I don't believe I've ever mentioned Super Meat Boy here before, but I have been quietly following it. For those just now catching up, it's a charming little independent game created by Team Meat in which a bloody cube of walking meat must traverse hair-rippingly challenging levels in order to rescue his girlfriend from the twisted Dr. Fetus. It's a fun throwback to a simpler era of gaming, but don't let its 2D side-scrolling roots fool you. It's hard. Damn hard. It's out there for the Microsoft Xbox 360 and PC as a downloadable game, but Team Meat has been working on bringing the game to Nintendo's WiiWare service and to retail in a limited capacity. Word has it now that neither of the latter releases may happen. See, as Kotaku reports, the developers cannot get the game's file size down under Nintendo's limit for WiiWare games without artistically compromising it, and no third-party publisher wants to take a chance on it. Here's some of the details:
Team Meat's struggles to pare down Super Meat Boy delayed its originally planned November release. The indie developer said it was able to get the file to 50 megabytes then, but 40 megabytes is the WiiWare cap, and the sacrifices made to get the game there left creators Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes unhappy with the game's quality.
"It's mostly music," McMillen told Kotaku this evening. "We got it close to 40 (MB), but we only have five music tracks, one retro and one boss, and no cutscene music. ... The cut scenes might as well not be there, and if you beat the game, I'm sure you know the final cutscene needs a musical score, to have any impact at all."
McMillen said Team Meat "blindly assumed we could submit a bit higher. ... We assumed we might get a 5 to 10 megabyte addition." He noted that the discussions with Nintendo were not adversarial. "We loved working with them," he said. So they're pursuing leads on publishing a retail disc, but the prospects are not good.
"So far, the three biggest [publishers contacted by Team Meat] say there's no money in third-party retail (on the Wii)," McMillen told Kotaku, "but we are still asking."
While Nintendo does support the indie development scene, it can be a difficult beast to work with sometimes. The company imposes file size limits for a reason and it's not easy for a small developer like Team Meat to get an exception. As for a retail release, I'm not surprised that publishers are balking. Super Meat Boy is not a game for the casual market in any way, shape, or form. I've been playing 2D side-scrollers nearly my entire life and it's almost too much for me at times (and a few days into playing it on PC, I'm stuck on a level in World 2 already). Publishers see dollar signs when it comes to releasing casual fare on the Wii, but the marketplace has shown that (with very few exceptions) unless you're Nintendo, you're not going to strike gold with a core-oriented retail release. I just don't see Super Meat Boy producing the kind of revenue that a retail release justifies. If Team Meat really wants to produce a game for a Nintendo platform, then their next creation needs to be orders of magnitude easier. That's right, folks: I'm talking about Meat Sports.