics were pretty? Most importantly, why the hell did the guy who dislikes Final Fantasy spend thirty bucks on FF12 in a tin case? The answers to these questions all boil down to one principle; Capcom could not meet me halfway. I knew what I was getting from SNK’s games. I knew that Red Star would be a good old school game. Hell, I even figured out that Odin Sphere might have an interesting combat system when it got a few glances by the mainstream gaming press. As for FF12, I am afraid that anything blessed by the hands on Matsuno becomes a must buy for me.

With Zak and Wiki, I knew nothing. Hell, I didn’t even know of its existence until two weeks before the release. I didn’t know just how much of an adventure game it was until reading this article from Blend Games. Capcom put no weight behind this game, which is criminal considering they had the means to do so. Instead I had to rely on my favorite indie sites and word of mouth among friends to learn anything about the game, which is not a bad thing, but isn’t always reliable or timely (I know most of the VL writers were busy as hell in the year’s final stretch). If Capcom did more to make me want this game, I am positive it would be in my library.

No matter what, we should do our best to spread the word about this game, and I can at least ride on the coattails of others (“I didn’t buy it but my friends did”). At the same time we should continue to pursue the games we want most, while also realizing that, for now, one small budget game’s failure will not be the catalyst for the Wii minigame rush. Supporting smaller games is a great way to help the industry and stay entertained, but we cannot place the full burden on each of our selves.

11 Comments

  1. Stefan said on January 3, 2008:

    Aside from the larger economic issues involved, I have to say you’re really just cheating yourself. It’s one of the most fun games I’ve played in years, and reminds me a lot of the old Gobliiins series from sierra. It’s currently sitting in my wii because I couldn’t finish Mario Galaxy without wanting to go back to Zak and Wiki and do another puzzle, and that’s saying something.

  2. christian said on January 3, 2008:

    Considering I have a maxed out credit card, new student loans to pay and other things, I would say that yeah, I have financial considerations to think of. That is pretty much the end of story. The game isn’t being bought for a while.

    I know I had a chance previously, but Capcom squandered their chance, and no one could tell me much about the game aside from “its fun”, when I need a little bit more than that.

    So, yeah. I can’t cheat myself out of something that I can’t afford, and for the longest time was a relative unknown. Why am I being berated again? It isn’t like I am protesting it on some strange principle. In fact neither one of them are true. And for my tastes it certainly isn’t like I have bypassed it for games of poor quality.

  3. pat said on January 4, 2008:

    i agree with both of you. stefan is right that the game offers a terrific experience. its a bit dissonant that such tricky puzzles can be wrapped in such a childish exterior, but maybe thats part of the game’s charm.

    on the other hand, christian is right that capcom screwed the pooch in promoting this game. it is frustrating to feel you have to support a game its own publisher doesnt seem to support. i learned about it from jay shortly before it came out. i bought it partially to support one of the only quality third party efforts on the wii, but also because it seemed like something i would like.

  4. Shota said on January 4, 2008:

    Jesus Christ on a cracker! You guys are really jizzing over this game arntcha?

    There is a sick part of me that wants to go buy this game right now even though I don’t own a wii, just so it can sit there on my shelf a for a few months until i get the console.

  5. TrueTallus said on January 10, 2008:

    I’ve had collector’s remorse before, but I’m not sure how much I can relate to underdog’s champion’s remorse. Forget the poets and their gold plated ivory towers, christian, you don’t owe Capcom or the world of great quirky games jack! :) It’ll undoubtedly resurface at some point when you have actual money to spend, so long as you keep checking bargain bins.

  6. Stefan said on January 23, 2008:

    I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this, and had a discussion with Jay the other day about it. Because part of me vehemently agrees with TrueTallus and Christian that you don’t owe Capcom squat, and the idea that your video game habits should be chosen based on maximizing future economic success for corporations seems like one of the least fun things ever, completely missing the point that you’re buying games.

    On the other hand, refusing to buy a game that you think you’re going to like simply because someone told you you had an obligation to buy it is also missing the point of gaming. It reminds me of a friend’s little brother who decided after high school that the best way to escape from the capitalist obsession with money was to obsessively purge all money from his life and structure it so that he never used or received money. The hypothetical person refusing to buy a game on those grounds is basing their choice on something other than fun and enjoyment, and allowing corporate futures to define their purchasing habits just as much as if they were buying it out of obligation.

    The point I wanted to make in my original comment – and I’m not sure if it came through very well – is that you shouldn’t be thinking about Capcom, you should be thinking about the game. When you find out about a good game that you think you’d like, and if you can afford it, then go get it, because to do otherwise is cheating yourself out of the enjoyment it offers. If you can’t, then pick it up when you can afford it…assuming you haven’t found out about a better game (or other use for that money) in the meantime.

    I think we can better maximize our own happiness by making sure we hear about a wider variety of games, but even then there should never be a sense of obligation in this hobby. We do this for fun, and that’s why they’re called games.

  7. Shota said on January 23, 2008:

    Hi Stef,

    RE: “We do this for fun, and that’s why they’re called games.”

    I’m split on this. On one side your post makes sense to me. On the other, the last sentence, which ultimately gets to your true point, aggressively conflicts with my desire to take videogames seriously. (Assuming of course that there is a conflict between ‘games’ and ‘seriously.’) I approach videogames as I do any other artistic medium. I think that is the only way to approach it if you are ‘serious’ about them. And if you are not serious about them then I’m not going to listen to your opinion about gaming.

    Approaching videogames as a potentially artistic medium allows me to treat it with the same standards I might apply to any other aesthetic forms of expressions. This brings me to the point about ‘owing’ something to Capcom… Indulge an analogy for a sec…

    I think Phillip Roth is the best living American author. It is widely acknowledged that his later novels are not up to par compared to his earlier works. Does this mean I should not read them? Does this mean I do not owe Phillip Roth the purchase of his latest book? I think the answer is: it depends on how serious I am about Phillip Roth. If I consider myself a student of literature, you are god damned right I ‘owe’ it to myself, more than anyone else, to buy the latest Roth no matter the quality or anything other aspect. We are talking about an investigation, an acquisition of knowledge here. Faulkners first three novels sucked balls (that’s a literarily term they teach you at ivy league U’s, btw) does that mean that I should not read them, if only to see what it was that greatness emerged out of. Nonsense. You can make similar points about any artistic form. As a film student I can’t say: “I’m not going to see ‘Eyes Wide Shut” because it’s not as great/fun as 2001 and I don’t owe Kubrick shit.” The same concept applies to video games:

    IF I am serious about gaming you bet your ass I am virtually obligated to buy games from those developers I consider great: Blackilse, Obsidian, Capcom…etc.

    Taking shit seriously and obligation go hand in hand.

  8. jay said on January 23, 2008:

    Stef, as I said last night, my position is that if a game is good and the developer is in a position where they may never make another similar title, I will ask people to buy it now.

    No More Heroes according to all reviews I’ve read should be played. Your response was you don’t want to be asked to buy it now. Back on the PS2 I bought used games years after they came out, but I also didn’t fear developers would stop supporting the system.

    A good Wii game needs support, and it needs it now because, for example, Zack and Wiki has already dropped in price some places. Yes Christian, if you buy it now you’ll have fun but it won’t mean anything to Capcom. You don’t owe Capcom, you owe yourself and if you want more cool games like Zack and Wiki buying it when it matters is the best approach.

    I think the idea of “owing” is misunderstood. I don’t mean it in the way Shota means it, though I can see how I’d agree with him on a few specific designers. I mean it and I think most people mean it from the selfish perspective. Like I said, if you support things that are good you end up getting more good things (in theory). Notice no one has started a Dewy’s Adventure campaign or told you that you owe it to Konami to buy that game. It’s crappy so no one thinks you should support it because it’d only encourage more crappy games. And as soon as Capcom puts out crappy Wii games I’ll tell you to not buy them.

  9. pat said on January 23, 2008:

    this is an issue i have thought about a lot as well, and i really think that there is no “right” way to handle it. i personally believe that since companies decide what games to make based on what games have sold well the least i can do is contribute one purchase. ultimately im buying games i want anyway (almost by definition) so its not really much of a sacrifice.

    interesting point from shota actually. i had never thought of it that way, but i like the idea

  10. Stefan said on January 24, 2008:

    I think Shota has effectively undone my argument, to be honest. At least the way I had phrased it, because I do think video games have the potential to be a serious and recognized art form. It still seems, however, that there is a difference between the seriousness that Shota is talking about and the way that Jay is using the word, so I’m going to give it another shot.

    Shota’s seriousness is still focused on the content and experience of the game, and Jay’s seriousness is more meta-level, using the games as a means to an end, with the focus on it as a tool to apply towards the production of more games, rather than the understanding of a complex work.

    Overall, what Jay is saying seems less like the idea that you should buy a Phillip Roth work because you are a student of his works, and more like the argument that you should buy a first printing of said book because it will accomplish the goal of keeping Houghton Mifflin’s hardback production profitable. I like hardbound books, but something about me dislikes the reduction of books or games into tools; however that’s probably oversimplifying and I’m sure Jay can point out the flaws in that hasty metaphor.

  11. Shota said on January 24, 2008:

    Stef, if that’s what Jay is saying (and I’ll let him tell me if it is) then he is wrong. Who gives a shit about the peddler, it’s the author I’m supporting. I don’t care who sells me the drug (providing the equity of prices) i’m grateful to the chemist who thought it up.

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