Dont look back in anger
Its 2015 and Im already sick of Back to the Future Part 2 jokes. Everyone and their unoriginal mother thinks theyre the first person to say Did you know that movie took place in 2015?!? and wont stop pointing out how much the film got wrong about this year. So, instead of reading another complaint about our lack of hoverboards, lets move to the fresher topic of how accurate (or not) I was about Nintendos 2014.
The year would turn out to be a transitional period for Nintendo. It faced big losses, launched new systems and toys, and had a slight shift in priorities when it came to the Wii U. Was I prescient of any of those changes when I made predictions way back in January of 2014? Lets see how I did...
1. Wii U will get a price cut real soon
What I said: Clearly Nintendo needs to start slashing the price on the system if it wants to spur any kind of sales, and the company needs to do it soon. Nintendo has likely been slow to change the price because it doesnt want to lose any more money on the costly system/GamePad bundle. But if it wants the Wii U to ever have a respectable install base, then Nintendo needs to get that price down now. The console manufacturer made a drastic cut to the 3DSs price tag in 2011 that quickly reversed the portables poor performance. If a similar move was even a third as effective on the Wii U, it would be worth it.
Right or wrong? Fairly wrong. While UK retailers had some big sale prices, Wii U stayed at $300 all year in the US, with barely any cuts for Black Friday. Nintendo did create some aggressive hardware bundles featuring free copies of Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World, but that was the extent of it. After Xbox Ones shocking price cut at the end of the year, I figured a Wii U mark down had to be on the horizon, but no dice.
2. 3DS wont have as good a year as it did in 2013
What I said: The 3DS had many strong exclusives last year However, as much as wed like to see the 3DS have another gangbuster 12 months, 2014 is looking slim by comparison. Im not knocking Bravely Default, Kirby Triple Deluxe, or Yoshis New Island, but its simply not the most impressive looking start to the year. After that theres a couple Layton games, some niche titles, and Super Smash Bros. standing tall above a whole lot of not much else. Unless Nintendo has a half dozen secret titles to reveal any day now, the 3DS library is looking comparatively slim in 2014.
Right or wrong? Right on. Smash Bros. certainly sold very well, but in a matter of weeks the diehards ditched it for the Wii U version, and the Pokemon ports didnt stir up much buzz either outside the series usual fans. The 3DS was further hindered in the second half of 2014 by an upgraded system that didnt see release in the US or EU, thus confusing fans even more. By the way, shame on me for failing to predict a new version of the handheld.
3. Nintendo will have another understated E3
What I said: Nintendo's E3 press conferences were traditionally as lavish as anything Sony and Microsoft pulled out in years past, but the media event was replaced by a Nintendo Direct. And as much as some fans will want Nintendo to return to a normal press event in 2014, I think the publisher will once more keep its E3 small. Nintendo will likely reveal its biggest releases for the fall and tease some exciting new content for 2015, but Reggie and company will stick to the more affordable Nintendo Directs. Those livestreams must cost a fraction of what a traditional press conference runs Nintendo, and the game maker needs to save whatever it can. And Im ok with missing another fancy press conference - provided Nintendo still brings a massive booth full of new games to E3.
Right or wrong? Yup, Nintendo eschewed the traditional conference again this year, and was better for it. 2014s Direct allowed them to present the few games it wanted to focus on, and the companys approach to streaming demos throughout E3 was arguably the most cutting edge of any console maker. And the major reveals were still at the show, which Ill touch on in a few more slides.
4. Smash Bros. will be out in the second half of the year
What I said: Yes, the Wii U desperately needs a major exclusive like the next Super Smash Bros., but that doesnt mean itll come before September. And its true that a large portion of the game has been shown since Smashs June 2013 reveal, but Smash director Masahiro Sakurai is a perfectionist - he's not the type to rush the game out in May. Hell want to test and retest the gameplay about a million times first Im crossing my fingers to see a surprise second quarter release, but it seems like a pipe dream with so little confirmed.
Right or wrong? Right, though I wrote this one hoping to be wrong. I really wanted Smash pre-E3, but with Mario Kart 8 being Nintendos major game for May, it wasnt in the cards. Additionally, Smashs portable version got delayed to October and the Wii U version had several features that came in a December update, so it seems like Smash barely got out the door at all in 2014.
5. More HD remakes are coming
What I said: The critical and sales success of an upgraded Zelda will give way to even more HD titles filling out gaps in the calendar. And itll be Mario leading the way. The last two years saw a spate of core Mario games - New Super Mario Bros. 2, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Super Mario 3D World. Nintendo wont see another new Mario platformer, but I expect Super Mario Galaxy to get an HD upgrade to fill that plumber-shaped hole. Who knows what GameCube and Wii titles well see after that? Metroid Prime? Twilight Princess? F-Zero GX? Nintendo has so many classics thatd look great in HD and Wii Us anemic library needs all of them yesterday.
Right or wrong? Wrong. Even as PS4 and Xbox One were inundated with last-gen ports, Wii U saw no HD remakes in 2014. Is Wind Waker HD just a one-off? Did Nintendo get more forward looking in the last year? Ill give them points for being different from the competition, but Wii Us release calendar wasnt really strong enough to compensate for the lack of ports.
6. New Metroid and Star Fox sequels will be announced
What I said: Nintendo needs to reach deeper into its library to add some variety to its upcoming lineup. Two franchises thatve been particularly overlooked for the last few years are sci-fi series Metroid and Star Fox, and that makes 2014 the right time to finally put both in the spotlight again. By the time E3 comes around, Retro Studios will have already shipped its next Donkey Kong Country game, making the time right to reveal its return to the Metroid series. But we think, given Retros recent work in 2D games, that the next Metroid will be a 2.5D throwback instead of another FPS. As for Star Fox, were not sure who will develop it, but were so starved for Arwing firefights that wed settle for a two-hour-long eShop game at this point.
Right or wrong? Half-right. Star Fox Wii U got a very limited showing at E3 - not to brag, but I was one of a couple dozen journalists that got to play the early demo. However, while Nintendo bigwig Shigeru Miyamoto made Fox a priority, Samus stayed in the background, with no word on any new Metroid adventures. Oh well, theres always next year - er, I mean, this year.
7. Numerous Japanese devs will announce more exclusives
What I said: Two of the few upcoming Wii U exclusives we know anything about are crossovers like Hyrule Warriors and Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, and I expect that trend to continue with even more Wii U mashups intended for Japanese fans. But that will look like nothing compared to the 3DS, as the usual culprits of Square Enix, Capcom, Konami, and more will keep the handheld going strong. Fans in the rest of the world better hope that these titles all get localized, because things will be quiet otherwise as western third parties keep moving away.
Right or wrong? Despite some exclusives from Atlus and Square Enix, I was pretty wrong. Lots of Wii U games were announced in 2014, virtually all of which come directly from Nintendo, while the 3DS only saw a handful of non-Nintendo games. And Shovel Knight, arguably the most talked about third-party console exclusive Nintendo systems saw last year, was developed by an American indie team.
8. Western third parties will keep Wii U and 3DS at a distance
What I said: Wii U and 3DS had early support from publishers like Ubisoft, EA, and Activision, but most of those companies pulled back support from both platforms - or dropped the systems completely. Dont expect 2014 to reverse this trend. Outside of some licensed games and eShop releases, the 3DS will see basically no portable games of note from Western devs. The Wii U will get some pity ports like the next Assassins Creed and Call of Duty, but even those stalwarts might skip the console as more and more development moves next-gen. The big US and EU publishers have moved past Nintendo, and likely wont return unless the house of Mario can significantly grow its user base in the coming year.
Right or wrong? Painfully true for Nintendo, as the Wii U didnt even see Call of Duty or Assassins Creed this year. In fact, Watch Dogs was the only real third party port of the year, and it barely came out months after every other system got it. Its a dire situation for Wii Us non-Nintendo output, which was sadly easy to predict.
9. Way more classics and better sales will come to the eShop
What I said: The Virtual Console shows so much promise, but simple ports of NES and Game Boy games shouldnt be equally piecemeal. And Nintendo will finally start cleaning up the service this year. Weekly release will keep growing (especially once N64 and GameCube games come to eShop), building a massive library for both the 3DS and Wii U. Nintendo will also rip off Sonys great idea of Cross-Play by making a single eShop purchase unlock a game across both consoles. And the eShop will see more aggressive pricing and sales after testing the waters with a few special pricing programs near the end of 2013. I admit that sounds pretty against the grain for Nintendo, but its the type of crazy change thats actually within Nintendos grasp.
Right or wrong? Sigh really wrong. Wii U did see a handful of fresh GBA ports, as well as a few good sales tied to major launches such as Smash Bros., but the Virtual Console was about as anemic as ever. Plus, N64 and GameCube ports are nowhere to be seen, with little sign theyre coming any time soon. Whats the hold up?
10. Either Reggie, Iwata, or Miyamoto will leave the company
What I said: I saved our most insane prediction for last. The public face of Nintendo for the last decade has been Satoru Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Reggie Fils-Aime. I foresee at least one of them parting with the company by the close of 2014. Maybe Iwata will be pushed to resign by stockholders angered by continued financial woes. Perhaps Reggie will exit after getting blamed for the poor sales in the US, or hell just feel like a change of pace. Its even possible that Miyamoto will retire like he threatened a couple years ago. Poor business results and unprofitability can often lead to executive shakeups, and Nintendo is certainly in a trying time now. Dont expect it to make it through these troubles in one piece.
Right or wrong? I knew this was an out-there prediction, but Im happy its wrong. Despite myself and others expecting resignations after some poor financial results, all three men were steadfast with the company. And with results on an upswing in the holiday season, it looks like theyll all be there for the foreseeable future.
How'd I do?
Looking at the final tally I got 4.5 out of 10 right. Oof, not even half... I blame myself for being more positive with Nintendo's output than I should've been. Plus, how could I not have seen New 3DS and amiibo coming? They're so obvious now. What did you get wrong about Nintendo 2014? Tell me all about it in the comments!