Over the past decade Nintendo have settled on embracing the ‘third way’ of the console business. Set to their own path, the Japanese gaming giant has in the past appeared wholeheartedly unconvinced by the route taken by their competitors, producing less powerful hardware while focussing on removing as many of the barriers to gaming as they can.
However, with the Wii U and its gamepad Nintendo’s third way has potentially taken a misstep. While their newest system is arguably a well-designed console that offers a range of unique exclusives, it’s failed to find even a small proportion of the same audience as its predecessor. With rumours of a successor, the NX, beginning to surface, but assurances that it won’t appear at this year’s E3, the question is can Nintendo do enough now to tempt gamers to pick up a Wii U?
The key title that could improve the console’s fortunes is of course is the new Legend Of Zelda, though sadly its release has been pushed back to 2016. They’ll definitely have more to show of it at E3, and perhaps we’ll see some dungeon environments, or one or two boss characters, along with a few pieces of fan-service for those loyal to the cause. The unfortunate delay in the game’s release though pushes it closer to the NX’s official announcement, and we could even have a similar situation to Twilight Princess, which released simultaneously on both the Gamecube and the Wii towards the end of the Gamecube’s life.
We have to see more of Shigeru Miyamoto’s projects from last year – Project Giant Robot and Project Guard – and there have been a few rumblings that one of them could have a surprise release during E3. They also may have some kind of link with Miyamoto’s biggest project, the new Starfox for Wii U, which will launch before Legend Of Zelda and will be playable at this year’s E3. Expectations are high for the game, with the Gamecube’s Starfox Assault being the last time the franchise appeared on a home console, and hopefully we’ll see a mixture of free-style dogfighting and classic on-rails action, whilst making the most of the Wii U’s sturdy CPU.
More has to be made of Nintendo’s back catalogue, and at this stage it seems faintly ridiculous that the Wii U’s virtual console still doesn’t feature Gamecube games, particularly as we already have entries from the Wii. Hopefully there’ll be some announcement on this feature, and perhaps even an immediate release or two of some classic GC games like Super Mario Sunshine or F-Zero GX. Of course, they may also announce HD versions of some of these titles after the success of the Wind Waker, which could explain their reticence to place them on the Virtual Console.
Nintendo do at least continue to have a success story with their 3DS handheld line, with the latest iteration – the New 3DS – finding many fans, despite a lack of exclusive software. In Japan particularly, where handheld gaming is far more popular than at home, the 3DS range, alongside exclusives such as the Monster Hunter series, are almost permanent fixtures at the top of the hardware sales chart. It’s probably too early to consider any further Nintendo handhelds, though the Gameboy brand could be due for a resurgence at some point in the near future. Expect to see some exclusive software for the more powerful New 3DS, though it’ll be interesting to see what they choose to cut off from owners of the older hardware.
Hopefully we’ll see some Western release dates for Nintendo’s upcoming games across both systems. Xenoblade Chronicles X has already released in Japan and will likely be their big Wii U title this Christmas, though Starfox could be a surprise for 2015. Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem is due at the end of this year in Japan and we’ve still seen very little of it so that should make a showing. Fire Emblem If is slated for 2016, though perhaps we’ll get a date for that and other 3DS exclusive Bravely Second.
With only the localisation of Fire Emblem If on the cards it would be very interesting to see Intelligent System’s next game, and the Wars series hasn’t seen an entry in the franchise since 2008. Other dream announcements for fans would include a new Metroid, F-Zero, or a full 3D Pokemon game for Wii U, though it’s more likely that we’ll have an announcement of a Wii U port of fighter Pokken Tournament. A Monster Hunter release for the Wii U would still make some sense with the series seemingly having a permanent home on the 3DS, and fans will be hoping that the recently announced Monster Hunter X will have a home console edition.
Alongside Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, RPG fans may hope for new entries from Mother/Earthbound or even Golden Sun, though perhaps Nintendo will have come to an arrangement with Square Enix over a new Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Action fans could be satiated by a Kid Icarus title, while racers drawn in by Mario Kart could find their next fix with Wave Race, or Excitebike/Truck. Nintendo’s post-release support for Mario Kart 8 may rule these, and F-Zero, out mind you if they plan on any further DLC.
Of course, we should also hear what’s next for their moustachioed mascot, whether that’s an overdue return for his Paper or RPG form, or the next iteration of the classic 2D games. I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see a 3D announcement, though a Galaxy 3 could help the Wii U’s fortunes. The success of the 2D editions however makes it less likely. Unfortunately for Wii U owners it may well be that they save his next 3D outing for the release of the NX.
With the recent successful launches of Splatoon and Codename S.T.E.A.M it’s clear that Nintendo aren’t entirely adverse to creating new IPs. Hopefully we’ll see at least one more brand-new game from a fresh world we’re yet to explore, or indeed in a genre Nintendo don’t traditionally take on.
So, what do you hope to see?