LEGO City: Undercover arrives in stores today, March 18, 2013, as a small oasis in what has been a vast, gameless dessert for Wii U owners. It is the first Nintendo-published Wii U game to be released since the system’s launch in November of 2012 – a sad state of affairs for which Nintendo President Satoru Iwata explicitly apologized during his January 23rd Nintendo Direct presentation.
Nintendo may have been counting on third-party publishers to bolster Wii U’s anemic games library in early 2013, but no such thing has happened. In fact, an ever increasing number of third-party games are skipping Wii U entirely.
While the truly big releases of 2013 are still ahead of us, not one of the marquee third-party games released so far this year have appeared on Wii U. No Dead Space 3. No Crysis 3. No Tomb Raider. Saints Row 4, revealed just last week with an appropriately over-the-top trailer (more info is due at PAX East), is coming to PC and “current-gen platforms,” but not Wii U. The same is true of Dead Island: Riptide, which like Saints Row 4, is being published by Deep Silver.
Speaking with Digital Spy, Deep Silver creative producer Alexander Toplansky describes why Wii U owners are missing out on Riptide.
“The things that are required to bring something to a new platform, you need to either really get to be integrating it deep into the engine, or you’ve got to [do] a port.”
“Neither one of those was a satisfactory outcome for us, so we decided to do what we got platform-wise and just make sure that we can deliver the best experience we can.”
On the possibility that Riptide might someday, somehow be released for Wii U, Toplansky is hardly enthusiastic.
“It’s not something I would categorically rule out, but it’s not something that’s planned.”
Asked, on the other hand, whether the game might appear on Sony’s recently announced PlayStation 4, Toplansky’s answer is markedly different.
“We would be stupid to not be looking at all of the possibilities that are out there.”
Deep Silver may be among the smaller publishers operating today, but even behemoths like Electronic Arts are treading lightly where Wii U is concerned. Need for Speed Most Wanted launches on Wii U March 19th, and it is currently the only EA game slated for the system all year. Battlefield 4, arguably EA’s most anticipated release of 2013 (and primed for a reveal on March 26th) is expected to launch across current and next-gen platforms, but may not appear on Wii U. According to Wii U Daily, Electronic Arts “blocked” development of the Wii U version, as relations between the two companies are “at an all-time low.”
If this proves to be accurate – if EA is, in fact, withholding software support from Wii U – the implications are unquestionably dire. The last home console to be barren of Electronic Arts games was SEGA’s Dreamcast, and we all know how that turned out. Suddenly, Michael Pachter’s year-old prediction about Nintendo (that the company would “Dreamcast itself” with Wii U) seems eerily prescient.
At least in the short term, there is LEGO City: Undercover to keep Wii U owners happy. Unless, of course, they intend to download the game from Nintendo’s eShop, in which case they had better have an extra hard drive handy – as pointed out in the fine print on Nintendo’s official LEGO City: Undercover website. The game is said to require 22GB of free space. That’s obviously way, way too much for the Wii U Basic Set, which has only 3GB available for “data storage and downloads,” and could even be a problem for owners of the Deluxe Set, which sports 25GB of usable storage. Again, this is Nintendo’s first Wii U game in months, and prospective players need an extra hard drive just to buy it from the eShop. Simply ridiculous.
As for the third-party situation, to be fair, a few big titles are on the way: Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed 4, perhaps even Destiny. For that matter, Nintendo consoles have always been primarily about playing first-party, Nintendo-produced games. Regardless, Wii U shouldn’t be struggling this badly just four months after launch. What happens when PS4 and, potentially, Xbox 720 release later this year? Can a smattering of multiplatform releases, along with whatever unannounced projects Nintendo has in development, possibly be enough to keep Wii U in the game? What do you think?
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