Is Nintendo highly incompetent at HD development?

Nintendo just had their latest “Nintendo Direct” Live Stream recently, where they announced release dates for games on Wii U/3DS in 2013. What’s lacking from that announcement was brand new games for Wii U. Heck, even the previously announced Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze for Wii U has been now delayed to February 2014. One has to wonder what’s going at Nintendo after transiting to HD development.

The Wii U was released in November 2012. At launch, it had good amount of first party titles ranging from New Super Mario Bros to Nintendo Land. They might have not seen like much but Nintendo also planned to release Wonderful 101 and Pikmin 3 during the launch window of Wii U release. As it turned out, both Pikmin 3 and Wonderful 101 got delayed from early 2013 to July and September 2013 respectively. While we know Wonderful 101 is not a first party title, it was strange to see Pikmin 3 getting delayed since it was long rumored to be in development for Wii and then pushed to Wii U.

Going back, Nintendo really started the Wii generation with a bang. They released games like Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros, Wii Sports, Wii Fit along with the usual Mario Kart, Mario Party, Donkey Kong and Kirby games. Compare this to Wii U and the output feels pale in comparison.

For 2013, the upcoming Wii U title from Nintendo is Mario 3D World, which is going to be released on November 22, 2013 for US and November 29, 2013 for EU. Wii Party U and Wii Sports U will also also be released this year along with Wii Fit U but the thing that is lacking here are mainstream Nintendo titles. Donkey Kong was originally supposed to be released along with Super Mario 3D World but as usual, it was also delayed to next year.

While i agree that next year looks a little brighter for Nintendo, their ability to efficiently deliver HD titles in a timely manner seems to be several lacking. Innovation is also a big aspect that seems to be lacking for their console titles. Outside of NintendoLand, the best use of the gamepad for Wii U was in Zombie U, a third party title. It is almost strange to imagine Nintendo – who is always associated with innovation – lacking it suddenly now.

They announced Mario 3D World for Wii U, which is basically a HD sequel to Mario 3D Land on 3DS. They also announced a bunch of sequels instead of introducing us to some new gameplay elements that use the gamepad in an innovative way. Mario Galaxy comes to my mind here, which is still the highest rated title from Nintendo in recent years. Both the original Galaxy and its sequel were highly innovative titles and were a critical and commercial success for Nintendo. Somehow, things don’t feel the same way for them now.

Looking forward to 2014, we are going to get Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 9, Super Smash Bros Wii U, Bayonetta 2 and Yoshi Yarn. Other than that, we do know that X and Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem are coming but we haven’t seen or heard much of both of these games so we can’t really expect them in 2014.

3DS on the other hand gets most of Nintendo’s attention and just had a new Kirby game announced for it. But again, 3DS doesn’t require HD development or more resources so it is understandable that it gets the most support.

What does this mean for Nintendo? As usual, they are slow to start next generation development. Nintendo used to be the pioneer of gaming during the Nintendo 64 and GameCube era but it seems like they have lost the touch now. After the lucky success of Wii, they thought it was another easy victory with Wii U but it turned out to be the exact opposite. Their lack of experience in HD development is also a big hurdle now. Perhaps, Nintendo will finally sort out their stuff and get back to fast and efficient HD development by taking a page from Sony’s book and strategically setting up Studios Worldwide. We sure hope to see this instead of Nintendo leaving console gaming and focusing solely on handhelds, which are the biggest sellers for them now.

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Danial Arshad Khan

Founder of GearNuke.
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