Earlier this week, Nintendo finally revealed which games will release alongside Wii U on November 18th, and which games are slated for the launch window that extends all the way to the end of March, 2013. Some big titles will be available on day one – New Super Mario Bros. U, ZombiU and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 among them – while the launch window includes such anticipated games as Pikmin 3 and Rayman Legends.
Now that we know what games will be available during Wii U’s first four months on store shelves, the obvious question to ask is: what comes next? Without going into any specifics, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime promises that Nintendo’s internal development studios are working on some “fantastic projects.”
Right out of the gate, third-party support for Wii U is undeniably strong. That has to be considered a victory for Nintendo, which has long lagged behind rivals Sony and Microsoft where third-party support is concerned. According to Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, Wii U’s Pro Controller was explicitly designed as a concession to publishers like Activision, and the effort has clearly paid off.
Nevertheless, for a huge number of players, Nintendo consoles are all about Nintendo-designed games. While several such games are due to be released over the course of Wii U’s launch window (Nintendo Land, SiNG PARTY, Game & Wario, Wii Fit U, The Wonderful 101), a number of notable Nintendo franchises are conspicuous by their absence: The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Mario Kart and Animal Crossing to name just a few. At least some of those games must currently be in development for Wii U, right?
On the September 28th episode of GT.TV, host Geoff Keighley put that question directly to Fils-Aime, asking point-blank whether there are first-party games in development that Nintendo isn’t discussing. Reggie’s answer? “Absolutely.”
“Rest assured, Mr. Miyamoto [and] the team at EAD are working on fantastic projects. Rest assured that Retro is working on a fantastic project. We’ve got big games in development that’ll be coming, that’ll continue to drive the install base of the system. All of that’s gonna be there.”
And when might those “big games” be announced?
“In all likelihood, probably during E3 – maybe a little bit earlier, maybe a little bit later. It really depends on the progress of the games.”
For the full interview with Reggie, be sure to check out GT.TV.
As for what those games might be, there have already been a number of rumors, and even some remarks from Nintendo brass. Mario aside, The Legend of Zelda has got to be considered Nintendo’s most prestigious franchise. Shigeru Miyamoto discussed the “number of different experiments” being undertaken in advance of the series’ Wii U debut last June – and, of course, he flat-out confirmed the game a full year earlier. The most recent rumors peg Wii U Zelda‘s launch for 2014, which – if true – would practically guarantee an unveiling at E3 2013.
Then there is Retro Studios to consider. Retro has grown to be one of Nintendo’s most trusted developers, thanks to its work on the Metroid Prime trilogy, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Mario Kart 7. According to Miyamoto, Retro is not working on Legend of Zelda, so what is the studio up to? GenGame reports that Retro may be busy designing multiple Wii U game engines for both first and third-party projects, while earlier rumors have the developer working on a Star Fox/Metroid crossover game. Miyamoto has spoken about the gameplay possibilities Wii U’s Game Pad could open up for Metroid, and remarked that he’d like to see Star Fox on the system – hardly a confirmation that the crossover game is for real, but intriguing just the same.
Meanwhile, nobody at Nintendo is talking much about Super Smash Bros. 4, despite the fact that it was confirmed for Wii U (and 3DS) way back at E3 2011. In an interview last August, Game Director Masahiro Sakurai discussed adapting the series’ controls for Wii U, but nothing of the actual game has been shown. Will it be among the Wii U games revealed at E3 2013? How could it not be?
Finally, and most tantalizingly, there is always the chance that all-new IPs are under development, possibly from Miyamoto himself. In the infamous “retirement interview,” Miyamoto expressed his desire to “be in the forefront of game development once again,” noting that he has a particular interest in developing “a smaller project” that won’t “require a five-year development time.” Sounds an awful lot like a downloadable title, doesn’t it? Nintendo is taking its digital storefront, eShop, more seriously than ever before – the Deluxe Digital Promotion that is one of the benefits of the Wii U Deluxe Set attests to as much – and what could generate more excitement for eShop than an all new, download-only game from Shigeru Miyamoto? Granted, this scenario doesn’t quite fit Fils-Aime’s “big game” description, but a new title from Miyamoto is always an event. Don’t count it out.
Whatever Fils-Aime’s “big games” actually turn out to be, they’ll almost certainly be the ammunition Nintendo takes into battle against Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox 720. Much has been made of the fact that PS4 and Xbox 720 will almost unquestionably tower over Wii U in terms of graphics and technology – but games may prove to be a different story. When Sony and Microsoft’s new systems finally debut, Nintendo will be ready to go with second-generation Wii U games. Michael Pachter, meanwhile, predicts a Wii U price cut before holiday 2013. With a (potentially) low price and a library of polished, second-gen games, Wii U is apt to be an awfully compelling choice for holiday 2013 shoppers, and awfully tough competition for PS4 and Xbox 720. Will it be enough to (once again) put Nintendo at the top of the console sales heap? What do you think?
The Nintendo Wii U releases in North America on Sunday, November 18, 2012.
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