Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Well, Today Was Fun for Nintendo

We've seen the stories about how terrible the Wii U is doing. Looking at sales information, it's sold a respectable 5.5 million units since it's release in November 2012; that's about 400,000 per month. In that same chart, the Xbox has sold 3.2 million (Microsoft says 3.9) and the PS4 has 4.6 million of itself out there. These systems came out just two and a half months ago. The Wii U is getting spanked in sales.

Who's fault is it for a system performing this poorly?

"It must be the third parties, since they're not releasing any games on it; why would we pay for a system with nothing to do?! Surely it's not Nintendo's fault; they're releasing games on it constantly!"

This argument is heard too often, it's almost deafening. The lack of third party games isn't something that can be used as fodder; three high-profile games were released for the Wii U this past holiday, Batman: Arkham OriginsAssassin's Creed IV, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. In two months time, Watch Dogs hits the system, despite the flurries of mistakenly cancelled pre-orders. Soon enough, Donkey Kong makes his way back to a home console, with Mario Kart sometime this spring, and a new Zelda game and Smash Bros. 4 hitting both the Wii U and 3DS this holiday.

The system has support, but no one's buying. One story that's been making the rounds in the past few months is Nintendo's stubbornness to assist third-party developers in times of need. And not just being stubborn, but the inability to break down language barriers when assisting overseas developers. Take a gander at this excerpt:

"After about a week of chasing we heard back from the support team that they had received an answer from Japan, which they emailed to us. The reply was in the form of a few sentences of very broken English that didn't really answer the question that we had asked in the first place. So we went back to them asking for clarification, which took another week or so to come back. After the second delay we asked why it was taking to long for replies to come back from Japan, were they very busy? The local support team said no, it's just that any questions had to be sent off for translation into Japanese, then sent to the developers, who replied and then the replies were translated back to English and sent back to us. With timezone differences and the delay in translating, this usually took a week!"

...carry the 6, multiply by 3....drop the zero...that's about 3 weeks to get an answer from Nintendo. On the other hand, Microsoft (despite criticism on how they handled indie developers) and Sony are nothing but pleasurable when speaking with, in regards to development woes. Fuck, Sony even has an in-house team dedicated to building relationships with their third parties, called, get this, Third Party Production.

I have yet to hear of any effort from Nintendo about strengthening their absolutely awful relationship with outside developers, until today.

Nintendo announced a treasure trove of new areas of research, partnerships, features, and functionality that span all three columns that support The House that Mario Built: Wii U, 3DS, and Nintendo Network. They admitted that knowledge and consumer awareness around the Wii U and that the GamePad is not for the Wii is embarrassing low; many believe it's just an accessory for the Wii, and not the primary method of control for the Wii U.

He then goes on to talk about research into an on-demand service that spans "consoles" (not specifying home or portable) that is tied to your Nintendo ID, and not the specific console. This could be taken from anything from your 3DS, to the Wii U, to tablets, and even smartphones. To make sure the public is aware of the brands and games, they're currently seeking a team to "increase exposure for games and hardware". Scarier yet is the fact that they're going to be licensing their characters out to other companies. Wanna get weird? They're "already sharing its philosophy with another company and "aligning" with them". Exactly who is this mysterious partner? It's incredibly doubtful it's Sony or Microsoft. They need to restructure their relationship with EA, and Ubisoft could use some patch work, as well. Activision is another good candidate that Nintendo could be working with, but EA is your most likely candidate.

They did mention that they're going to be revealing NFC-enabled games at E3 2014. Because. You know. The system's been out for 1.5 years by the time E3 hits, so it's better to have it at the start and build up, than to not have anything at all. More on the GamePad, they're working to decrease the start-up time of the device so that off-TV play will be easier to work with. Going back to smartphones, it appears Nintendo is more interested in apps rather than mobile games; considering the Miiverse still doesn't have it's promised smartphone/tablet app, it's about time. Finally, just to make things weird, he goes on about the next "blue ocean" for them could be health; considering Wii Fit and the failed Vitality Sensor, this isn't surprising.

January is a barren wasteland when it comes to major announcements, so it's a treat that we hear something from Nintendo. It's not at all expected, but it's highly appreciated. E3 is up next, but considering what happened today, Nintendo could very well surprise us with another Nintendo Direct at any time in the next five months.