1. It’s just going to win, end of story
No amount of bitching is going to change the fact that Nintendo has captured the minds of a much wider audience, so the most obvious “reason” the company is going to come out on top this year is because, well, it just will. Nintendo is in a very strong first place right now, and with Wii recently dropped to $199, the frenzy has begun all over again. The system sells, the games sell (except maybe the ones you actually care about, but that’s a whole other story) and this is all before we factor in the DS – another platform in an unchallenged lead.
Above: Even if you’re tired of Wii, the rest of the world is ready to bite
Wii Play is now the best-selling game of all time in the US. Mario Kart Wii, Wii Fit and New Super Mario Bros (the DS one) have been in the monthly charts ever since their arrival, which for the latter was damn near four years ago. These games sell forever, continually lining Nintendo’s pockets with cash while both Microsoft and Sony scramble to figure out motion controls (sigh) and how to better monetize their comparatively expensive systems.
True, this article is more about measuring games and their impact on you, a savvy gamer, but I was tasked with finding FIVE reasons Nintendo’s going to win this year, so I have to take this route. Sorry!
2. The DSi XL is pretty big
Were you aware that you just read a joke? I was using “big” to mean both the physical size of the handheld and the staggering degree of its popularity. When you’ve finished laughing at that little gem, you can avert your attention to Nintendo’s continued handheld dominance, which was recently widened by the Japanese release of the DSi LL. It’s set to release in the US and UK in 2010, making it the fourth (!) version of the device in its five-year existence.
Above: That is the new DSi LL (XL in the US and UK markets)
The whole bit to the DSi XL is its size – the screens are larger and the stylus is thicker, making it suitable for those who prefer phones with cartoonishly large buttons or 400 pound linebackers who crush all other handhelds in their pie-sized hands. In all seriousness, it could reach a vast audience who has, up to this point, avoided handheld gaming because the text is too small or the buttons are too cramped. And, if these new DSi owners do decide to buy a new console during the fall season, you can bet it'll be Wii. Our only concern is that the DSi hasn’t even been out a year in the US, and Nintendo’s already releasing the DSi XL. We think it’s potentially too much too soon, but if history is any indication, it’ll do stupid-big numbers and we’ll end up loving that huge-ass screen in the process.
3. Top-notch exclusives from third parties
Outside the NES and SNES days, Nintendo hasn’t exactly been synonymous with third-party support. Most N64 and GameCube owners bought their systems to play Nintendo-made games, not necessarily the stuff put out by other companies. Strangely, the opposite is the case with Wii, as its success has damn near run every other platform off the shelf. Yes, a chunk of those games are $20 garbage, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find no shortage of excellent, exclusive games.
Above: Fanciful stylized gore you WON’T see on PS3/360
This year alone we’ve got No More Heroes 2, Red Steel 2, Epic Mickey, Tatsunoko Vs Capcom, Dragon Quest IX, NBA Jam and The Grinder, all coming from teams who know their shit. Expect each of those to rock. Now, that could be their doom, as they’re well-developed Wii games that aren’t Mario or minigames. So far that’s proved disastrous (Dead Space Extraction, MadWorld, Zack and Wiki, Dewy’s Adventure etc), but as more and more high-rated games appear on Wii (that avoid extensive waggle and actually cater to traditional gamers), some of those disenfranchised owners could start dipping their toes in and discovering all the top-drawer content they’ve disregarded up to this point. Honestly, if you’re writing the system off entirely, it’s your loss.
4. Mario, Metroid and Pokemon triple threat
Even if the sight of Wii Play sets your soul ablaze in a gyrating spasm of seething hate, you still can’t deny Nintendo knows how to craft a memorable experience when it comes to its key franchises. If it’s a main entry, expect sales to be in the millions and review scores to start in the 80 range and only rise from there. This year we’re getting three serious entries in three of the company’s biggest properties, each of which will shame whatever other games come out that same day. It starts with Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, two classy remakes of the series’ megaton Game Boy Color debut. The 2000 originals sold more than 20 million copies worldwide – what do you think these remakes will do on a vastly more popular handheld?
Above: They’re not going away, so you might as well give ‘em a shot
Maybe Pokemon’s not your thing. Fair enough, we get that (even though you’re not fooling anyone with that “I’m too cool for Pokemon” attitude). Perhaps a direct sequel to Wii’s best game is more your speed? Super Mario Galaxy 2, while terribly familiar so far, will no doubt be another stellar entry in a series that’s never produced a bad game. Ratchet, Jak, Sly and the rest of the platformer pretenders have some fine games under their belt, but never forget who defined this type of game in the first place. Finally, we have Metroid: Other M, notable mainly because of its dense shroud of mystery. All we know is it’s an action game developed by Team Ninja (the Ninja Gaiden people), so it’s bound to be a ridiculously intense, hard as balls, totally over the top experience, all set within one of gaming’s most beloved universes. You want hardcore? Here it is. Now shut up, fanboys.
5. The unknown
With few exceptions, Nintendo rocks E3. It’s keen on surprises, and year after year it manages to surprise the snark right out of an increasingly cynical game-journo audience. Take last year, for example: After 2008’s dismal (but wholly unexpected) Wii Music unveiling, we all pictured 2009 to be another ho-hum report on Wii and DS sales numbers and a handful of blah-y new games. Instead, last year’s show was all about HOLY SHIT GOLDENSUNMARIOMETROIDZELDAVITALITYSENSOR!!!
Above: We were on the scene for 2009’s non-stop reveal-a-thon
2004 blasted us with Twilight Princess. 2005 dropped a pint-sized GBA Micro in our laps. 2006 floored us with full disclosure on the Wii and Solid Snake appearing in Super Smash Bros. 2007 revealed a dramatic shift with Wii Fit and the Balance Board. We could even go back to the fan-riot reveals of Wind Waker and Metroid Prime. The point is that Nintendo saves something major for E3, whether it’s a triple-A game, a new piece of hardware or a goofy peripheral that baffles gamers but somehow entrances the mainstream. Even with all we know about 2010, it’s what we don’t know that will probably cement Nintendo’s undisputed lead. And while I would love for this “something” to be an online F-Zero with 30 simultaneous racers screaming at 60fps, the true reveal will be far more creative, enchanting or downright bizarre. Wii HD, perhaps?
Next page: five reasons PC will win and our final prediction on the winner