It's make or break time.
As a staunch advocate of the Wii U – and a launch day adopter, no less – last week’s Nintendo Direct left me feeling demoralised and frustrated. It was supposed to be a bullish rallying cry from a company under fire, but instead, Satoru Iwata brought his hands up to either side his face, twiddled his fingers and sang, “na, na, na, na, na, naaa!” whilst poking his tongue out in an obnoxious fashion.
I’m speaking metaphorically, of course, but that’s how it appeared as my enthusiasm rapidly transformed into anger and apathy as Nintendo’s presentation trudged to an uneventful close. This wasn’t the reinvigorated or inspired Nintendo everyone was clamouring for; this was a company happy to put its fingers in its ears and go through the motions for 40 minutes.
Who’s Dunaway With Release Dates?
For the first time since Nintendo’s dire E3 conference back in 2008 (here’s a brief reminder if you can stomach it), I’m genuinely concerned at what the future holds – or specifically, what little it holds – for a company I’ve always held in high regard. Someone needs to grab hold of Iwata and give him a really good shake.
The Wii U is two months into its second year on sale and yet somehow, appears to be facing another software drought of catastrophic proportions.
The Wii U is two months into its second year on sale and yet somehow, appears to be facing another software drought of catastrophic proportions. As it stands, the Wii U currently has three notable titles with firm release dates: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze releases at the end of this month, NES Remix 2 arrives in April, and Mario Kart 8 – a game under tremendous pressure to spur the Wii U’s flagging sales – releases at the end of May. Three of the other biggest games for the console – Super Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2 and Monolith Soft’s tentatively named X – are still stuck in limbo with an irritatingly vague release date of 2014. Yarn Yoshi and Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, announced in January of last year, weren’t even mentioned. And don’t get me started on the whereabouts of a new Metroid or Star Fox game.
U Need Games, Wii Need Games
So how have Nintendo let this happen? They’ve got an abundance of IPs to rely on, untold resources at their disposal – not to mention a year’s head start against the competition – but as it stands, they only have three first-party games with confirmed release dates. Even Watch Dogs, perhaps the most high profile third-party game that remains on Wii U, has now been thrown into relative obscurity by an indefinite delay, one which could prove to be another devastating blow to Nintendo’s strained third-party relations (although I previously entertained another angle regarding this issue).
Consequently, there’s nothing for retailers to get behind, nothing to drive pre-orders or attract consumers which will subsequently increase hardware sales. But worse of all, fans are forced to wait cluelessly for titles like Super Smash Bros., instead of counting down the days with more excitement than a child eating chocolates from their advent calendar.
The Wii U is clearly suffering, then, not because its a bad console or severely underpowered; it isn’t. It’s because Nintendo have failed to produce a consistent stream of quality software for owners and potential new adopters to get excited about, which has resulted in lacklustre sales. It’s as simple as that.
Luckily, Nintendo has a viable option to help placate the agonising wait for new software with their Virtual Console service. They’ve already announced that DS and Game Boy Advance titles will finally be coming to the Virtual Console, the latter due in April; however, it’s difficult not to be pessimistic about their commitment to the cause when you consider the snail-like speed they’ve been updating the service with new titles.
So, what can Nintendo do to fix this crippling conundrum? It’s a sticky situation they’re in – no doubt about it – but I’d like to see them start flexing their financial muscle. We’re all aware of Nintendo’s incredible cash reserves, so why not go out and buy some developers, publishers and cut out the middle man? Capcom immediately springs to mind, perhaps at a stretch, Sega. If Nintendo were to purchase either of these companies they’d instantly strengthen their ability to produce more software, exclusive software, from some of the biggest franchises around like Monster Hunter, Resident Evil and Sonic the Hedgehog. Wouldn’t that be better than trying to carry the burden alone?
But alas, I can’t see Nintendo changing anytime soon – at least not with Iwata at the helm. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as they have so many qualities I continue to admire and Satoru Iwata managed to spearhead the incredible success stories of the DS, Wii and 3DS. Nevertheless, the time for change is certainly here and Nintendo’s E3 Direct now carries a massive, game-changing significance when it airs in June. Let’s just hope it won’t be too late…