April 2015 Nintendo Direct Shows Sustainability, If Little Else

I think it was during a past investor meeting that Nintendo head Satoru Iwata said the company’s plan for the rest of the Wii U’s life cycle was, overall, to keep current owners satisfied. This week’s Nintendo Direct for the most part seems to prove that’s the plan it’s going through with for its current hardware.

An April Nintendo Direct probably isn’t the place to look for attempts at system sellers or really anything to significantly change the landscape of the Wii U and 3DS, but looking at the whole situation with Nintendo right now, I’m not sure we’ll be getting anything of the sort until it unravels Codename NX next year. Everything I saw this week looked like a very strong push at keeping the current momentum going at a steady pace.

It’s increasingly looking like one of the biggest Nintendo games this year, if not the biggest, will be Mario Maker since Zelda got pushed back. Talking about it in a previous post, I actually didn’t put together the link between Mario Maker and the 30th anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros. (and the NES in North America). Depending on how Nintendo plays it, it could be big — or about as big as a game could be limited to the Wii U’s install base.

Nintendo has confirmed Mario Maker will have some kind of online creation distribution system, but we’ll see how well it’s actually implemented. Kids still love Mario, and they definitely love creation tools, but I stop just short of thinking this will actually sell some Wii Us to these kids on its own. I and a lot of other people see Mario Maker as the game Nintendo probably should have made ages ago.

Never mind it’s been an obvious idea for years. Mario Maker is coming in on the heels of three LittleBigPlanet games in a post-Minecraft, post-smartphone, post-Minecraft-on-smartphones world. It makes perfect sense for Mario Maker to be not only a game, but an entire online community-oriented platform for creating and sharing levels. Any other publisher would drive that point hard in a push to turn Mario Maker into a cultural force, but unless DeNA is helping out with the back end of Wii U games I don’t see Nintendo creating a truly significant online infrastructure on that level.

The crossover game currently translated as Illusory Revelations#FE is probably the dopest thing Nintendo showed this week from a production value standpoint. For starters it’s another full-blown RPG in Nintendo’s cap. Other than Persona 5 it looks like the fully modern console Shin Megami Tensei game we haven’t seen since probably Nocturne or Digital Devil Saga 2. That said, it also mostly looks like an appeasement to the hardcore fans who already own a Wii U, the new Fatal Frame even more so. The biggest effort in this pursuit on the 3DS is the new Fire Emblem, which I’m still mad isn’t Advance Wars.

But hey, it’s all new games, and that’s what matters. It may not matter much towards expanding Nintendo’s current base, but Nintendo has always been about sustainability.

Actually, recent comments from the creator of Oddworld are pretty fitting here. If you can’t read all that, basically Lorne Lanning is saying an obsession with constant growth has hurt a video game industry full of companies that used to be largely focused on sustaining its audience and simply staying in business. If you talk about market growth, outside of the Wii and DS area Nintendo probably does look like a failure right now. However, even during tough times it’s done a good job of not only staying alive but staying profitable. At the very least this latest Nintendo Direct proves the company is keeping its fans.

Right now Nintendo’s biggest growth push are the Amiibos which you can clearly see in the Direct. Everything else in its growth strategy is strictly for the future. Codename NX and Nintendo’s Quality of Live program look like they’re going to be more throws of the dice to see what new innovation captures users’ hearts.

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