A sequel to Bayonetta is in development at Platinum games. Bayonetta is surely one of the studio’s more popular titles, so this is not so strange. What is strange is that this game is being produced and published by Nintendo, and is releasing exclusively on the Wii U. At the time of announcement many reactions were pretty extreme, both positive and negative. Having given the dust a few months to settle, our crack team of writers set to breaking down this unusual move and discovered that our analysis didn’t line up at all. In the interest of giving you the best, most well rounded video game commentary possible, two of us put our thoughts into writing responding to the three questions below.
Will Bayonetta 2 sell?
Ethan Morris’s take:
Of course it won’t. Bayonetta was a difficult M rated multiplatform game in a niche genre starring a female. Now let’s take that formula, slap a 2 on it, and make it exclusive to just one console – hey, how about we make it Nintendo’s new console to make things interesting. You know, that console that all the core game enthusiasts who might be interested in such a release have been flocking to. The successor to the one console that Bayonetta wasn’t on.
We don’t have hard data confirming the numbers that Bayonetta moved, but we don’t need it. We know that Bayonetta 2 is coming, and it’s not being published by SEGA. That means that SEGA (which most certainly held first claim on any Bayonetta franchise games) passed on it. This is the same SEGA that just released Anarchy Reigns at $30. Yeah, they thought Bayonetta 2 was a worse proposition than that. And remember, they passed on a game that likely would have been multiplatform for two consoles that are in the homes of far more Bayonetta fans than the Wii U is.
Colin Dettmar’s take:
It might, actually. Bayonetta was an original IP by a relatively untested studio with a pretty crappy PS3 build, and it still sold nearly a million and a half copies. That’s not incredible, but that’s not peanuts. SEGA offered Bayonetta almost no promotional support, too- Nintendo has already given Bayonetta 2 more PR support than SEGA did the first.
That’s not to mention that sequels sell better than the original pretty much as a rule. I could cite stats for this, but I’m pretty sure we all agree on that point. Bayonetta was an unknown the first time around- since then, it has become synonymous with stylish, over-the-top action. So it might sell. It might. I guess we’ll see. And yeah, let’s put a lot of confidence in SEGA’s assessment of a game’s value, because Sonic ’06 sure broke the bank.
Will Bayonetta 2 have symbolic power, and if so, to what end?
Ethan Morris’s take:
Well this is a silly question (I definitely didn’t write these questions). Of course Bayonetta 2 is symbolic. This game is not the sort of game Nintendo normally likes to associate itself with, much less fund the development of and distribute. It’s unlikely to make much (if any) money as a product either, so why on earth did this deal get cut? And while we’re asking that, why did the game get announced before there was anything to show in an era when Nintendo is loath to show anything but Zelda more than a few months before release?
The answer to both these questions is: because the game is a statement. That statement is “We, Nintendo, are willing to put our money where our mouth is and secure high quality third party exclusives in genres and styles we haven’t historically had much to offer in.” If the core consumers who bring that wonderfully high software to hardware attach ratio with them believe this statement and buy Wii Us, Nintendo could benefit by attracting all sorts of multiplatform games to their device that might otherwise not have shown up. The recent DmC springs to mind as just the sort of game that Nintendo wants on their hardware.
So will it work? Will the symbolic value of this game end up justifying its existence if (when) sales of the actual product are low? That going to be an awfully tough thing to quantitatively measure but really there’s an easy way to tell. Just ask yourself this – if I want to play the best action games, great M rated games, the cream of video gaming’s over the top violent crop do I think I need to buy a Wii U?
I sure wouldn’t recommend it.
Colin Dettmar’s take:
Bayonetta 2 is a powerful symbol. It wouldn’t be enough for Nintendo to take a series like Devil May Cry and get a new entry on the Wii U- Devil May Cry has never had a sales problem. It’s a pretty decently popular series. What does it prove to get a game that you know will sell on your system? That’s not exactly taking a risk. But Bayonetta 2, a game that we’renot sure will sell well? It’s a master stroke. It says “we’re serious about this- quality is more important than profit to us.” It says “we’re willing to take risks to get more quality content.”
And no one needs to say that more than Nintendo. With games like the New Super Mario Bros series, Zelda Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and more, Nintendo is the definition of playing it safe these days. Granted, when they do something, they do it damned well… and then they keep doing it years after everyone else has moved on. Nintendo needs to change that narrative. Nintendo needs to become the risk takers on a software side, for the first time since…well, ever. Even back in the 8 bit days SEGA was the one who was all “xtreme”. Nintendo has always been conservative. This is their chance to become the guys who will try new ideas.
As far as asking yourself if you’d buy a Wii U upon hearing this news… I’m gonna assume you didn’t buy a PS3 at launch, did you? There was nothing to buy yet. At launch, the PS3 did not look like it would be the destination for hardcore action games. It looked like it could barely handle Ridge Racer. Projecting a console’s future from how its launch goes is pretty foolish if you ask me. Look at how the PS2 turned out- and in case you’ve forgotten, those launch games sucked.
Am I interested in Bayonetta 2?
Ethan Morris’s take:
Absolutely not. I am a Wii U owner, but I am not a combat game enthusiast. I have purchased Devil May Cry, Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition, and Viewtiful Joe. These games are, in the eyes of genre fans, very well made games that appropriately challenge the player and reward them handsomely for developing the necessary skills to beat them. I do not like any of these games. My experience with each of these games is identical – start the game, watch the opening cutscene and kind of like it, beat the first level and kind of like it, and then die over and over on the second level and decide not to play any longer. Bayonetta is a franchise in this same genre, and from some of the same talent. It is not made for me, or maybe it’s that I am not made for it. Whichever way one chooses to look at it, I wouldn’t have fun and won’t spend my money.
Even beyond that, I’m not really into games starring fetish models wearing a dynamically changing outfits that never quite reveals unmentionables… oh yeah, and is made out of her own hair. Maybe if the game was in a genre I like I would be willing to put up with this protagonist on a handheld, where I would have my own private screen to hide the shameful spectacle away on. Sure, Nintendo’s producing and publishing this so it’s fair to imagine that things may not get so graphic this time around, but I’m not really swayed by an argument of “It might not be quite AS explicit this time around.”
And I hear you, commentariat of the internet. I know that the Wii U provides it’s own built in private screen to hide racy material away on… but I would rather buy a game that I didn’t need to be ashamed of playing at all!
Colin Dettmar’s take:
You’re darn right I am. I am an action gamer at heart. I bleed Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden (which makes it really strange getting a blood transfusion, let me tell you). I picked up Bayonetta shortly after release, and I was blown away. The action was fantastic, the art style was imaginative, and the tone was lighthearted and thoroughly enjoyable. It was with regret that I finished the game, in fact, because I was pretty confident that I would never see another entry in the series. That reveal at the Nintendo conference had me reeling.
I also think there is value in seuxalization, believe it or not. Bayonetta does have some fetishistic content, and it’s not particularly my bag, but it handles it well for a video game. The sexualization of Bayonetta herself is not an attempt to demean her, as it so often is in games. Indeed, it’s an attempt to empower her. Bayonetta is a woman that knows she’s sexy, enjoys being sexy, and is confident, capable, and strong. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all. It would be fine to dial it back a bit, but Nintendo, you need to keep some of it- it’s who she is.
My problem with Bayonetta 2 is that it’s a Wii U game, and I don’t give a good god damn about the Wii U. But hey, we’ll see what happens. If nothing else, it’ll probably get ported eventually.