4 mins read

Nintendo has just hosted its most interesting Nintendo Direct online event in its history, and it’s as interesting for what was not said than what was.

Company President, Satoru Iwata, essentially said on numerous occasions that “we’ve got nothing for the Wii U.” Nothing to release in January and February. Nothing to show for some of its most anticipated games, such as Bayonetta 2 or Smash Brothers on the Wii U. Nintendo confirmed that it is working on new 3D Mario and Mario Kart games, but nothing to show at this stage.

At times he apologised for not having much to show, and explained that the games were all big undertakings and Nintendo wanted to take its time to make sure they were up to scratch. It’s a fair call, but reading between the lines and it paints a somewhat worrying picture: Nintendo, a company with no HD console development experience, is struggling to pull together a steady lineup of games for the fans. Some of us had expected this might happen – after all, jumping from handheld and SD console development into HD is a big task, and no one can afford to simply double resources to keep on top of things. No, Nintendo is on a very steep learning curve right now.

Which brings me to the real key to Iwata’s presentation; Nintendo is going to tackle this problem through outsourcing. It’s going to farm out its most valuable resource – its masses of IP – to collaborate with other developers and publishers to keep the flow of games coming.

Only one game was announced in the Nintendo Direct – a Shin Megami Tensei collaboration with Fire Emblem (I wet my pants at that announcement, I’m not ashamed to admit it either), but you can guarantee that Nintendo is in talks with Tecmo Koei (Mario Warriors?) Capcom (Monster Hunter, staring Link?) and various other publishers that it shares close ties with.

I think it’s a breathtakingly elegant solution to a very real and potentially crippling problem for Nintendo. Not being able to keep a steady flow of software to the Wii U so early on could have buried it, so by building partnerships with these developers and publishers Nintendo kills a couple of birds with one stone – it gets those those parties comfortable with Wii U architecture (thus potentially generating more games down the track), and it gets more game announcements and releases right now.

As a nice side bonus, fans love collaborations, so well done Nintendo, it looks like you dodged a bullet there.

PS 1) I am less than amused that I need to pay money to re-download my Virtual Console games on to my Wii U just for the privilege of playing them on the GamePad. That’s horrible form, Nintendo.

PS 2) Thanks for announcing GBA Virtual Console games. I loved that console.

PS 3) That Yoshi game looks adorable.

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  • Thanks for dropping by!

    I don't think the $20 or so it'll cost for me to "move" over my favourite Virtual Console games to the GamePad is such a big deal. My objection is more… philosophical, I guess.

    I don't think it's fair to compare the UMD transfer program to this. If I buy a physical copy of a Wii U game – say Warriors Orochi 3 – I still need to pay another $70 if I want to download it again. Nintendo is also not going to let people download their GameCube games to the Wii U once the GC games start popping up on the Virtual Console, I suspect.

    This about it this way instead: I can play my downloaded PSOne Classics on my PS3, Vita, and PSP, transfer saves between them and so on and so forth with no costs involved. Or, I can stream my iPad or iPhone games to my TV over AirPlay for free.

    Only Nintendo is charging me to move my favourite retro games around my Nintendo hardware. I can't play my Wii VC games on my 3DS, and now I have to pay again if I want to play them on my new hardware with MiiVerse and Activity Log and GamePad and such.

    It's not much money, but it's the attitude behind it that frustrates me in the end.

    It's not a huge deal though, that's why it's a PS 🙂

    Thanks for the counter point though – it's an interesting debate!

  • And I counter with PSY Beam!

    LOL. Actually, the way I saw it is in terms of retaining backwards compatibility, and how generally Wii – Wii U Virtual Console is better for the consumer than PSP UMD – Vita is. I get the point about how Nintendo won't give people who bought physical games digital copies, but that's a completely different point.

    The way I see that is Nintendo trying to stem the trend of digital downloads replacing physical games, which seems like a fool's errand, but the way they've played their cards so far, I think they might actually pull it off. Great talking to you about this, kudos! 🙂

  • Yes, I agree that it's more a matter of perspective than anything else. I see it possibly more simply than you – "what can I do with the stuff I've paid money for to download," and Nintendo's VC service is sorely lacking from that perspective.

    I don't necessarily think Nintendo is fighting against the "slide" to downloads – it's a pragmatic company and it realises there is money there. Where I think the problem (if you chose to see it that way) with Nintendo is that it sometimes cripples itself in its fear of piracy. Nintendo is so worried that people will pirate its games that it tends to lock down its consoles to the point where the really dedicated fans of its hardware start to lose out on some functionality.

    I see in the longer term these restrictions and largely unnecessary costs being lifted by Nintendo. It's just a question of when.

    And yeah, absolutely, thank you for butting virtual heads with me. I love a good, friendly debate.

    … even if that psybeam hurt…

  • Yeah, Nintendo actually has less employees worldwide than the large third party publishers like EA and Ubi. That resource, though talented is limited in their realistic output.
    We can see that Nintendo has in part been tackling this challenge with collaborations (such as Team Ninja and most recently with Atlus). Additionally, it has also dipped into its cash war chest to encourage third party developments with distribution deals in all its territories as well as taking on publishing costs for external teams (in the case of Platinum).
    Wii U looks to be entering the ol' post-release drought but yesterday's ND was a reassuring look at some promising games. Hopefully, the fact they were so upfront with yesterday's announcements means they have a bevy of other titles to announce leading up to and at E3.

  • There were certainly parts of the presentation that felt like that…

    Where did you get your avatar from, BTW? I meant to ask you last time. It is way too awesome.

  • Yes, I agree. I must say I was impressed with Nintendo's honesty at points in that presentation. It takes guts for a corporation to admit it is under delivering.

    Even if I get only one Wii U game this year, that Fire Emblem/ Shin Megami Tensei collaboration alone will justify my Wii U purchase.

  • I was pretty excited about the Shin-Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem trailer – partly because of the worlds it is meshing but also it does give me hope that NIntendo seeks out more opportunities like this. I was actually thinking about putting up a post to the trailer for the video on Nintendo's Youtube site yesterday. It wasn't much, and I'll be keeping an eye on it going forward, but it was exciting all the same.

  • Super curious what form this game takes. Full disclosure, I have not played any SMT games or the series offshoots (Played plen-tay of Fire Emblem though!). Nevertheless, I am under the impression that SMT games are not strategy deals like the FE titles.

  • That's correct; they're traditional turn-based RPGs.

    Incredibly challenging and tactical battle system though, so it's actually a better fit for Fire Emblem than it might seem.

    My personal belief is that it will be a tactics game, after Fire Emblem.

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