News Article

Feature: Nintendo in 2011 - Part Two

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Disaster and redemption

Following on from Nintendo in 2011 — Part One, it's time to look at the latter half of the year.

The gaming world quickly moves on, as the 3DS enjoys positive sales and the Wii U hype begins to build. It’s easy to forget that the tail-end of 2011 was particularly dramatic and eventful for Nintendo, leaving us with plenty to consider as we round off our review of the last 12 months. This may take a while, so get comfortable.

July – News

During this month a great deal of focus went towards Operation Rainfall, an online fan-driven campaign – particularly in North America — to request localisation of three prominent Wii titles developed in Japan: Xenoblade Chronicles, Pandora’s Tower and The Last Story. At this stage Xenoblade Chronicles was confirmed for Europe, while gamers in North America faced the prospect of missing out on all of these titles; particularly frustrating in light of the incredibly thin Wii release schedule. The movement had started prior to July, but it was arguably at its highest profile in this period.

The 3DS, meanwhile, endured one of its toughest months. A high profile cancellation of the anticipated Mega Man Legends 3 was a disappointment, with rumours spreading around the internet that this, along with other delayed game releases, was a sign of trouble for the 3DS.

After encouraging launch day sales, it was confirmed that the 3DS had only sold 710,000 units worldwide between April and June, truly abysmal figures.

On 28th July the scale of the issue, and Nintendo’s response, became immediately clear. After encouraging launch day sales, it was confirmed that the 3DS had only sold 710,000 units worldwide between April and June, truly abysmal figures. Nintendo’s financial report confirmed a loss for the quarter, and it was announced that there would be a drastic 3DS price cut – of roughly a third – in a bid to boost sales. Satoru Iwata accepted responsibility and major figures in the company received a sizeable pay cut, while those who bought the 3DS at full price became eligible for 20 free downloads as part of the Ambassador Programme to be released by the end of the year, comprising ten NES and ten Game Boy Advance titles.

There was some Wii U talk prior to these financial reports, with major Nintendo figures talking-up the console’s future prospects. Major developers such as EA, meanwhile, spoke about working closely with Nintendo to ensure that the Wii U would deliver a robust, solid online experience to match the HD consoles.

July – Games

It was a relatively quiet month of new games on Nintendo platforms, though one exceptional title appeared on the evergreen DS: Solatorobo: Red the Hunter was a Japanese action-RPG full of charm and addictive gameplay. Like other DS releases earlier in the year, it highlighted the strengths of the handheld and provided a fun, engrossing experience.

The 3DS was light on major retail releases, with Pac-Man & Galaga Dimension proving to be a decent, if unspectacular addition to the console’s small library of titles. Let’s Golf! 3D became the first third party 3DS-exclusive download, with 3D Classics: Xevious and DSiWare title Zoonies – Escape from Makatu providing some download highlights. Anticipated WiiWare action-platformer ANIMA: Ark of Sinners proved, ultimately, to be a disappointment.

August – News

After the dramatic 3DS price cut and announcement of the Ambassador Programme, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata took the opportunity in early August to write an open letter of apology. Mr Iwata said sorry to early adopters, while explaining that dropping the retail price of the 3DS was necessary to build a user base and encourage third party support. The 20 free games being provided didn’t appease all, but the letter nevertheless represented a striking moment of humility and honesty from the Nintendo boss.

The price cut did bring a welcome boost in sales later in the month, with confirmation from Nintendo that Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 would be released in time for Christmas, helping to build some hype around the handheld. Nintendo also confirmed that it would be supporting paid downloadable content (DLC) on the 3DS and Wii U, a development that showed a willingness to adjust digital strategy.

There were a couple of notable stories around the Wii, with confirmation that The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower would both be released in Europe in 2012: the lack of North American release details frustrated followers of Operation Rainfall. Meanwhile, Ubisoft’s Just Dance 2 became the 8th Wii game to sell five million copies in the US, the first third party title to reach the milestone.

Two major anniversaries also passed in August. The Metroid franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary, while the Super Nintendo enjoyed its 20th birthday.

August – Games

The highest profile release this month was Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii. It proved to be an exceptional Japanese-RPG, with an enormous game world, intriguing story, deep customisation and action-packed combat. It drew attention because it was a rare example of a major Wii release for the year, but also because it was released in Europe and not North America. Gamers across the Atlantic could only hope for strong sales, therefore forcing Nintendo of America’s hand.

On the DS and 3DS, this month was painfully short of prominent retail releases. There were, however, some interesting downloads on offer that helped to ease the boredom. DSiWare boasted the light-hearted Go! Go! Kokopolo!, while 3DS owners could indulge in two creative Game Boy titles through the Virtual Console: both Gargoyle’s Quest and Avenging Spirit were two overlooked gems added to the Virtual Console vaults. 3D Classics: Urban Champion, on the other hand, was the strangest release of the month. Quite why Nintendo chose a mediocre, little-loved NES title for the 3D treatment is still mystifying to this day.

September – News

This would prove to be a busy month for Nintendo, with plenty of big reveals and distinctly mixed reactions from the gaming community. The biggest news, arguably, was the unveiling of the Circle Pad Pro – as it would eventually be called – a peripheral which would add a second Circle Pad to the 3DS. First leaked in a scan of Famitsu magazine, alongside a reveal of Monster Hunter 3 G, it was an add-on that attracted a fair bit of initial ridicule due to its appearance. Once the dust settled, the practical purpose of the device, alongside words of encouragement from third parties, made it seem like a worthwhile addition to the 3DS.

Nintendo held a 3DS press conference later in the month, in which the Circle Pad Pro was formally confirmed alongside a healthy range of upcoming game releases. First party titles were unveiled or confirmed, with Mario Tennis joining the likes of Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Animal Crossing as expected 2012 releases. Third parties were also strongly represented, as well as confirmation that video recording was on the way in a future update. All of these announcements contributed to a sense that, after a difficult July and August, the 3DS was embarking on a comeback.

In other news, Satoru Iwata reiterated once again that Nintendo would not be moving into smartphone gaming, despite pressures from investors and industry analysts. Professor Layton fans in Europe, meanwhile, were disappointed to learn that their copies of Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call would not include RPG add-on Professor Layton’s London Life, with Nintendo Europe citing potential release delays as their reasoning. It was also yet another month of major anniversaries: the Nintendo 64 reached 15 years, with the Game Boy Advance and the original Luigi’s Mansion both reaching their 10th anniversaries.

September – Games

This month boasted a fairly robust number of solid releases on all major Nintendo platforms. Star Fox 64 3D arrived on the 3DS, with a smooth frame rate and enhanced graphics bringing new life to the on-rails action. North American fans of the BIT.TRIP series could enjoy both BIT.TRIP SAGA on 3DS and BIT.TRIP. COMPLETE on Wii, with the home console version including a healthy amount of new content.

The DS once again nudged its way into the frame with Kirby Mass Attack and Aliens: Infestation, two excellent and diverse releases. Three notable download titles also arrived: puzzle racer Motoheroz earned a prized 10/10 in our review, while escapeVektor: Chapter 1 was another superb WiiWare title. Nintendo also provided The Legend of Zelda: Four Sword Anniversary Edition as a free DSiWare download, with this version including new content and local multiplayer.

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User Comments (28)

B-Ray97

#2

B-Ray97 said:

The year 2011 was a greatfull year with a lot of surprises!~
I hope they give us much more this year!

NintyMan

#4

NintyMan said:

2011 was an amazing year for Nintendo. Through the high points and low points, they pulled it out in the end and really showed their critics to not crow too soon. In comparison, the second part of 2011 was much, much better than the first, and the news and games throughout that period were fascinating. Bring it on, 2012!

Will-75

#5

Will-75 said:

I have to say that 2011 let me see once again why I am a solid Nintendo fan , They in my opinion make the best video game software hands down, I own other systems as I have always been a gamer I've never limited myself to one brand , but I can say in my opinion Nintendo is the best. Games like Mario 3DLand and Zelda SS are in a league of their own, there is no other video games like them. I have God of war 3 on my PS3 as well as Sony's Little Big planet and these are very good games but in terms of play control, replay value, game design, even the characters themselfs don't stand up to Mario or Zelda in my opinion. I have yet to play a game where I feel the character control is as tight as the control in a Mario or Zelda game. We even got Kirby in Return To Dream Land in 2011, which was sadly overlooked it's a solid Kirby game. Yet what impressed me the most was how Nintendo reached out to their core fans when the 3DS price drop came about, they went above and beyond in my eyes to try and make everyone happy, as a fan those free games made me feel like my business mattered to Nintendo

eviLaTtenDant

#6

eviLaTtenDant said:

Great continuation of the first part, Thomas. It's really good to see things in a bigger perspective. :)
The biggest thing must of course have been the price cute of the 3DS. I really wouldn't have expected it to take off so much just because of it. At that point of his lifetime the DS got most of its media coverage for Brain Training imo. So it's interesting to see that the 3DS doesn't seem to need such a casual killer app. Along with the fine retail and eShop releases during the holidays it makes me anticipate a great time coming for the 3DS.

While the cancellation of even the Mega Man Legends 3 prototype was already a hard blow the worst thing about it was how they handled PR on it imo. This still leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
Personally i'd also mention the Reggie interview that made it sound like there are still Wii VC games coming...

All in all here's to hoping that Nintendo will deliver on all they promised in 2011.


more second half of 2011 memories:

  • The comments of the ANIMA devs were digusting.
  • It would have been great to get something Metroid and Golden Sun for their anniversaries.
  • The 3DS VC releases were great. (Except for the lack of multiplayer of course.)
  • I liked the Japanese 3DS conferences very much.
  • Not having London Life wasn't nice but acceptable since we could still import. I just hope something like this won't happen for the region-locked systems.
  • There were more amazing DS games than expected (Kirby Mass Attack rules !).
  • Thanks for the work put into the Four Swords DSi release and the orchestra CD with Skyward Sword. :)
  • The 3DS is already having so many colour options. Great work.
WingedSnagret

#8

WingedSnagret said:

I love it, early on everyone thought the company was doomed, then Nintendo came around and made them eat there words on a gold platter! Go Nintendo!

Gamer83

#9

Gamer83 said:

Very up and down year for Nintendo with many lows but undoubtedly some great highs at the end led by Mario and Link. Hopefully 2012 is better.

grumblebuzzz

#11

grumblebuzzz said:

I love how Nintendo turned it all around at Christmas. Whereas before you were hard pressed to find anyone who could speak positively about the 3DS, now when you go to any random forum or view comments on Nintendo posts on Facebook, you see that the negative people are in the minority again. Only Nintendo could turn one of their worst years into one of their best with only two or three first party games and a price drop.

tvshowking

#12

tvshowking said:

I hope that Nintendo has learnt from their failures in the year, especially considering the apprehensions people are having over the Wii U. At the very least, it should mean a launch line-up with at least one high-profile original game in it.

SomeBitTripFan

#13

SomeBitTripFan said:

Nintendo really did good this year. The major drought of games between March and April was a low and the 3ds having no major titles. Buying my 3ds on the first day is not a regret (I just need money, TAKE MY WALLET NINTENDO). I hope the 3ds will get some games that make me not be able to sleep for a year. GIVE ME MORE AAA GAMES.

Neram

#14

Neram said:

Great Feature NintendoLife, really well done. It sure was a heck of a year!

EvisceratorX

#15

EvisceratorX said:

What are you guys talking about, saying that there was no worthwhile releases on the wii in October?! Have you forgottten about Kirby's Return to Dreamland?

theblackdragonAdmin

#16

theblackdragon said:

@EvisceratorX: Remember that this is a UK-based site — Return to Dreamland didn't hit until late November for EU. For November, the article says that 'we won't cover them all' because there were so many games released that month, apparently. :3

Gameday

#17

Gameday said:

Nintendo lives and learns just like everyone else. Grateful for the games that came out last Year , lots of good times and met alotta good online peeps from it. Hope this Year is even better and full of surprises.

misswliu81

#18

misswliu81 said:

the last 6 months of last year were much better than the first 6 months for nintendo. sales of the 3ds picked up, with the price drop and more high profiled titles released. in all, glad that nintendo pulled it off in the end.

this year will be a massive one for them and us fans, but hopefully, it'll be worth it.

ThomasBW84Admin

#19

ThomasBW84 said:

@EvisceratorX and @theblackdragon - A bit of an oversight on my part, to be perfectly honest. I'm sure Kirby could have been mentioned instead of Disney Universe in the November part.

My apologies, I didn't mean to disregard the pink one :)

theblackdragonAdmin

#20

theblackdragon said:

@Tom: considering Skyward Sword hit during November, i'm surprised you were able to remember anything else at all, haha :3

Supereor

#21

Supereor said:

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

The Nintendo 3DS is a gateway, the Wii being an archway. No game out or announced, will make real use of ALL the 3DS's features, making the 3DS a damaged gateway, and no game out or announced for the Wii is purely new and fun and in the worst case scenario, giving Wii fans a stale and bitter experience, making that an archway that leads to where you started off. But it's a new year, giving Nintendo and third-party developers a chance to fix the gateway, and to reconstruct that archway.

Am I right?

Hokori

#23

Hokori said:

no system ever uses its full potential, the DS didnt really start to show until Black and White Came out, the GBA didnt until Drill Dozer and WarioWare Twisted did, the 3DS will show its true power come 2018

Dragoon

#25

Dragoon said:

@Darkrai Plenty of games used the DS to its ultimate potential before Black and White, such as Golden Sun, Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, and much more.

saikun

#26

saikun said:

I have to say that this year nintendo won me as a customer. I just like videogames, I'm not a fan of Mario or Zelda, but I have to admit that Nintendo is the company that makes the BEST devices, regardless of which has the biggest specs, and treats their customers with RESPECT.

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