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DS Games on Wii U, Nintendo's Smartphone Strategy and More: Nintendo News Round-Up

The troubled gaming giant's investor briefing brought with it a tasty selection of news regarding where Nintendo is headed in the near future.

News by Pete Davison, .

Today was a big day for Nintendo.

Following Iwata and other Nintendo board members taking significant pay cuts to atone for the company's recent troubles, all eyes were on today's investor briefing to see exactly how the troubled company was going to attempt to pick itself up from the troubles Wii U has wrought.

And the company didn't disappoint, either; the briefing brought with it an interesting selection of news -- including a few surprises -- that will play a key part of Nintendo's strategy in the coming months. Here's a round-up of what went on.

DS Games on Wii U

One might argue that the more logical place for DS games to go is 3DS, but since that platform already supports DS game cartridges, Nintendo presumably felt that bringing the handheld's library to Wii U's Virtual Console would be a better option in terms of expanding audience.

Details are sketchy on exactly how this will all work, since the only image released so far is of Brain Age running on the GamePad, with a virtual divide running down the center of the screen to simulate the split between the DS' two screens. This format will only prove practical for the relatively few vertical-format DS games, though -- Brain Age and Hotel Dusk spring to mind -- since using it for standard horizontal-split games would involve holding the GamePad vertically like an Atari Lynx playing Klax. And if you ever played Klax on the Atari Lynx, you'll know that it takes approximately five minutes for that hand position to become extremely uncomfortable. It would perhaps be better for the DS' top screen to be displayed on the TV and the touchscreen content to appear on the GamePad, but we'll have to wait and see if that's how it's going to work.

This has potential to bring a vast library of great games to players who prefer not to use handhelds for whatever reason, but it needs to be well-implemented in order to be a success -- and it also needs to have a decent library of titles available for download. The DS has a huge number of great games available -- Nintendo will need to ensure it releases new titles in a timely manner in order for this new feature of Virtual Console to be worthwhile. And with the company's historically quite slow rate of releasing games on Wii U's Virtual Console... well, it's hard not to be a little concerned. We shall see, though!

Wii U Gets a Quick-Start Function

It almost certainly won't sell any Wii U systems, but an update coming in early summer will allow you to pick a piece of software and a user to log in as on the GamePad before the Wii U system itself has finished booting up. In this way, you can "queue up" what you want to play, then leave the system to do its thing while it goes through its normal startup process. Perhaps go and make a cup of coffee or something.

It didn't look as if you'd be able to use the Quick-Start function to boot Wii games, which require the Wii U to boot normally, then boot the Wii's OS separately from the main menu.

Mario Kart 8 Coming in May

Not a lot more to say about that, really. Previously, we only had a somewhat ill-defined "spring" release, but now we know it's coming in May. Mike thought it looked rather good.

Nintendo and Quality of Life

Iwata said that Nintendo would be looking to expands its offerings with a new "quality of life" initiative through non-wearable devices and software to monitor your health. Further details are supposedly forthcoming later this year, and the initiative is set to launch in April of next year. The Wall Street Journal reported that the new initiative would not be based in the living room -- Nintendo already has three incarnations of Wii Fit to cover that -- so it will perhaps be 3DS related. Or perhaps it will be a new piece of tech altogether, like the Fit Meter or the oft-mocked Vitality Sensor.

Nintendo and Smart Devices

Iwata noted that the company would need to provide something "truly valuable that is unique to Nintendo" in order to draw attention to its presence on devices such as smartphones and tablets. Iwata was open to the idea that Nintendo needed to "achieve greater ties" with its customers through use of these popular devices, and noted that a "small, select team of developers" would be put to work on the task.

"I have not given any restrictions to the development team," said Iwata, "even not ruling out the possibility of making games or using our game characters.

No. No. For the last time, NO.

"However," he clarified, fending off the inevitable 'Mario Coming to iPhone' headlines before they appeared, "if you report that we will release Mario on smart devices, it would be a completely misleading statement."

Instead, Iwata plans to release applications on smart devices that will "attract consumer attention and communicate the value of our entertainment offerings." Given Iwata's other comments, it sounds as if these will take the form of interactive advertising of some description -- perhaps even short, simple advergames making use of Nintendo's immediately recognizable characters. A Mario-themed minigame designed to promote Super Mario 3D World? Perhaps; we'll have to wait and see: "I would encourage you to see how our approach yields results," said Iwata.

Nintendo Network ID will also be brought to mobile platforms. It's Nintendo's intention to unify Nintendo Network ID across mobile and all its own future dedicated devices, and to provide access to services such as the eShop from locations other than Nintendo consoles. This will also hopefully mean the end of tying purchases to a device instead of an account. According to a tweet by analyst David Gibson, who was watching the presentation, it also sounds as if there will be some sort of variable pricing model in place, where the "more users [who] play [a] game, the lower the price." Interesting!

Expect More Crossovers

The upcoming Hyrule Warriors from Tecmo Koei is just the first example of Nintendo being more lenient in licensing its properties to other developers. It appears that we should expect more spin-off, crossover games using Nintendo characters and properties in the near future -- though no other examples were given as part of the presentation.

Alongside crossover games, Nintendo is looking at being more flexible in terms of merchandise based on its character IP. In the past, Iwata noted that Nintendo had taken a "passive" approach towards licensing characters and IP, ensuring that Nintendo characters only appeared in carefully selected games -- and that he believed this had created "fortunate circumstances" in terms of how well-regarded Nintendo characters are. The change in policy going forward will be dependent on Nintendo and the third party not being in direct competition -- and there being the possibility of a "win-win" relationship between the two of them.

"By moving forward with such activities globally, we aim to increase customer exposure to Nintendo characters by making them appear in places other than on video game platforms," Iwata said. This is something we thought might be a good idea, too.

The Problem with Wii U...

...is that people still don't recognize the GamePad is a necessary component for the console, and are still, in some cases, under the mistaken assumption that it's an accessory for the Wii. Cutting the price is not an option, as Nintendo is already selling the Wii U at a loss, and neither is the company willing to drop the GamePad altogether -- with many of its most popular, well-received games reliant on it, they'd be foolish to, anyway.

Repeat after me: new console, not an add-on. New console, not an add-on.

Instead, the company is keen to shift focus into more games that actually take advantage of the GamePad's unique features rather than simply mirroring the screen display or, as in the case of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, ignoring it altogether. Iwata apparently wants to "change the definition of the platform" and seemingly bring 3DS and Wii U closer together rather than treating them as completely separate platforms. The recent integration of MiiVerse into the 3DS OS could be seen as the first step in this process -- wouldn't it be nice if we saw more cross-platform features such as Virtual Console purchases working on multiple Nintendo devices?

We'll also see more in the way of NFC connectivity with the GamePad from E3 onwards this year; currently, Pokémon Rumble U is the only title to take advantage of this built-in feature of the GamePad.

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Comments 7

  • Avatar for Stealth20k #1 Stealth20k 2 years ago
    Nintendo announced all the right things.
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  • Avatar for TheSL #2 TheSL 2 years ago
    I have yet to play a Nintendo-made game outside of Nintendo Land that justifies the existence of the tablet controller. Outside of them, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate proved it to be useful, but then was just replicating the two-screen setup of the 3DS version. As a general rule I tend to just play on the Classic Controller and begrudgingly switch to the tablet when something like Super Mario 3D World forces me to use it for a handful of stages.

    The rest of the announcements are a...whole lot of nothing? Business as usual on the VC front (DS games coming soon! Right after those GBA ones we announced like a year ago that are still missing!) and more Wii Fit-alike quality of life software / devices.
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  • Avatar for docexe #3 docexe 2 years ago
    Seeing a few comments in other sites, people are being quick to dismiss the things said in the briefing, apparently because they want a quick magic bullet solution (which, by the way: DOESN’T EXIST!!!) or a complete corporate shake-up (which could actually be VERY helpful in Nintendo’s case… but you know, “big old traditionalist Japanese company” 9_9).

    In any case, I think Iwata makes some right calls here. The problem is that the steps proposed are very mild and from the look of it, the intention is to keep the ship steady in the short term while making crucial big steps in the mid and long term. The thing is that, given how much the company is struggling right now, it would be better to take some of those steps already. I suppose they are not doing that because it’s not possible from a technical, manpower or financial point of view, but still…

    In any case, the most positive things I saw about the briefing:

    - Doubling down on Wii U software development to (finally!) justify the Gamepad.
    - Recognizing that they have to unify their accounts system. This is a very positive step, but the problem is that the way it was phrased, it seems that software tied to accounts instead of hardware and proper unified account system won’t be available until their next platforms are released, whenever that might be.
    - The loyalty program where the more games you buy the cheaper they get.
    - The licensing of their properties for third parties and for other type of media projects (once again, finally!).
    - Getting a group of developers to experiment on mobile with their properties and possibly create an additional revenue and publicity stream, instead of shifting the entire business to mobile. This honestly might be the most intelligent thing they could have done in this space without risking cannibalizing or devaluing their core market.

    As to their new “quality of life” third platform... well, I suppose it is the logical progression of their software aimed at casual audiences like Wii Fit and Brain Age. For gamers it certainly sounds unimportant and uninteresting, but it remains to be seen what they will do exactly.Edited January 2014 by docexe
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  • Avatar for Terpiscorei #4 Terpiscorei 2 years ago
    I can't imagine they'll put the top screen of a DS game on an HD television; it'd look terrible. I think keeping it all on the gamepad is the way to go.

    And I understand why putting DS games on the Wii U makes some sense, but I think it's a missed opportunity to not also put them on the 3DS. If nothing else, I think a cross-buy offering using the new NNID system would make this DS virtual console much more appealing.

    Of course, that's assuming games are released at a reasonable rate. As others have pointed out, that's a huge assumption.
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  • Avatar for sam-stephens #5 sam-stephens 2 years ago
    @TheSL

    "I have yet to play a Nintendo-made game outside of Nintendo Land that justifies the existence of the tablet controller"

    The gamepad is a godsend for efficiently playing Pikmin 3. Being able to send one character to a part of the map while controlling another is key to getting a high-score in the challenge modes. Wind Waker HD, Wonderful 101, and Super Mario 3D World utilizes it pretty well too.

    None of these examples are exactly revolutionary nor will they encourage more people to by the system, but the gamepad does add to those games enough to the point where I would not consider it to be trivial. But yes, it would be great to see a game that fully utilizes the potential of the gamepad. My guess is that the next Zelda game will do this as the series also showed how great touch screen and motion controls could work in an adventure game.Edited 2 times. Last edited January 2014 by sam-stephens
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #6 SargeSmash 2 years ago
    Just the usefulness of off-screen play justifies the GamePad for me.
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  • Avatar for qwilman #7 qwilman 2 years ago
    @sam stephens@TheSL Ditto for Pikmin 3, it's made for some of the most natural-feeling multitasking I've found in an RTS-styled game.

    I am looking forward to a bigger focus in finding some unique gameplays for the touchscreen, though. It feels like another one of Nintendo's pushes that should have been part of the pre-launch strategy.
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