Retailers are one thing – everyone needs an arbitrary placeholder for their left-in-the-dark customers after Nintendo offered no Wii U launch date at E3 2012 – but when publishers begin delegating dates for when their Wii U-developed titles go on sale, all within an identical, very plausible time frame, it might be sound to start listening.
Readers may recall yesterday’s announcement from Sega that the Disney film Wreck-It Ralph’s title character would be appearing in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The news wasn’t a bombshell; however, the traditional press-release post-script – the blurb letting us know when the game hits stores – curiously included the Wii U with the Xbox 360, PS3, Vita, 3DS, PC in a November release window. It may seem incidental, but most statements for 2012 releases tend to demarcate the Wii U from any other platform with an “and-also-later” clause.
And then there’s today’s announcement from D3 on the Dreamworks adaptation Rise of the Guardians: According to VG 24/7, the publisher has stated that game will be available on the Wii U, Wii, 3DS, DS, 360 and PS3 on November 23 in the UK. Fused with the Nintendo Magazine listing of Call of Duty: Black Ops as a November Wii U launch title and a Rayman: Origins developer tossing the month around in June, Nintendo seems to have let their partners do the talking for them.
One possible date: November 20, 2012. When we consider that the GameCube launched on November 18, 2001 and the Wii on November 19, 2006, there’s a neatly eccentric symmetry in having the Wii U release on the third Tuesday of the month this year as well. (Microsoft employed a similar strategy with the Xbox and Xbox 360, releasing the consoles, respectively, on November 15, 2001 and November 22, 2005. Just in time for the Black Friday shopping rush.)
Regardless of when the Wii U launches, though, it will arrive with two controllers: the main, touchscreen-enhanced Gamepad and the dual-analog flaunting Pro Controller. Nintendo revealed the Pro Controller at this year’s E3 under the marketing guise of multi-platform adaptability, easing the concerns of hardcore gamers, with whom the company’s relationship has grown tenuous over the life of the Wii.
However, according to Wedbush Wii U skeptic Michael Pachter, the pro-style controller isn’t as much a fan placation as it is a corporate concession: Pachter claims that Activision essentially dangled major products like Call of Duty in front Nintendo, promising to keep them off the Wii U without a traditionally-styled controller:
“Activision never said anything to me, but I know that [for] big games like Call Of Duty they said, ‘No, we’re not putting it on there if you don’t give us a conventional controller.’ So they gave in.”
Edge reports that Pachter made the comments at last week’s Develop Conference in Brighton, where he also reiterated his skepticism that Nintendo will find success in the next generation:
“I don’t get it. I think that essentially this is a solution in search of a problem. I mean, somebody had an idea – ‘let’s make the controller a tablet’ – and there aren’t many games that are going to take advantage of that.
“I don’t think they suck – I just think that they really believe that, ‘If we’re still novel, everything we do will work.’ This isn’t going to work.
“Hardcore gamers will buy them; hardcore Nintendo fanboys will buy it. They could put out a piece of cardboard and say that it’ll play Mario and they’ll buy it.”
Ok, so clearly the Pach-Attack! host isn’t fawning for an invitation to Nintendo’s next fan appreciation gala. But any truth in his Pro Controller allegations would be a major testament to the pressure Nintendo is (or was) under from third-party publishers. Much of their E3 showing was dedicated to touting games like Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition and Aliens: Colonial Marines, and how they could embrace either control style without sacrificing any functionality. We also saw Ubisoft assert themselves as a major proponent of the Wii U, debuting ZombieU and impressing us with Assassin’s Creed III.
Succeeding a console in the Wii that currently holds an insurmountable sales lead over the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and yet was endlessly criticized for lacking third-party support, such strategical shifts would hardly seem appropriate unless Nintendo indeed felt the walls closing in to a certain extent.
Will it work? We know where Pachter stands. But some from the third parties themselves – like Epic VP Marc Rein and Treyarch studio head Marc Lamia – remain optimistic. If the Pro Controller turns out to be a third-party beacon, assuring that the Wii U is more than a “solution in search of a problem,” Nintendo won’t be lamenting any pesky politics behind it, either.
Ranters, it seems like we’re zoning in on a release date for the Wii U – even if Nintendo is still playing coy. With that said, though, how much does the company appear to be valuing third party support in the shadow of the Wii? Will it determine the Wii U’s next-gen success, or can Nintendo still get by on its in-house legacy?
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