How do you solve a problem like Maria?


Over the past week, I’ve received some interesting responses to my previous blog post. Some believe that it’s unrealistic for NX to receive stronger first party software output than Wii U. People think I’m blowing smoke up their ass, but they completely forget that I was the person who constantly criticized the company for failing to deal with these software droughts.

First and foremost, it’s important to mention that a large portion of Wii U’s  best games weren’t developed by Nintendo. So this idea that Nintendo will solely rely on their own internal studios to create NX software — instead of collaborations with third parties — is absolutely ridiculous. If we’re going to have a real discussion about whether NX’s software output will be a significant improvement over Wii U’s software output, then this is something that needs to be addressed.

Wii U games that weren’t developed by Nintendo

Hyrule Warriors – Developed by Koei Tecmo, Omega Force, Team Ninja (Not Nintendo)

Pokken Tournament – Developed by Bandai Namco Studios (Not Nintendo)

Lego City Undercover – Developed by TT Games (Not Nintendo)

The Wonderful 101 – Developed by Platinum Games  (Not Nintendo)

Bayonetta 2 – Developed by Platinum Games  (Not Nintendo)

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE – Developed by Atlus (Not Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD – Developed by Tantalus (Not Nintendo)

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water – Developed by Koei Tecmo (Nintendo)

Devil’s Third – Developed by Valhalla Game Studios  (Not Nintendo)

Sing Party – Developed by FreeStyle Games (Not Nintendo)

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge – Developed by Koei Tecmo (Not Nintendo)

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics – Developed by Sega Sports R&D  (Not Nintendo)

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – Developed by Sega Sports R&D (Not Nintendo)

Sonic Lost World – Developed by Sega (Not Nintendo)

Sonic Boom – Developed by Sega (Not Nintendo) — Nintendo partially funded this

Zombi U – Developed by Ubisoft (Not Nintendo)  — originally a Wii U exclusive

Rayman Legends – Developed by Ubisoft (Not Nintendo)

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate – Developed by Capcom (Not Nintendo)

Lost Reavers – Developed by Bandai Namco Studios (Not Nintendo)

To understand how Nintendo will deal with software droughts on NX, I think everyone needs to take a time machine back to late 2014.

From The Escapist in November 2014:

Nintendo’s decades-old strategy of sparse first-party-title releases may soon be drawing to a close. At a recent financial results Q&A, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata and General Manager of Nintendo EAD Shigeru Miyamoto expressed their desire to release games starring Nintedo IPs more often, and the wish to extend the life of pre-existing games utilizing DLC.

Miyamoto showcased another strategy involving spin-off games as well. He believes that collaborating with second or third-party designers to release smaller-scale games utilizing Nintendo IPs that would concentrate on being smaller-scale than their main series entries, but still enjoyable. He pointed to the recent success of Hyrule Warriors as an example of how this plan could work out.

They have already been pushing hard on this “smaller spin-off games” strategy with Hyrule Warriors, Captain Toad, Kirby & the Rainbow Curse, The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes, Metroid Prime: Federation Force, Amiibo Festival, Happy Home Designer, and many others.

Shigeru Miyamoto further elaborates:

…we want to support our character IP and increase the number of games we develop and release by also creating relatively smaller-scale but fun to play games,”

“We’re making preparations to release software within a franchise so that fans of the series will not need to wait for, say, three years in order to play a new experience in that franchise.”

Remakes and ports of old games

wii sports club

Recently I mentioned that Nintendo was conducting experiments with multiple ports for the NX. Earlier this year, I said Legend of Zelda U and Smash Bros U were practically guaranteed to receive NX ports. This week, Nintendo confirmed that Zelda will receive a dual release on Wii U and NX. Meanwhile, Super Mario Maker and Splatoon are currently just experiments, and there’s NO guarantee whether Nintendo will announce/release them.

It’s always possible that Nintendo may turn these porting experiments into full-fledged sequels — Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Maker 2. But it’s anyone’s guess at this point.

There is some actual logic behind these ports.

Super Smash Bros, Super Mario Maker, and Splatoon aren’t seen as just games for Nintendo. They are seen as services where they can continue selling more DLC and amiibo. These games are also seen as “communities” by the company, and they want these communities to migrate from Wii U to NX.  This explains why Nintendo continued to support these games with DLC regardless of Wii U’s disastrous hardware sales.

Super Smash Bros. represents a large bulk of the amiibo business. This is the franchise that launched the entire amiibo craze back in 2014. There are currently more amiibo figures for Super Smash Bros than any other Wii U game. But Nintendo can’t afford to wait three years to develop a completely brand new Smash Bros from scratch with a new engine. For example: Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS were announced in 2011, but they weren’t released until the end of 2014.

Nintendo doesn’t have an amiibo franchise like Skylanders, Disney Infinity, or Lego Dimensions. The company wants the amiibo business to continue thriving, and Super Smash Bros is extremely important to the overall health of the amiibo business.

When you analyze the software libraries of Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo did port and remake a decent number of games from previous consoles.

Wii U Remakes / Ports

Wii Sports Club  – A remake of a Wii launch title.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD  – A remake of a GameCube game.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD – A remake of a Wii launch title.

Bayonetta 1 – A port of a 360 / PS3 game with Wii U exclusive content.

3DS Remakes / Ports

Star Fox 64 3D  — A remake of an N64 game

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D — A remake of an N64 game

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D — A remake of an N64 game

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D — A port of a Wii game

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D — A port of a Wii game.

Redundancy leads to inefficiency

Based on conversations with my Nintendo sources, smaller games and spinoffs are only one small piece of a much bigger strategy to increase software output for future hardware. As handheld software becomes increasingly similar to their console brethren, it’s becoming more and more pointless to have two separate teams making two completely different versions of a similar game. From the company’s point of view, it would be much easier to create one piece of software for multiple devices.

Nintendo wants to solve a problem.

And the problem is in the picture below.