Earlier this year, we all heard the “end of Nintendo” talk coming from all corners of the internet. With the Wii U being overshadowed and outsold by the Xbox One and PS4 and company numbers slipping, President Satoru Iwata promised that changes would be coming. This E3, I believe we saw what those changes were. Many things, big and small, occurred recently and during the week of E3 2014 that proved Nintendo is fighting back to survive.
Branching Out Their Brands
Nintendo has always had a tight grip on it’s intellectual properties. More recently, they have spread out their properties to other subsidiaries and developers. Giving Team Ninja the rights to develop Metroid: Other M, allowing Retro Studios to bring back the Donkey Kong Country series and trusting Tecmo Koei to develop a Zelda inspired Dynasty Warriors is proof of that. Putting beloved franchises in the hands of companies other than Nintendo is a risky move but it can spawn new and refreshing installments.
Collaborating with other studios with crossovers is also an example of Nintendo entrusting others with their IPs. Games and projects like the Mario and Sonic series, Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei and Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney can give birth to new gameplay styles as well as introducing players to new franchises they might be interested in.
Seeing different fusions and twists on classic series’ definitely stirs up attention. I’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game in my life but there’s no doubt I’ll be picking up Hyrule Warriors day one. Who knows, through my time with the game I might pick up some old Dynasty Warrior games and broaden my horizons which is exactly the plan Nintendo had in mind.
Connecting With The Fans
Nintendo has always been somewhat discontented to its audience. More recently, it’s shown that what it needs to do is reconnect with its fans. The Nintendo Treehouse Event Live at E3 was one of the best things Nintendo has ever done. Three straight days of nothing but actual gameplay, developer commentaries and downright fun. Showing off nearly all of the games revealed in the Digital Event with knowledgeable and funny Treehouse employees really felt personal to me. I sat for almost 8 hours straight watching game after game and listening to commentators like Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Anonuma and Bill Trenton and it was a blast.
The Super Smash Bros. Invitational is also evidence that Nintendo is reaching out to its fans in a big way. The first official Nintendo tournament was, for lack of a better word, epic. With fighters from all across the world competing, it was the first time the public got to really see the new Smash Bros in action and boy was it fun to watch. Reggie Fils-Amie even noted that the huge turn out for the tournament might spawn more official tournaments in the future.
It’s a real plus in my book when companies engage their fanbase. The Treehouse Event was, personally, one of my favorite parts of E3 as a whole. The almost one-on-one time with games felt like a true E3 experience and I got see many great games. Speaking of great games, the Smash Bros Invitational was insane. Fans screaming, players fighting with finesse and skill, announcers loosing their minds was all fun to witness. It really showed Nintendo knew what it had to do to connect to it’s loyal fans across the world.
GamePad Centric Gameplay
When I first saw the GamePad back in 2011 I thought that Nintendo just smashed an IPad into an Xbox 360 controller and called it a day but upon using the controller last year, I realized it’s potential. Games like ZombiU and Wind Waker HD took advantage of the GamePad’s unique features to immerse me into the game even more.
At E3 2014, Nintendo showed off multiple games and projects that used the GamePad to its advantage. Games like:
Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker – which uses the GamePad’s Gyro to move the camera as well as touching and blowing on the touch screen to reveal secrets.
Splatoon – uses the GamePad as a map to see how your team is doing during the match as well as allowing you to warp to your teammates via taping their icon
… and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse – uses the touch pad and stylus to manipulate Kirby’s direction as well as the environment.
Projects from Miyamoto’s team like Project Giant Robot and Project Guard use the GamePad in unique ways as well. Using the GamePad as an extension of yourself to fight off other robots or to switch between security cameras are all new gameplay aspects.
Iwata promised to focus on making the GamePad essential to the Wii U and what was shown off at E3 looks like that promise was kept. The GamePad really feels like the “next gen” we were promised and using it in innovative and creative ways that make games more fun to play is always a welcome change.
Now I’m not too much of a fan of NFC Toy-based games but there’s no doubt the popularity is staggering. With Skylanders and Disney Infinity selling by the bucket load, Nintendo has decided to get into the toy game as well. Shipping with Super Smash Bros for Wii U this winter, Amiibo will have mini figurines of classic Nintendo characters like Mario, Yoshi and Link as well as the whole roster of Super Smash Bros. Amiibo will also work with new and upcoming titles such as Mario Kart 8 and Mario Party 10. Nintendo is also jumping on the “exclusive content” bandwagon, allowing Skylanders Trap Team and Disney Infinity 2.0 owners to tap into special content only on the Wii U.
Like I said, I’m not a fan of the NFC toy based games but there’s no denying the amount of money that can be made with the product. And I’m not going to lie, when Amiibo launches with Super Smash Bros, I might just pick up a Link and Sonic figure just for sheer collecting fun.
Listening to the Community
Now this one might a little “fanboyish” (if that’s a thing) but we saw a lot of things at E3 that showed Nintendo is listening to what its community wants. Bringing back popular franchises that people have wanted for a while, namely Star Fox and Metroid, was on Nintendo’s agenda at E3.
Miyamoto told the media he and his team were currently working on a new Star Fox game that should be ready within the next year. Nintendo also confirmed that both 2D and 3D Metroid games were too be seen in the “near future”. With both these franchises being popular as well as Nintendo bringing back old franchises like Kid Icuras, it’ll be interesting to see what other franchises will come back as well. Perhaps F-Zero or, hell, why not a new Ice Climbers game?
Including fan favorites like Mega Man and Pac-Man in the next Smash Bros installment after literally years of petitions and pleas can be seen as embracing the community in what they want to see. It makes the community feel like they have a voice in what happens with their favorite franchises and Smash Bros is as big as it gets. For years I wanted Little Mac in Super Smash Bros and when he was announced there were many a noise complaint that day.
Speaking of Smash Bros….The GameCube controller is back! Now I’m a little sour on this but there’s no doubt how popular the GameCube controller is when it comes to playing Super Smash Bros. Creating the ideal environment for Super Smash Bros for Wii U is essential to sales as well as keeping the community happy. Nintendo could have easily stuck with the Pro Controller but they choose to give the fans what they want. And the low cost of $20 isn’t bad either.
New Intellectual Properties
This is the big one. Nintendo has almost too many IPs to count (hell they made a franchise about all of their important characters beating each other up) but even a veteran company has to bring something new to the table once and a while. The Wii was a bit lacking with the new IPs but the Wii U and 3DS are both getting some new game franchises.
A Wii U exclusive, Splatoon is one of those games I saw during E3 that just captured my attention immediately. With all of the 3rd person shooters out there like Gears of War and Ghost Recon (both series I love by the way), it’s refreshing to see a new twist on shooting. Focused on paint and team work, Splatoon tasks players to battle in a 4v4 style of arena where the goal is to cover as much of the floor in your color ink as possible. The adorable art style mixed with the fast paced gameplay, Splatoon looks like a welcome new edition to the Nintendo family.
Codename S.T.E.A.M was the other new IP Nintendo revealed at E3 and is exclusive to the 3DS. Developed by the team that brought you the amazing Fire Emblem Awakening as well as the Advance Wars series, Codename S.T.E.A.M is a fusion of 3rd person shooting and strategy. With a wacky concept and appealing art style, the gameplay is what grabbed my attention. I’m either hit or miss when it comes to strategy games but it looks like this new IP is giving the player more control over the outcome of battles than most strategy games. And taking orders from Abraham Lincoln is just plain cool!
With new IPs, engaging their fanbase head on, realizing their mistakes and actively trying to fix them, Nintendo has shown that they are working on the problems that dug them into this hole they’re in. They’ve has fallen behind Sony and Microsoft in the past 2 years but I believe the steps that they’re making now show they’re still a serious contender.
I will note that they haven’t turned it around completely. The internet connectivity within a handful of games is still an issue and the 3rd party support is still lacking tremendously but still, baby steps. I’m excited and hopeful, as a Nintendo fan as well as a general gamer, to see what Nintendo will do throughout the rest of this year and for years to come.
Images sourced from Nintendo and theverge.com and newegg. Video sourced from Nintendo and Mari0MakerV2 on Youtube
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