Watching the Nintendo Direct this morning, I was reminded of one thing: how much the Wii U needs games. It’s no secret. Ever since it’s launch last year, the console has been plagued by unfortunate software shortcomings. Pikmin 3 missed the launch window, as did Rayman Legends (which subsequently went multi-platform, causing Nintendo to lose an exclusive it badly needed). Aliens: Colonial Marines, which at one point boasted the “best graphics” on the Wii U, came out and was so horrible that the Wii U version was ultimately abandoned all together. Three big “ifs” that all went ultimately against the big N. But that was a year ago, time to move on and address the new concerns, namely: “where is the third-party support?”
For those of you unfamiliar to the video game industry, a third-party developer is a video game maker that doesn’t owe a specific allegiance to any real hardware. They’ll make games for Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Apple – doesn’t matter. As long as there is a dollar value, they’ll sell it. Here is the Wii U’s problem. It lacked the initial launch punch of other platforms (a mixture of non-standout software and miserable marketing campaign attributed to that) so it’s not selling well. Third-parties care about profits (understandably) and don’t want to risk poor sales – poor sales of any one game can mean death to a video game developer.
So Nintendo needs to convince people to buy, and not just the consumers. They need to sell their product to third-parties. It’s a tough sell, but properly done, Nintendo can accomplish it. Here are my five recommendations for third-party developers that Nintendo should really look to secure relationships with in 2014.
5. Telltale Games
Telltale Games pulled a rarity in the industry. They went from worst (Jurassic Park: the Game) to first (Walking Dead: Season One) in just a year. That is an impressive turnaround and fortunate for a company that could have easily been lost to bankruptcy. In short, Telltale should know what it’s like to be the underdog. Now, it’s smooth sailing with titles like Walking Dead: Season Two and Fables: The Wolf Among Us. These games are heavy on the quality but light on the horsepower, meaning the Wii U wouldn’t need to strain itself to incorporate ports. Telltale has indicated a desire to work with the Wii U in the past but has gone quiet on the console in the past year. If I were Nintendo, I wouldn’t want to miss out on the games coming from this third-party publisher and would even consider a lucrative deal (say rights for Telltale to create the next Earthbound) to secure a partnership.
4. Platinum Games
I know what you’re saying: Platinum Games already creates content for Nintendo. The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 are arguably the only third-party exclusives that the Wii U has going for it right now. I fully agree. This is a different type of relationship I’m proposing: Nintendo should buy Platinum Games. The two companies currently enjoy a very friendly working relationship. Platinum owes Nintendo a debt of gratitude after the big N agreed to publish their titles (Sega dropped Platinum and the company was in desperate need for a little bit). This past year Nintendo lost the exclusive rights to Ubisoft’s Rayman Legends. Losing Bayonetta 2 to Microsoft or Sony might put the final nail in the big N’s coffin. Purchasing Platinum Games would ensure more quality content exclusive to the Wii U. Something Nintendo strongly needs to secure a relevant place in today’s video game industry.
On the surface it doesn’t make sense. Crytek (creators of the widely popular Crysis trilogy) is a company known for packing horsepower into their games. While the Wii U isn’t a weak system, the PS4 and Xbox One are both capable of superior graphics. However, there are indicators to believe a relationship is possible and has even been pursued already. Earlier in the year, Crytek was quick to point out that their new graphics engine functioned on the Wii U. Nintendo also recently hired a a former member of Cyrtek’s staff to a position in their company. Add to that all the rumors of Crysis 3 being full developed for the Wii U, only to be cancelled at the last minute thanks to the Nintendo-EA breakdown. Oh, and also Crytek consists of the remnants of Free Radical, a developer who, at one point, was creating the next Timesplitters exclusively for the Nintendo Wii. It would be wise if Nintendo were to pursue that project into this generation.
Microsoft has lost exclusive rights to Minecraft. The game was just released on the PlayStation 3 with plans to come to the PS4. There have been numerous requests to bring the system to Nintendo consoles. Gamers have created tributes to Nintendo creations in the world of Minecraft. Notch himself, the man behind all of Mojang’s success, has stated in a tweet, that he supports Minecraft created for Nintendo consoles. There is no reason this should not happen. Nintendo: make it happen.
It’s funny how most of life’s complicated problems can be solved with simple solutions. Don’t like the person you’re dating – dump them, your dinner is too hot – let it cool, touching a porcupine makes your hands bleed – stop touching the porcupine. If the problem is say, your console isn’t selling and you (for some reason) don’t want to put Pokemon on it – put Grand Theft Auto on it instead. Really, if Nintendo had been smarter in securing a port of Grand Theft Auto V this past year, I believe the Wii U would be in a different position than it is now. Just the impact of bringing GTA to the Wii U would open the door to so many other third-party developers. That impact can still be made if Nintendo can negotiate for a version on its console. Yeah, I know they already have Lego City: Undercover, but let’s be serious here. If Nintendo was serious at all with their plan to “win back the hardcore”, then this game belongs on the Nintendo console. End of story.