The next generation is in full swing! Sony and Microsoft have both unleashed their new consoles upon the world and the reception to both has been very positive. Sales of both consoles have broken records and they’ve been the most successful console launches for both companies. 2014’s outlook is bright when it comes to the games and features that are in store.
However, whilst the spotlight has been squared on Sony and Microsoft these past couple of months, Nintendo has been quietly waiting in the sidelines. Cast your minds back to the end of 2012, Nintendo was the first company to launch a next generation home console. The Wii U – unfortunately – had a less than stellar launch and has been suffering somewhat of an identity crisis over the course of 2013. The problem that Nintendo has faced throughout this past year is failing to properly market the Wii U and explain how it is different from the Wii – a fact I’ve horribly had to experience first-hand overhearing distressed parents in shops such as GAME thinking it was an addition for the original Wii. Sales were not exactly spectacular right off the bat and the Wii U seemed to fade from view for a while after the announcement of Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles.
But, it would be unfair to declare that the Wii U is dead in the water now that the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 have been launched, far from it in fact. The tail end of 2013 saw the Wii U begin to pick up the much needed momentum that it’s been in need of since the end of 2012. Games such as Super Mario 3D World, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, The Wonderful 101 and Pikmin 3 no doubt contributed to sales increases in the Wii U. But slightly better marketing, price cuts and the promise of the games to come has many – including myself – right on the verge of picking up the console.
When you get right down to it the Wii U is undeniably the only next generation console that is dedicated to games and games alone. Whilst the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have apps for watching TV/movies, listening to music, using the internet and a myriad of other things on top of playing games, Nintendo have kept games at the forefront of the experience you get with the Wii U.
Nintendo has – arguably – the biggest portfolio of established exclusives to work with. Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Pokémon, Metroid, Pikmin, Kid Icarus, Star Fox, F-Zero, Animal Crossing, EarthBound and Kirby to name but a few. When Nintendo make their own games for their own systems it’s almost always a recipe for success, you need only look at games such as Super Mario 64/Galaxy/3D World, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time/Skyward Sword and the Metroid Prime series to see their consistency for quality. In house Nintendo exclusives are polished to such a high degree and that’s what makes them some of the most critically acclaimed games on the market. Nintendo – as a company – works hard on developing their games and more often than not, it pays off when critics and gamers alike laud them. How often do you hear of Nintendo launching a game that’s broken and in need of a patch? With the exception of the latest Pokémon games on the 3DS the answer to that question is: you don’t.
Nintendo already have a few of their own in house exclusives lined up for 2014 with the likes of Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, X and the undeniable heavy hitter – Super Smash Bros. 4. We also have games such as Shin Megami Tensai X Fire Emblem, Yarn Yoshi and the heavily foreshadowed new The Legend of Zelda to look forward to.
There’s a good amount of third party support for the Wii U – with the exception of EA. Companies such as Ubisoft, Activision and Warner Brothers Interactive are all on board the good ship Wii U, while others such as Capcom, Namco and in particular, SEGA and Platinum Games, are working with Nintendo directly on exclusive games for the console.
SEGA has been keen to release their new Sonic games exclusively on Nintendo platforms first, with Sonic: Lost World being a good example of this. They have also given Nintendo the rights to use Sonic the Hedgehog again in the newest Super Smash Bros. and – probably the most important aspect of their relationship – have even given Nintendo exclusive publishing rights to Bayonetta 2 being developed by Platinum Games. That was a piece of news which kicked up quite a fuss when it was announced. Platinum Games similarly released The Wonderful 101 – which was also published by Nintendo – earlier in 2013 to much praise from critics.
2014 is looking to be the year when Nintendo can really show off the full potential of the Wii U and manage to pull off a complete u-turn just like they did when the 3DS was down on its luck. They’re getting their act together in a big way, but the Wii U – as I type this – still isn’t an absolutely essential purchase for the vast majority of people. There are still a few things Nintendo need to re-evaluate.
The games they have lined up on the horizon will certainly get a few more Wii U’s into people’s living rooms – Bayonetta 2 and Super Smash Bros. 4 for certain – but the question that needs to be asked is “Will it be enough?”. Remember earlier when I mentioned that Nintendo has one of the largest libraries of exclusive game series? We haven’t seen some of them in over a decade! If Nintendo really want to rack up the amount of people who have a Wii U in their homes they need to turn their attention to series such as F-Zero, Star Fox and EarthBound. Critically acclaimed series which have been neglected and which we haven’t seen or heard much of since the beginning of the 2000’s or later. If Nintendo were to announce a new game from any of those series tomorrow I would put good money on the internet exploding in a storm of unbridled happiness. They need to announce something that will knock the socks off of everyone and their mothers and get the hype train rolling.
But who knows, maybe Nintendo DO have something up their sleeves and are just waiting to pull out a trump card. As mentioned earlier they’ve been grabbing people’s attentions as of late, maybe we’ll hear more about what they’re going to be getting up to next in another Nintendo Direct? We already saw a few weeks ago that they’re collaborating with Tecmo Koei on Hyrule Warriors, a hack and slash game set in the universe of The Legend of Zelda with elements of gameplay from the Dynasty Warriors series. Many people’s jaws hit the floor when it was announced, and that’s precisely what Nintendo need to aim to keep doing.
Overall, what I can’t stress enough with this article is that the Wii U can still – and WILL – bounce back. Nintendo have come back from worse situations than they now find themselves in and the Wii U will be no exception. Remember the PlayStation 3 at the start of the last generation? It went from “meh” to “awesome” after some radical prices cuts and some stellar titles were launched for it. That’s the mentality everyone should be looking at the Wii U with in this situation, console life cycles can go on for more than half a decade so it’s still far too early to say for certain if the Wii U will sink or swim. Still need convincing? The Wii U is also still the market leader when it comes to the next generation consoles as of typing this, with just over 4 million units sold worldwide and it sold more than 300,000 units in the week before Christmas alone – which put it above the Xbox One.
We, as gamers, have a lot to look forward to in 2014 and Nintendo is one of the companies who is sure to come out fighting as they attempt to make up for lost time.
In short: Never doubt Nintendo. They’ve been in this game for longer than anyone else. They know what they’re doing.