Friday, July 22, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: We Predict Wii U's Launch Titles and "System Seller"

In an article you'll see nowhere else, we break down Nintendo’s development cycles of all of their crucial franchises and predict Wii U’s launch lineup with its key “system seller” title. Juggling multiple consoles appears to have put the company into a bottleneck with most Wii development ending two years ago and focus moved to the 3DS. Now as many of those projects are wrapping up, focus is now just moving to Wii U with less than a year to launch. It’s easy to see the precarious spot Nintendo finds itself in.


The Franchises:

Animal Crossing
EAD Group 2 is the team responsible for Animal Crossing and the Wii Sports/Resort/Play. With Wii Play: Motion just released and work on Animal Crossing 3DS wrapping up, this team is hard at work on the next round of Wii U Sports/Resort/Play titles (demos) that will highlight Wii U’s new abilities for launch. But if there is one Nintendo series that suffers from the youngest kid syndrome, Animal Crossing is it. Release after release, this series gets away with murder. Little is added to each new release, as we’re beginning to see once again with the upcoming 3DS version. If Nintendo is bound to repeat its past, EAD Group 2 could pump out a slightly updated version of the 3DS version with a handful of new items, HD graphics and an inventory management system on the controller’s new 6.2” screen and call it a day.
Launch Title? Possible


Battalion/Advance Wars
Intelligent Systems works on everything from the strategy-focused Advance Wars and Fire Emblem franchises to the oddball WarioWare. The studio is currently working on Paper Mario for the 3DS. Its good odds they have started work on a Wii U title, but it won’t get the studio’s full focus until Paper Mario 3DS is complete later this year.
Launch Title? No


Baten Kaitos

Monolith Soft is currently working on a Wii U title and is taking applications for it. With Nintendo refusing to release Xenoblade and Disaster: Day of Crisis in the US, the game could be another Baten Kaitos, a game solely for the Japanese market or something entirely new.
Launch Title? No



Brain Age

It appears the brain training craze has cooled. If Nintendo were to release another Brain Age, it would probably be for 3DS.
Launch Title? No


Donkey Kong
After a fantastic reappearance in Donkey Kong Country Returns, Retro cranked out DK’s newest game in a little over a year. It’s possible they went right back to another one in order to have it ready for Wii U, or it’s more likely, as Nintendo’s top graphic developer, they went back to work on another new Metroid to showcase the Wii U hardware.
Launch Title? Doubtful. Possible Holiday 2012 release


Earthbound
We can dream can’t we?
Launch Title? Yea right



Excite Bike/Truck/Bots
Monster games just finished Pilotwings Resort for the 3DS, so their next game is at least a year and a half out. A lot of the fun of Excite Truck came from steering with the Wiimotes and although this is still possible with Wii U, most of Nintendo’s output going forward is going to be made with the new controller in mind and not the Wiimotes. Nintendo seems to have cooled on the franchise since Excitebots took the series to the extreme. Maybe Nintendo will wisely grant the studo rights to dust off Excite Bike or better, a real Pilotwing game.
Launch Title? No


F Zero

What NDCube is currently working on is unknown. They just finished up the Mario Party-esque Wii Party: Motion and haven't yet announced their next project. They were responsible for the GBA F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, but that game was released 10 years ago. Sega proved with their arcade experience that they were a much better fit for the series. Poor sales might be the reason we haven’t seen a sequel in a generation or that the motion-sensor driving with the Wiimote wasn’t a great fit for the precision required in the game. Maybe as Nintendo transitions back to a more traditional controller layout, this fan favorite might see a return.
Launch Title? No


Fire Emblem
Intelligent Systems works on everything from the strategy-focused Advance Wars and Fire Emblem franchises to the oddball WarioWare. The studio is currently working on Paper Mario for the 3DS. There’s good odds they have started work on a Wii U title, but it won’t get the full company’s focus until Paper Mario 3DS is complete later this year.
Launch Title? No


Golden Sun

Golden Sun fans finally got their hands on that series' third installment last year. A fourth has been hinted at, but development on RPGs need more time than a year and a half.
Launch Title? No




Kid Icarus

Project Sora is Nintendo's newest studio and has yet shipped their first game. Nintendo trusted them with reviving one of their oldest franchises and it looks like Kid Icarus: Uprising is going to be 3DS’s flagship title. That accomplishment should grant them right to develop a new Kid Icarus for Wii U. With Uprising running into delays, it’s doubtful a sequel will come before 2013.
Launch Title? No



Kirby
HAL Laboratory’s main focus is on the Kirby Series, which the studio is currently working on new 3DS and Wii versions. There is a chance the Wii version could get bumped to Wii U if Nintendo finds itself with a weak launch lineup. There is little chance a Kirby game made from the ground up for Wii U would be ready for launch.
Launch Title? Doubtful


Legend of Zelda
Nintendo showed off a fantastic demo of what a Zelda game would look like in HD running on Wii U hardware. The company stressed that is merely a “demo” of what a Twilight Princess inspired design in HD would look like and not an actual in-development Zelda HD game. With Nintendo’s EAD Group 3 finished with Skyward Sword, the next Zelda is probably still in the planning stages. Based on past development cycles, Twilight Princess was released in 2006 and we’re just getting its sequel now, so don’t expect Zelda HD till 2015 at the earliest.
Launch Title? Definitely not, unless Nintendo releases a special edition of Skyward Sword with Wii U controls (which is even more doubtful since the game is based around Wiimote control scheme).


Luigi Mansion

The just announced 3DS sequel surprised gamers as Nintendo dusted off one of their newer franchises that was running the risk of being forgotten. Although it’s nice to see it coming to 3DS, fans are still scratching their heads why the franchise didn’t show up on Wii. In a game where the main character controls a flashlight, it makes more sense that the gamer would do this with a Wiimote, mimicking a real flashlight, than a tablet controller. If the game didn’t show up on Wii for 5 years, don’t expect it for Wii U’s launch.
Launch Tile? No



Mario & Sonic at the 2012 London Olympic Games
(published by Nintendo in Japan)
With the target date for Wii U’s launch sometime between May and Oct, that would put it right around the time of the 2012 London summer Olympics. With a version coming out for all consoles later this year, Sega is bound to have a version for Wii U’s launch.
Launch Title? Yes




Mario Kart

EAD Group 1 is finishing work on the new 3DS Mario Kart and is expected to be released for the holidays. The Kart series always seems to show up when Nintendo needs it the most. It currently unknown how long the Wii U version has been in development. If the design and planning stages took place during the 3DS version’s development, EAD Group 1 has some of the greatest programmers on the planet and could pump the game out in a year. Let’s hope this rush to make launch (or launch window) doesn’t neuter any new gameplay developments the series desperately needs. With Mario Kart being a multiplayer game and the Wii U console only supporting one or two Wii U controllers, it will be interesting how Nintendo handles this series. Online might play a bigger role this time around than ever before.
Launch Title? Possible




Mario Party

Nintendo is about to release version 9 for Wii in the coming months. The Mario Party series has always been a franchise Nintendo uses to fill out their release schedule. They’re constantly in production and covertly appear from nowhere. Nintendo has run the franchise into the ground on the Wii, but what’s great with the Party series, with every new console the series gets to refresh with Nintendo’s newest innovation. Love or hate the series, Mario Party does have its purpose. It’s just not a title to get excited about and that’s one thing game manufactures need when launching a new console.
Launch Title? No




Mario Sports

Camelot has hinted at a fourth Golden Sun, but they take years to finish. In the meantime, they could develop the next addition to the Mario sport series. More perplexingly though is that these games seem like no-brainers after seeing Wii Sports in 2006. Why didn’t Nintendo take the same idea in Wii Sports and expand them into full featured Mario sport titles? Nobody knows.
Launch Titles? No




Metroid

After a fantastic return in...Donkey Kong Country Returns, Retro cranked out DK’s the game in a little over a year. It’s possible they went right back to another one in order to have one ready for Wii U, it’s more likely, as Nintendo’s top graphic developer, they went right back to work on another new Metroid to showcase the Wii U hardware.
Launch Title? Possible




New Super Mario Bros Wii U (2D)
Nintendo EAD Group 4 has been in charge of the New Super Bros 2D and is currently wrapping up their 3DS version. The studio has also been working on Pikmin 3 for almost three years now, which in theory should be complete. Nintendo showed off a few clips from a new Wii U Super Mario 2D at E3 this year but gave little details on its progress.
Launch Title? Possible




Paper Mario

Intelligent Systems works on everything from the strategy-focused Advance Wars and Fire Emblem franchises to the oddball WarioWare. The studio is currently working on Paper Mario for the 3DS. There’s good odds they have started work on a Wii U title, but it won’t get the full company’s focus until Paper Mario 3DS is complete later this year.
Launch Title? No



Pikmin
Nintendo EAD Group 4 has been in charge of the New Super Bros 2D and is currently wrapping up their 3DS version. The studio has also been working on Pikmin 3 for almost three years now, which in theory should be complete. If the game can pull itself out of development hell, it would be primed for Wii U launch.
Launch Title? Yes


Pilotwings

If there is one thing Nintendo must do with Wii U is dust off the old franchises and give them a reboot. Monster games just finished Pilotwings Resort for the 3DS, but any fan knows that was just a tease. If Nintendo is going to cater to their hardcore fans, bring back a full-fledged Pilotwing game would be a fantastic start.
Launch Title? No



Pokemon
Game Freak is working on the sixth generation of Pokemon main games, but fans will have to wait for years for it. There are bound to be many side Pokemon games in the works, but Nintendo has never relied on Pokemon to sell systems at launch. Given the fact that Nintendo says it wants to focus on the hardcore gamer with Wii U and that the console will cost $300 or more, there is little chance of a Pokemon at launch.
Launch Title? No


Punch Out

Next Level is just finishing Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wii, Captain America: Super Soldier, so there is a good chance that Nintendo has put them to work on a Wii U title. There’s even better odds that the game isn’t named Punch Out.
Launch Title? No



Star Fox
Along with Animal Crossing, Star Fox another Nintendo franchise that has a lot of room to grow. The last Nintendo made console Star Fox game was released on Nintendo 64 in 1998. Namco took over for 2005’s Star Fox: Assault which was a waste of everyone’s time. Nintendo is remaking Star Fox 64 for 3DS with a target release for September. This might be Nintendo’s way of testing the water if there’s still interest in the franchise. They’ve always seemed hesitant with the franchise and have yet to move forward with a next gen version for some reason. Nintendo has cancelled three Star Fox games in the past, Star Fox 2 for SNES, one for Virtual Boy and an arcade version that was to be a companion to Star Fox Assault. There’s a good chance gamers will see a new Star Fox on Wii U, just don’t expect it for launch.
Launch Title? No


Super Mario (3D)

The next big Mario adventure is already in development for Wii U, according to the game’s producer. The game is early on in its development cycle and promises to take full advantage of Wii U’s new bells and whistles. Currently, Nintendo EAD Tokyo is working on finishing Super Mario 3DS before going all hands on deck with Super Mario Wii U.
Launch Title? No




Super Smash Bros

HAL Laboratory’s main focus is on the Kirby Series, which the studio is currently working on new 3DS and Wii versions. Nintendo announced that the Smash Bros games will appear in 3DS and Wii U at E3 2011, but then later added that work hasn’t started yet on them.
Launch Title?  No



Warioware
Intelligent Systems works on everything from the strategy-focused Advance Wars and Fire Emblem franchises to the oddball WarioWare. The studio is currently working on Paper Mario for the 3DS. Its good odds they have started work on a Wii U title, but it won’t get the full company’s focus until Paper Mario 3DS is complete later this year.
Launch Title? No


Wave Race

It was quite surprising this franchise didn’t show up on Wii (outside of Wii Sports Resort). With Wii U’s increased horsepower, a sequel could show off what the new console can do, like Wave Race 64 did for Nintendo’s 64’s and Gamecube’s launch. Nintendo has been mum on the franchise for a generation now. Maybe Wave Race will get the call again to help launch Wii U. One can hope.
Launch Title? Possible




Wii Fit

Nintendo has a history of abandoning peripherals after they release them. Wii Fit buck that trend with a upgrade/sequel Wii Fit Plus in 2009. Another sequel was nowhere to be seen in 2010 and 2011. The likelyhood Nintendo would use its resources to develop a sequel to a four year old peripheral is slimmer than slim.
Launch Title? No



Wii Sports/Resort/Play
EAD Group 2 is the team responsible for Animal Crossing and the Wii Sports/Resort/Play. With Wii Play: Motion just released and work on Animal Crossing 3DS wrapping up, this team is hard at work on the next round of Wii U Sports/Resort/Play titles (demos) that will highlight Wii U’s new abilities.
Launch Title? Yes



Xenoblade

Monolith Soft is currently working on a Wii U title and is taking applications for it. With Nintendo refusing to release Xenoblade in the US, it’s doubtful it’s a sequel to Xenoblade.
Launch Title? No



 
Analysis:

As stuck in the ways Nintendo is, it can be hard to predict what they do. When breaking down their franchises and respective studios one by one, it’s easy to see that Nintendo is in a precarious spot. Juggling multiple consoles appears to have put the company into a bottleneck. Most Wii development ended two years ago and focus went to 3DS. Now as many of those projects are wrapping up, focus is moving to Wii U. If the new console is to launch in a year, Nintendo may only have a few 1st party titles ready to go. Although this seems low, Wii launched with three, Gamecube with two, N64 with two, SNES with three, NES with many titles.

Titles that have a good chance making launch are, Pikmin 3, Wii U Sports/Resort/Play, Mario & Sonic at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Nintendo will need more than that to convince gamers, especially hardcore types to drop another $300 on a Nintendo system. They need a system seller.

Of the possible title we’ve detailed above, Mario Kart, Metroid, Wave Race and New Super Mario Bros (2D) fit that category. Metroid will probably need the most time and might become Nintendo’s big Holiday 2012 release. New Super Mario Bros will only scream “system seller” if Nintendo makes it a true, inspired sequel to Super Mario World. At the same time, the Wii U might need something more than a sequel to a 12 year old game. Wave Race could be a nice showcase of Wii U abilities but the game has always had sidekick status. 

That leaves Mario Kart. If Nintendo can find a way to maximize Wii U’s new controller, update the games graphic style, while adding new gameplay mechanics and fully utilize Nintendo’s updated online network multiplayer, Mario Kart could be true “systems seller” for all fans alike.


Sure it would be great to have a new Super Mario, Smash Bros, Metroid or Zelda ready for launch to help get the new system up and running because the battle Nintendo is about to forge is going to be pivotal for the company. They will only be the most powerful console on the block for a short period of time before the competition catches up. If the company doesn't diligently plan for the epic battle that is about to happen in a few years, this very well could be the last Nintendo console gamers will see. Nintendo’s franchises are exceedingly beginning to show their age. Just converting them to HD isn’t going to be enough. They all need fresh reboots and new innovated gameplay embellishments if the company is to survive. Nintendo’s got the cash, thanks to the success of the Wii, but they need to invest much of it back into building better relationships with 3rd parties, R & D, marketing and the right minds to shape their priceless franchises for the next generation of consoles and gamers.

Our Prediction for Wii U’s Launch Lineup:

Making Launch:
Mario Kart (the “system seller”)
Pikmin 3
Wii U Sports/Resort/Play
Mario & Sonic at the 2012 London Olympic Games (published by Nintendo in Japan)

Possible or within the first year:
Animal Crossing
Metroid
New Super Mario Bros (2D)
Wave Race

Doubtful:
Kirby
Donkey Kong

Little Chance:
Luigi Mansion
Legend of Zelda
Kid Icarus
Golden Sun
Fire Emblem
F-Zero
Excite Bike/Truck/Bot
Earthbound
Brain Age
Baten Kaitos
Battalion/Advance Wars
Mario Party
Mario Sports
Nintendogs
Paper Mario
Pilotwings
Pokemon
Punch Out
Star Fox
Super Mario (3D)
Warioware
Wii Fit
Xenosaga
3rd Party Launch Games:
LEGO City Stories
Batman Arkham City
Assassin’s Creed
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online
Darksiders 2
Dirt
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Metro: Last Light
Madden 13
Tekken
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge
Raving Rabbids
New Ubisoft Multi-Sport Family IP
Possible 3rd Party Launch Games:
FIFA 13
Call of Duty
Battlefield
New Sonic


-TNGG (all logos are copyrighted Nintendo 2011)

1 comment:

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