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Interview: Will GoldenEye Bring Out Wii's Core Potential?

Can the upcoming GoldenEye remake bridge the gap between casual and core shooter fans on Wii? Activision's Juilan Widdows explains the challenge in capturing "the rest of the core audience" on Nintendo's console.
Now in its fourth year, the Wii's target demographic is abundantly clear -- it's a console for the masses with a library primarily aimed at a more casual audience. While it has turned out to be a brilliant move for Nintendo overall, some Wii software publishers have had a difficult time drawing core gamers away from Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, particularly in the highly-competitive first-person shooter genre. But the recently-announced GoldenEye 007 James Bond remake for Wii from Activision and Eurocom might strike a unique balance between hardcore and the so-called "casual" audience. Released in 1997 on N64, Rare's original GoldenEye 007 was a shooter staple for hardcore gamers, who dumped massive amounts of time into four-player split-screen deathmatches and a memorable single-player game. For many of those hardcore gamers, the GoldenEye name -- and the nostalgia that comes with it -- is tied closely to Nintendo. And with the new game releasing in 2010 as a Wii exclusive, shooter fans might give the casual-focused machine a second look. Or at least that's what Activision GoldenEye producer Julian Widdows is hoping. "I think there's an awareness within Nintendo as well as in Activision that the Wii has potential that hasn't been realized yet, and that's [capturing] the rest of the core audience," Widdows said in a phone interview with Gamasutra. "Talking to Nintendo, one of the reasons why they have the Classic Controller Pro was to make the platform more accessible to the core gamer. Some might not necessarily want to play a core gaming experience with a Wii Remote." Core gamers may appreciate GoldenEye's compatibility with the more traditional dual-stick Classic Controller, but the potential problems selling the new GoldenEye to core gamers go deeper than the control scheme. First-person shooters generally just don't sell well on the platform, particularly when compared to FPS games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Widdows acknowledged that challenge. "It's something that we're aware of, but it's not a concern," he said. "We're confident that [GoldenEye] holds such a special place in gamers' hearts and gaming history, it's not only going to attract people who game, but attract more people wholesale." Activision is aiming for a less-restrictive Teen rating for the title, which could broaden the audience. Asked why FPS games struggle on Wii, despite the console's seemingly point-and-shoot-friendly interface, Widdows said, "I think there are a few factors. One of the reasons is the core games genre. It doesn't necessarily have that massively wide casual appeal, it's for a certain type of gamer." He added, "Cross-platform ownership is pretty significant, so a lot of those gamers have Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii at the same time. So they have to have a reason to come to the game on the Wii. That's the reason why cross-platform shooters haven't necessarily been all that successful on the Wii. When [core gamers] have a choice of which platform to buy a game for, they don't necessarily choose Wii if they've got all three consoles." "People have a very good reason to come to [Wii]. It's the only place you can get a GoldenEye experience in 2010," he said, suggesting a single-console release could actually benefit the game's appeal. Talks about reviving GoldenEye came around about about two years ago, Widdows said. Eurocom worked on the generally well-received Xbox, GameCube and PS2 game James Bond 007: Nightfire, released in 2002. The experience made the studio a natural selection for a new James Bond game. "It was one of those ideas that began to gain traction pretty quickly. ... The conversation was quite an easy one, and it just picked up pace there," said Widdows. "On everyone's mind is ... incredible excitement but a paralyzing fear of making a wrong decision, because you are [updating] a much-beloved franchise." "With GoldenEye, we're walking such, such a fine line between delivering something that's appropriately nostalgic and something that's an appropriate and contemporary gaming experience," he said.

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