Nintendo readies market for new system
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 23:04
Nintendo’s newest console, the Wii U, is set to release at the end of this year, just in time for the holidays. At this point, however, little has been publicly revealed about the system, other than demonstrations of its new tablet-like controller.
But for the past week, the Wii U has been the focus of renewed attention as Nintendo has stepped forward with several important announcements regarding possible launch titles, or games that will be released at the same time as the console.
Nintendo has officially announced that it will debut Pikmin 3 (a follow-up to the strategy game that follows Captain Olimar and his leafy-headed companions) as well as another entry in the New Super Mario Bros. series at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Both of these games appear to be set to launch with the Wii U, but commentators on popular gaming news outlets, such as IGN.com, have openly wondered whether these two titles will be enough to ensure the success of the new system.
Pikmin 3 will be the latest entry in the Pikmin franchise, which has not seen a release since Pikmin 2 launched back in August 2004 for the Gamecube. Two factors have left some to wonder whether Pikmin can draw enough of an audience to push the sales of the Wii U.
Both Pikmin and Pikmin 2 were eventually re-released for the Wii with updated controls, but the console never saw a new game in the series, meaning that Pikmin largely skipped an entire console generation. Thus, many of the younger gamers—who constitute a large segment of Nintendo’s core demographic—may not be familiar with the series at all. And while the first two games received critical praise, they were not nearly as successful commercially.
The New Super Mario Bros. series, on the other hand, is in nearly the opposite situation as the Pikmin series: although the latest iteration didn’t receive much critical praise, it was a huge seller for Nintendo. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the fifth best-selling Wii game ever as of December 2011, but many critics felt that the game lacked the originality of other Mario games such as Mario Galaxy 1 and 2. It didn’t have the signature difficulty of other Mario games, but perhaps Nintendo will change that with this new release—making the game harder would make it more appealing to experienced gamers. New Super Mario Bros. has always felt like less than a full Mario game and many, including myself, are disappointed to learn that Nintendo won’t be releasing a more full-fledged Mario title instead.
While many are excited by the announcement of these two games, it’s up for debate whether these titles can drum up enough hype to ensure the successful launch of the Wii U. Nintendo has notably struggled with its most recent console launches, as the Gamecube, Wii and 3DS all faced trouble out of the gate.
Fortunately, Nintendo may still have a few tricks up its sleeve. Several of Nintendo’s strongest development studios have gone quite a while without releasing or announcing any new games. Most prominent among these studios is Retro Studios, which successfully breathed life back into the Metroid series with two incredibly popular Metroid Prime games on the Gamecube, as well as one on the Wii, after the series had gone a considerable time without any new releases. Retro did the same with Donkey Kong Country Returns in 2010, which marked their most recent release. The studio has been quiet since then, and given the timeline of the release of the Wii U, they are almost certainly working on a game to launch with the system. Retro Studios’ impeccable track record suggests that a new release could be just what the Wii U needs to achieve success.
Beyond this, Nintendo’s downloadable game market holds a lot of promise. While the Wii Shop Channel failed to live up to the success of its competitors, the Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Store, and the 3DS’s eShop have already seen the release of several popular downloadable titles. These titles, such as Pushmo and Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword, have demonstrated that Nintendo can launch clever, creative and successful downloadable games. If Nintendo can translate this online success to its new home console, gamers will have a lot to look forward to outside of the traditional retail releases that have been touched upon.
Nintendo tends to hold its cards close to the chest, waiting for major media events such as E3 to surprise gamers and build up hype. With E3 starting on June 5, just over a month away, Nintendo gamers have a lot to look forward to in the near future. The story of the Wii U is still being written, and until we see what else Nintendo has waiting for us, it’s far too early to say whether the Wii U will be a success or not. Given the fact that there’s so much we don’t know about it, things really could go either way. I personally can’t wait to find out.