As we’ve seen, 2013 was an arguably solid performance for Nintendo’s touch tablet touting system. Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101 and Super Mario 3D World were stand out highlights while Earthbound, A Link to the Past and a selection of Famicom celebrating classics (culminating in the grandpa on a skateboard NES Remix) kept the ‘money for old rope’ Virtual Console cooking over. 2014 however, will be a true test of the Wii U’s mettle. While the system did enjoy a steady drip feed of remarkable exclusives the sheer number of quality titles is still noticeably lacking on the horizon for the year old console. With PS4 and Xbox One also likely to have relatively slow formative first years, they offer what Nintendo doesn’t in the form of a huge arsenal of third party support. With the head start, Nintendo’s console will have crucial room to properly assert itself (just as the 3DS eventually did) and this year will be the year to make or break the affections of Wii U owners.
The games of 2014 will shape the console and games are coming, good ones too. This year the system plays host to Bayonetta 2, Mario Kart 8, Smash Bros, Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, the surprise Dynasty Warriors x Zelda spin off “Hyrule Warriors” (title tbc) and the mysterious “X” project by Nintendo’s latest acquired studio Monolith. There’s also plenty of time and room for more covert titles to be announced and released through the year (probably through Nintendo Direct announcements as that is how Nintendo breaks big news now), just as multiple Game Of Year list bulldozer A Link Between Worlds did last year. Based on this forecast, there’s no reason to write off the Wii U, but it will be tricky for old Nintendo and most of that difficulty has been created by themselves.
Even though forthcoming co-developed projects such as Smash Bros. (with Namco), Hyrule Warriors (with Tecmo Koei), the Shin Megami x Fire Emblem team up (with Atlus) and the current Sonic licensing with Sega are all encouraging endeavours, it would be a more proactive reflection to see Nintendo reaching out to far more developers, especially ones outside of Japan. Although Nintendo isn’t too interested in supporting the type of content Sony and Microsoft are more accustomed too and famed for (namely triple A shooters and murder sims like GTA and Assassin’s Creed (even though they have zero issue with Ubisoft’s support) that ring out processing power unimaginable for a Wii U), it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be tapping third parties for that next Minecraft or Gone Home. Edgy and unique doesn’t always mean mature.
Historically, Nintendo isn’t afraid to outsource, but they need that experience now to rally behind the Wii U. With Nintendo reluctant to let owned subsidiaries such as Retro, Intelligent Systems and Monolith free to work on new IPs it would be encouraging to see them co-develop new content with familiar cooperators and outsourcing partners (such as Grezzo and Arika among others). A few years back Nintendo made the genius move to co-develop RPG’s with Mistwalker (The Last Story), Monolith (Xenoblade Chronicles [Monolith is now owned by Nintendo]), and Ganbarion (Pandora’s Tower) and didn’t really realize it. The games were demanded around the world and kept the Wii going a year longer than expected, due to their much delayed release. Had the system been at a healthier relevance at that time without so many Wii owners inevitably migrated by then, they would have been even bigger games.
Nintendo should have learned from Operation Rainfall and be more aware of what buyers want on their console and the urgency of providing that. Region locking systems isn’t the answer, the 3DS is already hackable and players can just import foreign systems and access online translations. These games could have become classics had Nintendo responded far quicker to fan demands, now with the Wii U, Nintendo should be confident in providing original games on time without having to rely on and exhaust its usual array of beloved cereal box mascots.
Whether Nintendo brings more to the table by re-using back burning franchises (such as Metroid, Starfox and F-Zero) with new teams (a likelihood made less likely since the shaky Metroid: Other M with Team Ninja) is one thing, but Nintendo needs content outside of their IP catalog and need to let others provide that in the same way they used Capcom’s Monster Hunter and Platinum’s Wonderful 101 to great effect.
As long as delays are kept at bay there should be a strong showing for Wii U, but not a large one. Nintendo has great games but also long term problems. The issues lie far beyond a launch delay for Watch_Dogs.