What to expect from Nintendo this year

2011 was one heck of a roller coaster ride for Nintendo fans, wouldn’t you say? After coming off what I still consider to be one of the top five games to be released on Wii in Donkey Kong Country Returns at then end of 2010, Wii owners were left with little to nothing new to play until the release of Skyward Sword. Sure there were titles to fill the void such as Conduit 2, de Blob 2, and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, but when the “other” consoles were receiving the likes of Portal 2, Batman Arkham City, and Bastion on seemingly a weekly basis, it was tough to not look at Nintendo’s little white box with a bit of disdain.

Handheld owners didn’t feel the sting quite as strongly, as Nintendo DS even still is receiving quality titles. The year started off strongly with arguably the best Pokemon adventure to date in Black/White, and continued strongly with the release of a new handheld in 3DS. While the Nintendo 3DS was slow to gain steam, it finished very strongly with great downloadable content coupled with two fantastic first party releases in Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7.

Nintendo has to right a lot of wrongs this year. After going from record breaking drops in profit, to record breaking sales with 3DS, Nintendo seems to be on the right track. What should we expect from Nintendo in 2012? Read on to find out where the company is headed this year.

The biggest elephant in the room is what direction Nintendo will take Wii in 2012. It took a huge gamer driven campain for Nintendo to even consider giving us Xenoblade Chronicles this April, but unfortunately there is still no word on the other two Rainfall games Pandora’s Tower and The Last Story. Of the games that will actually see release, there are a few games worth mentioning.

It has been a few years since Mario’s last party, so Mario Party 9 may be met with some fanfare when it launches March 11. Even before then, players with taste for rhythm games will be in for a treat with the excellent looking Rhythm Heaven Fever on February 27. After that there is Xenoblade…and not much else.

Of course you have Dragon Quest X somewhere down the line, which is perhaps the highest profile title the Wii has left, but the game has been shrouded in so much mystery that not much is known about it, much less a solid release date. Heck, at this point, the games is scheduled for release for both Wii and Wii U, but who knows if that will continue to be the case going forward. I can entirely see Square-Enix scrapping the Wii version altogether to focus on the more powerful and capable Wii U. But then again there are 94 million Wii’s out in the wild, so who knows.

As for 3DS, things are looking up. Way up. In a few weeks, a new Resident Evil title will be released in Resident Evil Revelations on February 7. Things only continue to look up from there with Tales of the Abyss coming the very next week, launching on the same day as Tekken 3D Prime Edtion and Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games…if that kind of thing is your bag. In March you have Kid Icarus: Uprising, which although seems to be hit or miss among Infendo readers, will no doubt only continue to improve on the robust 3DS library of games.

Beyond that there is the eventual releases of Rayman Origins and Metal Gear Solid 3D Snake Eater to lead the 3DS into E3 where the remainder of the year will no doubt be mapped out.

Then there’s Wii U. Aside from a few known quantities such as Batman: Arkham City and Darksiders 2 that have already been confirmed for the console, not much has been shown outside of a few tech demos. There is no doubt that Nintendo will be viewed under a microscope after the dismal 3DS launch, but if they learned anything at all, Wii U should have a much more successful start.

The biggest hurdle to conquer will undoubtedly be gaining 3rd party support for the new console. Nintendo tends to keep its cards so close to its chest that many times developers are as left in the dark as we are as gamers when it comes to what Nintendo is doing. This time things have been different. We have been hearing rumblings as early as last April that Nintendo has been showing off early dev kits to publishers, in an effort to get the Wii U train rolling. By the time Wii U launches sometime this year, some developers will have had their hands on the console for well over a year, which bodes well for the system’s launch.

If Nintendo and 3rd parties can bring the games, gamers will come. Make no mistake. Nintendo isn’t quite ready to talk about what games they will bring to the table for the Wii U launch, but I think it might be safe to assume that a mini game collection in the vain of Wii Sports. I have a feeling that many of the tech demos shown at E3 2011 will probably make up this collection.

Which leads to what Nintendo needs to do on the online front. While the 3DS has made strides to take Nintendo in the right direction, it is still two steps behind what is possible, and what quite frankly, 2012 gamers have come to expect. While in no way do I think Nintendo should just make a carbon copy of what Microsoft has done with Xbox Live, Nintendo can most certainly take away a lot from what has been done with the Xbox 360.

Many games that arrive on the eShop or WiiWare receive little to no fanfare aside from what Nintendo sends out in their weekly email…which has to be subscribed to. As soon as the Xbox 360 is turned on, gamers are treated (or bombarded depending on your point of view) with adds for all the latest Xbox Live titles and sales and sales for some of the more popular games on the platform. It’s no wonder that many developers have begun to abandon WiiWare in favor of Steam, PSN, and Xbox Live.

Nintendo needs a way to advertise their downloadable content right in the system UI. This will be pivotal going forward as ”˜going digital’ becomes more and more mainstream.

Nintendo could go one step further by releasing the aforementioned tech demo collection on the systems download store for free to get users interested in the platform, and help stimulate the systems online economy.

2012 is really starting to look like the year of Nintendo, but the cards are in their hands. It’s their game to lose. I for one am rather excited, and already can’t wait for E3 2012.

If you enjoy this article, be sure to check out my personal blog Nintentunes!

Eugene lives in New Mexico and has been a life long gamer since getting his hands on an NES. Always partial to Nintendo, Eugene has made it a point to keep informed on all things Mario.