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February 22, 2013 8:07 pm

The Bridge Over the River ‘Why?’

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So the response to my introductory column here on Vooks was overall positive and it’s awesome to see so many original readers of N64 and Nintendo Gamer still trouncing about in the world of videogames, but there was some anger too.

“Emo” was one word used to describe my current stance on all-things Nintendo, and I guess it could be construed as that, if it wasn’t for having actually lived and breathed the company, its products and my fandom of them, for the better part of all my life until I became a professional games journo (I’ll cop flak for that statement too, I’m sure). But to be as cut and dry about it as possible, the point of my intro was to simply say that at this stage, I feel Nintendo has a bit of an uphill battle to reclaim any footing of the likes they had during the N64 and GameCube cycles, especially for gamers like myself.

And this brings me to my second column. Ninty’s announcement of an HD ‘remake’ of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker brought about more than a few smiles, but it raises an interesting question. Aounuma-san mentioned that the remake is coming in part because their official Wii U Zelda title was running longer in development than they anticipated, but why wasn’t any of this stuff ready for Wii U’s release? The Nintendo stop-gap is its flagship franchises: Mario, Zelda and Metroid, but none of these, in proper form, were ready or even officially announced in relation to Wii U’s release hype. Moreover, Nintendo made a point to mention they wanted their core audience back and reinvigorated. So again, why wasn’t anything ready?

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If we look back at The Big-N’s last three home consoles a pattern emerges regarding time. Nintendo, in the core space of their business, does things at a snail’s pace and top franchises like true Mario, Zelda or Metroid aren’t released near each other — they’re evenly paced for the hardcore masses to equally pace out the life of the platform. On Wii it was probably the most glaring, and jokes of that console being a paper-weight or dust-collector were more rampant than any other console ever released.

You could argue then, that Nintendo’s usual core development time has been utilised to push the company’s more recent ‘innovation[s]’, but I’d argue it’s that the videogame development landscape has not only caught up with Nintendo’s design strengths and abilities, but in many ways surpassed them. To this end, development in-house there has slowed to analyse what’s working and what’s not, as can be construed by Miyamoto’s comments regarding wanting to see what a Western studio could do with the Zelda franchise. Of course, this is all speculation on my part, but having “lived and breathed the company” for so long, I do feel I have at least some working knowledge of how Nintendo likes to do things.

So the inner gamer in me, the guy who now plays most anything, regardless of platform, looks at the current Wii U lineup, as well as its launch window, and wonders where any of the games originally designed to keep that fanbase engaged are. I know they’re coming, but on the back of promises (and a little bit of hope) it’s just feeling more and more like Nintendo is dropping the ball over and over. And throwing us an HD remake of Wind Waker to tide us over until Zelda Wii U proper is actually a bit of a slap in the face, if you remove the want to play that game in HD.

From the reaction to that announcement, it becomes plainly obvious that Wind Waker is a fan favourite, and in HD it’s looking fricking good. It probably should have been on the cards all along. It would have felt less cheap and reactionary if Nintendo just took the launch reigns and released a Zelda title with Wii U, the console would then at least look like it was going to serve up that Nintendo gaming flavour we all love so much.

The other spectrum here is, of course, that we’re now getting two Zelda titles on Wii U and that I should probably stop complaining, and it would be a reasonable sentiment. I’m not above realising that I’m disgruntled with Nintendo’s lack of catering specifically to me in the in-between years, but at some point you really have to question where the company is at today. The Wii U launch lineup was filled with old third-party titles and very, very little in the core department from Nintendo. Moreover, what was released was party-centric (read: mainstream). The N64 released with Super Mario 64. I honestly don’t need to paint a better picture than that because the parallel speaks for itself.

Nintendo is also further behind the mark than they may realise, and a lack of any of their core franchises or flagship IPs simply shows they’ve lost touch with the rest of the gaming world. The PlayStation 4 has been officially announced and early demos show a powerhouse of a platform. The next Xbox is a stone throw away from being fully unveiled, and both systems launch this year. March is also almost here and Nintendo barely has anything on the horizon worth jumping up and down for, beyond the aforementioned Wind Waker. There are a handful of third-party titles, but you’ll be able to play most of these on other platforms anyway such as Resident Evil Revelations and Watch Dogs (there’s also Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and LEGO City Undercover, but you can count all of these games on one hand).

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In short, Nintendo needs one heck of an E3 showing, or to give us something to cling onto now, because E3 is halfway through 2013 leaving the countdown for the next-gen just another five or so months away. Can Wind Waker really make up for all of this?

I’ll play the shit out of Wind Waker in HD, and will play the Wii U-specific Zelda release because my life has been leading up to an official HD next-gen entry in the series as far as I’m concerned, but I tread carefully around Nintendo and its releases these days, if only because it feels like they’re not treading at all.

Next: A more upbeat trip down memory lane.


About the Author

Stephen Farrelly
Stephen Farrelly was the editor of both N64 Gamer and Nintendo Gamer magazines here in Australia. He moved onto AusGamers, one of Australia’s oldest independent online publications and one of its largest, in 2005 and currently serves as its senior editor. 2013 will mark his 10th E3 and 36th birthday -- he wishes they could happen at the same time. You can find him on Twitter at @steve_farrelly.




22 Comments


  1. I do agree with a lot of what Stephen is saying here, however I think from the middle of next month (it seems so long away) things will change.

    There’s a bunch of games coming and they’re coming fast, both from Nintendo and third parties. A lot of them don’t have confirmed dates, which is probably where the apprehension is coming from.

    Soon after that we’ll have a range of Q2 titles and Nintendo can fill us up again for Q3 with another Nintendo Direct. They are ‘running out’ of titles that have been announced aside from the Q4/2014 titles of Mario Kart, 3D Mario etc however. The smaller tier titles and eShop titles that the 3DS is getting, the Wii U doesn’t have.

    E3 will be key, however with the PS4 and the next Xbox in full showing it will be hard for Nintendo to breath there, all the focus will be on them. Nintendo needs a good show and they need to follow it up with Directs and games.

    It’s just not going to stop that feeling of dread right now. Zelda games do take a long time to make these days it seems…


    • OzHuski

      The way I see it for E3, is that both companies will be bringing there console to the foreground (Sony and MS) and will be showing off what few games are far enough along the pipes for people to get wowed over.

      The problem is, being new consoles there isn’t going to be huge amounts of games. If you look at the current PS4 announcement, there was a distinct lack of games being shown, and a lot of what has been shown is been questioned if its even real footage. Square Enix’s footage was the exact same trailer from over a year ago produced on a PC for “What they would like to do”.

      Nintendo has the chance here, they have both consoles out and about. What they need to do is show content, and lots of it! If they can provide a stack of reasons to own a Wii U now as well as the 3DS they are in a position to steal the show quite easily. Lots more eShop new would also be a welcome!


      • mikeeeey

        If Nintendo can release Super Smash Bros before the PS4 or at least the new XBOX is released, then would be the best possible thing for Nintendo.
        I imagine they’re waiting until E3 to officially showcase it rather than Nintendo Direct and hopefully they’ll have it almost finished!


        • Pierre

          Sakurai stated that he fears Smash Bros fans will have to wait a while longer than they’re anticipating. This is for a few reasons:

          A) Development for both Wii U and 3DS versions will be quite a tedious task.
          B) Smash Bros will be horrible if rushed to the public. It’s just one of those games that requires perfect character balancing for total enjoyment. (Which also isn’t easy – take Street Fighter for an example)
          C) Wii U is a new console, developers are still working out the best ways to make use of the systems hardware in the development process (Let alone learn HOW to develop for such a console)

          Basically, don’t keep expecting great titles flying out left and right, and so early on. (It is 100% not going to come out this year) You’re setting up some pretty big disappointment. Just grab something else in the mean time, E3 isn’t too far away.


  2. MentalKnight

    I believe the Wii U has a lot of potential to release indie games onto the eShop. Developers have already commented how they love Nintendo’s free updates policy and how they love being able to set the price for their games.

    Of course, this depends if indie developers see the point of releasing their games on the Wii U in the first place. If the market grows then more and more developers will be attracted.


  3. MLTZER

    Maybe Nintendo has held back their AAA first party titles to let the 3rd parties get their games out and show what they can do on the system… after all, we all know how well a proper mario title would of sold at launch


    • Hang on a second, you reckon a 3D Mario game would’ve outsold a 2D Mario game or you think a 2D Mario game with more effort would’ve sold better? If it’s the former, there’s no sales record that 3D Mario has ever sold better than 2D Mario. But if it’s the latter then I agree.

      As for the article, I have to say the suits at Nintendo would be in no sort of hurry to bring back the N64 and Gamecube days. They were easily the worst performing Nintendo consoles.


      • MLTZER

        Well a bit of both, But considering we haven’t had a proper 3D mario platformer on a home console since galaxy I think it (3D) would of sold alot better


        • You didn’t consider Galaxy 2 a proper Mario platformer? It had twice as many original stars as Galaxy 1. In any case, the lowest selling 2D Mario game was Super Mario Bros 2 which sold 10 million, where the best selling 3D Mario game was Super Mario 64 which sold 11 million. I just don’t think a 3D Mario game will kick start sales where a 2D Mario game couldn’t.


  4. Schprocket

    An interesting piece, Steve, however, I wonder if the general core game-playing public is ready to be ‘distracted’ by a volume of internet-heavy, none-core gaming content at a hefty price.

    Now that the PS4 has progressed beyond fanboy speculation, Sony’s decision to move to x86-based architecture is very clever in terms of development times and costs, and makes multi-platform ports theoretically cheaper for developers. What it means in terms of backwards compatibilty, however, as anyone who’s ever trialled a PC-based Playstation-emulator will tell you, is that without a powerhouse machine, the emulators generally suck.
    With the little knowledge I’ve gathered of processor compatibilies over the years, this suggests that there will be no backward-compatibilty whatsoever with any previous Playstation-platform titles which a gamer may currently own, and that it will either be necessary to keep a PS3 MkI/MkIII next to the PS4, or sell-off the entire collection and hope that the x86-compiled, download-only versions are significantly cheap enough to replace and – for Australians at least – that a gamer needs to live in a swanky inner-city suburb or a marginal electorate that’s getting the NBN, and be a social-network addict, in order to get the best out of what the PS4 promises to offer. (There’s also the non backward-compatibility of controllers – more $$$)
    Given that the PS3 may not be disappearing off the shelves in a hurry (or will it?), there doesn’t seem to be a lot going for the PS4, from my perspective.
    I agree that Nintendo – even without the financial weight that Sony and Microsoft have – are moving too slowly in terms of VC gaming, and being non x86-architecture, 3rd-party game development may possibly be slower.
    However, should Nintendo be able to overcome these issues, I feel that the Wii U may well represent the essential core of gaming needs moreso than either of the forthcoming offers from Sony and Microsoft.
    I read of this article before reading Steve’s column and found it a sort of interesting and alternate view http://herocomplex.latimes.com/games/sonys-ps4-presentation-leaves-gamers-with-questions-few-answers/#/0

    P.S. I don’t think I could type this on the new PS4 controller as I have done with the Wii U Gamepad ;)


  5. PlasmaDavid

    WW remastered is the first game that is going to “make” me buy a WiiU. There’s titles like ZombieU I want to play, but not buy-console-now type stuff.


  6. Poor little PAL 3DS boy

    I want more 3DS Atlus titles, please bring Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers to Australia Nintendo! Work something out with them please, and not just on eShop! I want to own a physical copy.


    • MysticLegacy

      You’ll be lucky to even find a copy from Europe, Atlus doesn’t do PAL (eg. Dokapon Kingdom never came to PAL regions, apart from a German EU release which is so hard to find).


  7. Luminalace

    While I don’t see it quite as dimlybas Steve, I think Nintendo really need to consider acquiring a company like Rare because it’s clear Nintendo just can’t make enough game on their own.


    • MysticLegacy

      Getting back Rare from Microsoft would be pretty hard. Even if Rare is a shell of it’s former self, it still has those great IPs (Banjo & Conker among them)…


    • Retro are better than Rare are now. Heck, you could argue Rare never made a game as good as Retro have but that’s getting into the argument of whether Metroid Prime or one of the Donkey Kong Country games is a better game. Nintendo have Monolith as well. It’s not like Rare have made more games than either of those two companies in recent times.


  8. Scott

    If Nintendo had released Wind Waker HD at launch, 3rd party sales would have been much worse.


  9. mattsname

    What a great response and discussion this article has provoked. I think Stephen makes some very accurate arguments and in a way I can empathise with his frustration at Nintendo. However, I feel confident in Nintendo and am happy with what I have and what is to come in the future. I think being both a Wii U and 3DS owner definitely helps with this as Nintendo undoubtedly cycle between the two giving more attention to one over the other. If one console is quiet I am always kept busy with the other!


  10. Luminalace

    I didn’t say Rare specifically but a 2nd party like Rare was back in the N64 days. Retro are highly talented but clearly they are told what to do by Nintendo and are already used for 1st party franchises like Metroid and Donkey Kong Country Returns. While Rare made Donkey Kong 64, they were also free to make Jet Force Gemini, Banjo, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark etc. The problem with 3rd parties making exclusives is that nowadays this usually means the franchise ends up on rival consoles sooner or later.


    • It’ll be rare (lol pun) to find a company do that these days. They’re either exclusive to one company or they do multiplatform games to increase their target audience. I think the console developers have shied away from second parties as well who create their own franchises because they’re scared that franchises that are established on their platform can be used on another platform later (like what happened with Rare, Nintendo and Microsoft). It all comes back to one thing though, and I think you’re right here, game development needs to get quicker. But effectively so, I don’t want buggy messes for games coming out.


  11. cd2

    What it comes down to is Nintendo should of ponied up some cash to by THQ and everything they owned. or start new studios. They need more development studies its what it comes down to, more studios means more games and also allows other studios to work at their own pace to ensure quality games.


  12. Luminalace

    While getting 1st party games out quicker may not be easily fixable (I don’t think anyone wants Nintendo to rush their games), if the company cannot secure an adequate amount of 3rd party titles then they need to acquire more 2nd parties. While these development partnerships with 3rd parties show Nintendo are aware of the issue, fully owned 2nd parties are still in my opinion a better long term investment.



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