Nintendo’s Ambiguous Plans for the Future Only Have Me More Concerned
Posted on Thursday, January 30 @ 12:00:00 Eastern by Alex_Osborn
From mobile initiatives to a brand-new "blue ocean" strategy that involves the launch of some sort of etherial "Quality of Life" platform, Nintendo's investor meeting yesterday brought plenty of surprises. While the undoubted goal was to paint a clearer picture of where the company is headed in 2014 and beyond, I'm sad to say I've come away more puzzled and concerned than I was going into it.
Let's break down each of the major announcements in an attempt to figure out exactly what Nintendo is planning for the future.
Embracing Smart Devices... Sort of
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has explicitly made it clear that the company has no intention to release first-party games on smartphones or tablets, but it appears the Big N plans to leverage these devices to "make connections with customers" and spread "the charm of entertainment for Nintendo platforms." What sort of form this will take was not fleshed out, which could very well mean the company still doesn't know exactly how they'll accomplish this. Perhaps some sort of Nintendo app that will allow users to log into their Nintendo Network account and access the Miiverse, view trailers, etc.? The fact that there's no concrete plan means it could really be anything. What I do know is that whatever it is, it will be hard to pull off in any sort of meaningful way.
"Quality of Life" Platform Coming 2015
Remember the Vitality Sensor that never game to fruition? How about the Wii Fit board and Pokéwalker? It looks like Nintendo is taking some of those health-conscious ideas and wrapping them around an entirely new platform that will launch next year. As for what exactly it will be, your guess is as good as mine. What we do know is that it won't involve wearable technology like the ever-popular Fitbit. Again, like the company's smart device strategy, very few details were shared, and with the company already struggling to get Wii U consoles in people's homes, introducing an entirely new platform, whether it is directly linked to Nintendo's current hardware or not, just adds more to the company's plate of risky ideas that could turn sour.
Mario Kart 8 Launching in May
We knew that the game would be launching sometime in spring, so this isn't particularly surprising. Nonetheless, it's nice to know the company has at least a month pinned down at this point. That said, with little Wii U software to be excited for between the launch of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and May, it would really have been great if Nintendo could have got this game ready for April. Mario Kart is Nintendo's biggest seller, so the sooner it hits store shelves, the better.
Renewed Focus on GamePad, NFC Game Announcements Coming at E3
Iwata wasn't afraid to admit that they've dropped the ball when it comes to conveying the value of the GamePad. As such, it has become a priority (or so they say) at Nintendo to create more game experiences that really take advantage of Wii U's tablet controller. While I would rather them just pull the clunky thing out of the box entirely (a move that would admittedly require a whole bunch of workarounds) this is encouraging news, even if it is an empty promise at the moment. The controller also has NFC functionality, something that Nintendo will take advantage of in the near future, as Iwata promised game announcements at E3 that make use of the tech. Again, I'll believe it when I see it. Pokémon Rumble U didn't particularly knock my socks off.
DS Games Coming to Wii U Virtual Console
The Big N has totally dropped the ball when it comes to Virtual Console, so it's great to know that the company has finally figured out how to bring DS games to Wii U. That said, there was no mention of when or how many titles will be coming. In addition, we still have yet to hear anything about Nintendo 64 and GameCube games (never mind Wii titles) coming to Nintendo's downloadable service, complete with GamePad support. We're over a year into the life of this system and the console's offerings in this regard is still quite pathetic. I was really hoping for more information on this front, as the company's back catalog is easily one of its greatest strengths. Eternal Darkness with off-TV play? Take my money right now!
Nintendo Characters Will Be Licensed to New Partners
According to Iwata, the company is already in talks with several partners to license out some of its beloved characters. To me this seems more like a quick way to earn cash than anything else, as it doesn't necessarily benefit Nintendo's core audience directly. Again, no sort of specifics were discussed, so whether or not these licensing deals are game-related or not remain to be seen. There are certainly some possibilities for interesting stuff, but I'll remain skeptical for the time being.
So there you have it. Those are Iwata's plans to turn the company around and bring Nintendo back to profitability. No sign of a price cut. No new game announcements. Plenty of ambiguous promises. All sorts of risky ideas that could go horribly wrong and piss off the core fan base even more. Are you as cynical as I am following Nintendo's briefing? You know what to do in the comments.
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