If you take a look at the list of Nintendo release titles that date back to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985/86, you’ll notice that aside from the NES itself there hasn’t been a solid release line-up.. well.. ever. It’s a tough thing to judge a console’s success by its launch, but I understand the concern due to the lack of sales for the Wii U itself. The same could have been said about Nintendo’s 3DS, but here lately it’s become the crowned king of handhelds and all it took was a solid library of quality games. Personally, I think the Wii U will be no different. Nintendo hasn’t had much third party support lately and seeing as how 2013 blockbusters like Tomb Raider & Bioshock Infinite skipped the Wii U altogether while EA recently confirmed that this year’s Madden won’t be gracing the system, history seems to be repeating itself.
Looking at Nintendo’s track record, they haven’t really been “primary console” material since the N64 era, especially considering the lack of third party cross-platform titles. On the other hand, I strongly believe that nobody offers exclusives as good they do. All it takes is a little patience and I’m sure we’ll see some great stuff for the Wii U down the line, but I’ve decided to pass up on the console until the day comes where I can justify the $300-$400 price tag. I don’t even care that it will most likely be underpowered compared to the PS4 and the new XBOX because Nintendo, for me, has always been about great games—not next gen graphics. A game can look fantastic, but if it plays like crap or it’s another stale war-style FPS, a generic racing game, a tired cover-shooter or any form of sports game, chances are I wouldn’t care about it to begin with.
I know I’m getting off-topic a little bit, especially when my original point was to show that Nintendo has always had a lackluster launch line-up, but I guess I felt the need to explain my point of view here.
Starting off, let’s take a look at the launch for the original 8-bit trendsetter, the Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES released to limited markets on October 18, 1985, but wasn’t fully available nationwide until February of the following year. To me, the NES was the only Nintendo console to release with a fairly strong launch line-up, introducing North America to some timeless classics like Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Wrecking Crew and, of course, Super Mario Bros. I have many a fond memory with each of those titles, going back to creating tracks in Excitebike to getting kicked in the face by the third boss in Kung Fu, but that isn’t even the complete list.
The NES also released 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Pinball, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman & Mach Rider. According to Wikipedia, the NES ended its official North American & UK run with 709 titles under its belt and I can’t even count how many of those were amazing games that I played throughout my childhood. Some of my favorite games of all time were on the NES and maybe I’m blinded by nostalgia, but I can boot up my Wii right now and play The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Super Mario Bros 3 or Megaman 2 and have just as much fun as I did back then.
On August 23, 1991, Nintendo dipped their toes in the 16-bit water by releasing the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in North America, but the SNES only offered Super Mario World (included with system), F-Zero, Pilotwings, SimCity & Gradius III on launch day. It definitely took a while for the SNES to get going, but by the console’s demise in 1999, the SNES had released its fair share of classics like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island & Donkey Kong Country. It was also the last Nintendo console to receive a tremendous amount of third-party support and was the original home for Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV, The Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy VI.
The N64 had an extremely small launch, only offering Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire & Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, but by the end of Nintendo’s 64-bit era it had released not only some of the greatest games of all time, but benchmarks that paved the way for future developers to create from. Super Mario 64 & Banjo-Kazooie set the standard for 3D platformers while The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time introduced many features that would go on to become staples today in 2013—namely context-sensitive actions and a hard lock-on targeting system. Let’s not forget the introduction of Super Smash Bros, the WTF showing of Conker’s Bad Fur Day and the continuation of the F-Zero & Mario Kart series.
Even as a lifelong Nintendo fan, the N64 was the beginning of the end for me when it came to Nintendo being a “primary console”, especially with the Sony Playstation gaining huge ground toward the end with Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider and the Resident Evil series. Nintendo’s attempt to save money going the cartridge route dated the system early, but not without its fair share of great games.
On November 14, 2001, Nintendo release the Gamecube in North America and looked to correct the error made with the N64 by having more titles available at launch. All-Star Baseball 2002, Batman Vengeance, Crazy Taxi, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2, Disney’s Tarzan Untamed, Luigi’s Mansion, Madden NFL 2002, NHL Hitz 20-02, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, Super Monkey Ball, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 & Wave Race: Blue Storm were all available on day one, but aside from Luigi’s Mansion & Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, there wasn’t much in the way of quality. It was also the first Nintendo console to release without a new Super Mario Bros title available at launch, with Super Mario Sunshine releasing 10 months later on August 26, 2002.
With the PS2 and the new Microsoft Xbox incorporating easy access DVD players and online gaming, both outsold the Nintendo Gamecube with Nintendo only beating out the Sega Dreamcast which ceased production 8 months prior to the Gamecube’s release. It was around this time where the NES generation were becoming adults and became interested in more mature themes, but Nintendo failed to grow up with them.
On November 19, 2006, Nintendo was the last developer to jump in to the seventh generation of consoles with the Wii. Avatar: The Last Airbender, Call of Duty 3, Excite Truck, Happy Feet, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Madden NFL 07, Monster 4×4: World Circuit, Need for Speed: Carbon, Rampage: Total Destruction, Red Steel, SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Kran, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, Barnyard, Cars, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, GT Pro Series, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Open Season, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam & Wii Sports were all available.
The Wii was definitely a quantity over quality console as Nintendo thrived on the “childrens” market. Looking over this list, the only launch title I would have picked up was Trauma Center: Second Opinion and I certainly wouldn’t have purchased a Wii just for that. Sure, there was Twilight Princess, but I already owned a Gamecube and that version was just as good. Here we are now, though, and I’m very much a Wii advocate. I love the console to death even though I’m not completely sold on motion controls being the “way of the future”, but as far as exclusives go, it’s miles above the PS3 and Xbox 360. Maybe not in terms of online functionality or HD graphics, but as a gamer I prefer my games to.. you know.. be good. Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, New Super Mario Bros Wii and Super Smash Bros Brawl are insanely good and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the exclusive list. Now that we’ve moved on to the Wii U, I can look back at my Wii collection and feel that yes, the Wii was an amazing console that just needed a bit of time to get going.
Last year in 2012, Nintendo’s Wii U was the first next-gen console to release and did so with a pretty hefty offering of games. Assassin’s Creed III, Batman Arkham City – Armored Edition, Ben 10: Omniverse, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Darksiders II, Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, FIFA 13, Game Party Champions, Just Dance 4, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition, NBA 2K13, New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land, Rabbids Land, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Sing Party, Skylanders: Giants, Transformers: Prime – The Game, Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper, Wipeout 3, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013, ZombiU, Madden NFL 13, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed & Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition were all available on day one, but a lot of them were just ports of previously released cross-platform games with additional touch-screen features.
I know I’ve said it before, but ZombiU was the only launch title that peaked my interest and not much else has released since then aside from the most recent Monster Hunter 3 update. However, looking at their past history, it’s only a matter of time before Nintendo releases more of their terrific first-party titles and gains a bit of their support back. There is already concern about the lack of sales for the Wii U, but in a time where money is as tight as it is, can you blame gamers for not supporting the console when there is little reason to own one in the first place?
Just like the 3DS, it’s going to take some time but you know it’s bound to happen. Do I think it’ll outshine the PS4 and the new Xbox? Probably not, primarily due in part to a large part of their sales coming from predominantly online cross-platform games like Call of Duty or Battlefield. This generation of gamer already knows they can get quality titles from Sony and Microsoft and will probably choose accordingly, but the older hardcore crowd will still buy a Wii U (in my opinion) because of the quality first party titles.
Upcoming Wii U games include Resident Evil: Revelations Unveiled Edition (5/21), Game & Wario (6/23), Pikmin 3 (8/4). They’ve also confirmed The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Bayonetta 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, The Wonderful 101, Yarn Yoshi, a new 3D Super Mario title around October, a new Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart & Super Smash Bros, as well as a new game in the Xeno series entitled X and the possible localization of Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online.
So how do you feel about this? Do you think it’s just a matter of time before Nintendo comes out of the gate swinging or do you think the Wii U is destined for failure due to the lack of support? I’ve gone through phases where I feel that Nintendo would be better off just focusing on handhelds and leaving the consoles to Sony and Microsoft, but I’m a Nintendo guy and I’ll always be a Nintendo guy. I have two Nintendo related tattoos, Nintendo themed t-shirts, have owned every system and handheld and my graffiti tag is “EIGHTBIT” as an homage to the NES. I *want* the Wii U to succeed just like I wanted the Wii to succeed. But in order for Nintendo to bring gamers back to their side of the ship they’re going to need to make some drastic changes to attract third parties.
First thing first, I think they really need to embrace online gaming from a North American perspective. Nintendo still very much has the Japanese mindset where everyone lives in a crowded city and you can open your 3DS to see hundreds of Street Pass invites. My roommate has had his 3DS since the day it came out and we live less than 5 minutes from Baltimore, MD. He has gotten a whopping 30 friend requests, most of which came from the Nintendo World Store when he vacationed in New York City.
The Wii U isn’t exactly known for its online support and while the Miiverse is a neat concept it’s still an elementary approach to building a community. Give gamers an easier way to connect with each other like Sony and Microsoft do. Give them voice chat and a more indie-focused arcade medium like the Playstation Store or Xbox Live Arcade. Set the Wii U up to receive DLC, for God’s sake. This isn’t a new concept here. People spend thousands and thousands of dollars just on DLC and add-ons alone! New Super Smash Bros comes out and want to extend the life of it? Let people battle online and offer new character and level DLC. Done. Use that same online service to push indie games and capture that market by offering touch screen features. Having a reliable, easy to use and functioning online community would give gamers more of a reason to not only own the Wii U, but *only* own the Wii U.
If Nintendo can bring in a larger player base to the Wii U, they can bet that third party developers would *want* to port their games to the Wii U. Dishonored with a touch screen feature that lets me change bone charms? Tomb Raider using the screen on the control pad as an interactive map to set waypoints, write yourself notes or fast travel? Cleaning up HUDs in Borderlands 2 or Bioshock Infinite by placing all of that information on the touch screen? I’d buy it. The touch screen doesn’t need to be a gimmick. Every game doesn’t need some form of touch screen functionality to be fun and the SEGA Dreamcast VMU proved this. It can be used as a HUD, a map, minigames like Tingle dropping bombs in Windwaker or Sonic Adventure’s CHAO. Playing Resident Evil and using the screen to track your health like in the DC version of Code Veronica, or using it to access your inventory like in ZombiU.
I guess this went from a post advocating patience for the Wii U to pick up the pace, to a list of things that I think would help Nintendo get out of their slump and back on top of the console wars. I’d love to hear your opinions, even if it’s just about the future generation of consoles.