Nintendo are, by all accounts, in a dire situation. The Wii U is doing dismally, and the 3DS’ sales aren’t good enough to sustain the company. Although they’ll be somewhat encouraged by strong Mario Kart 8 sales, Nintendo’s executives will be going into E3 with an air of trepidation: this could well be their last chance to save the company. As with last year, they’ll be eschewing the traditional keynote speech, instead opting for a more low-key (and cheaper) Nintendo Direct briefing, but that won’t stop the torrent of announcements. Here’s what you can expect from the struggling gaming giant at E3 2014.
Back to Hyrule: Zelda for Wii U?
With Wii U sales struggling, one franchise can be counted on to remedy that: The Legend of Zelda. Ever since the initial tease a few years ago, Zelda fans have been clamouring for the game’s release, and it now looks like we’ll finally be seeing that. Nintendo will finally show off some gameplay as they give us a closer look at the series’ transition to HD. As usual, there’ll be a few new game mechanics – expect to see heavy utilisation of the Wii U’s gamepad screen. We’ll also get a release date: we’re gambling on a 2015 date: possibly early in the year.
Return of Old Favourites: Metroid and Star Fox?
Of course, one or two good games doesn’t sell systems: you need an extensive catalogue of top-notch titles. Fortunately, Nintendo are well-placed here: they have a huge back-catalogue of beloved IPs, and we can expect to see a few of those trotted out at E3. A Wii U version of Metroid seems like a dead-cert, and we wouldn’t count out an HD remake of Star Fox, either. We’ll also likely see some better implementation of Virtual Console: more classics will be added to the library in an effort to tap into your nostalgic impulses.
Pokemon: Wii U Edition?
Earlier this year, Nintendo announced plans to utilise the Wii U’s NFC capabilities with small Skylanders-esque figurines. Now, a certain Nintendo franchise seems perfectly suited to an addictive, collectible game where your only aim is to “Catch ‘em all”, if you will. That’s right: Pokemon will inevitably tie into these new NFC plans in a big way. The best way for Nintendo to do this would be to produce a new Pokemon game for the Wii U – whether it’s a port of one of the old RPGs or a fighting-focussed iteration, like the Wii’s Battle Revolution, it would be yet another way to strengthen the Wii U’s holiday lineup. Capitalising on the X1 and PS4’s weak Christmas release schedule is crucial for Nintendo, and they’d be wise to approach the matter all guns blazing: Pokemon included. Although we have no real idea how Pokemon will be implemented on the Wii U, we think that it’ll soon be getting a console appearance of some sorts.
New 3DS Model?
On the portable side of things, Nintendo isn’t doing so badly: but it could definitely be doing a little better. It’s been two years since the 3DS XL launched, and we’d bet that we’re in for a refresh at this year’s conference. Even if it’s just a slimmer and lighter version, it’ll be a guaranteed revenue stream for the company: something that they desperately need at this point. Don’t expect to see any major changes, but a minor revamp is likely in the works.
A New IP?
For a while now, people have been urging Nintendo to try something new: to once again innovate in the magical way that only Nintendo can. But Nintendo have seemed content to rely on the franchises that have always done well for them, rather than take a risk on a new product. As much as we’d like to see a new Miyamoto-developed IP, we don’t think it’s particularly likely. Wait until they’re in a better fiscal position – then we might see something new. For now, expect the usual cast of characters that we’ve come to know and love.
A New Home Console?
There have been rumours brewing that Nintendo are planning to abandon the Wii U altogether and start over fresh. But one look at the amount of resources being funnelled into the console at this point immediately dispels such claims: they wouldn’t be working on a new Smash Bros., Zelda and NFC products if they were planning on ditching the struggling console in the near future. Expect Nintendo to persevere with the Wii U for a while longer, at the very least.
A Move to Mobile?
Finally, the one thing we all want: Pokemon on our iPhones. Unfortunately, this is still a bit of a pipe-dream: although we have no doubt that Nintendo will eventually port titles to iOS and Android, we don’t expect that to happen for a long, long time. Our understanding is that talks are still in the very early stages, and with Ruby and Sapphire remakes sure to sell 3DSs this fall, the timing just isn’t right for a mobile port. So don’t go expecting Red and Blue on your phone just yet…
Whatever happens at this year’s E3, you can be sure that Nintendo will be doing their best to restore their long-lost crown. There will probably be a few new surprises, some wildcards and a lot of time spent on already-announced games. The question remains: will it all be enough to save the company? Only time will tell…
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