It's a new year, with a recovering 3DS and a fresh home console on the way from Nintendo: these are certainly interesting times. We decided to have a chat about the prospects for Nintendo in 2012, including our thoughts on the company's prospects, as well as our hopes, dreams and fears.
Joining features editor Thomas Whitehead this time are editor James Newton and writers/contributors Ron DelVillano, Marcel van Duyn, Mark Reece, Christopher Ingram and Dave Frear.
Thomas Whitehead: Hello all. Please introduce yourselves to our lovely readers.
James Newton: Hello everyone. I'm James Newton, editor here at Nintendo Life.
Mark Reece: I'm Mark Reece. I'm not allowed to swear, or else Thomas will send me to the naughty step.
Ron DelVillano: I'm Ron DelVillano and I'm a US reviewer here at the Nintendo Life towers.
Marcel van Duyn: I’m Marcel, also known as Drake here on Nintendo Life. I’m an EU reviewer and also write the Japanese download updates.
Christopher Ingram: Hey guys, I’m Christopher Ingram and I’m a US reviewer for Nintendo Life, as well as our other network sites too.
Dave Frear: I'm retro reviewer Dave Frear. Or a computer simulation of him, I forget which.
Thomas Whitehead: Thanks guys. Let's talk briefly about 2011. If you had to summarise your overall feelings about last year in a sentence or two, what would you say?
James Newton: Ambivalence turning to genuine happiness.
Ron DelVillano: For me, 2011 started out slow and disappointing but ended up being a pretty decent year in gaming.
Thomas Whitehead: Six months of disappointment and worry (11 months in the case of the Wii) followed by one of the best gaming streaks I can remember.
Christopher Ingram: A complete rollercoaster ride! Multiple 3DS console problems and a somewhat disappointing launch line-up didn’t exactly start things off great, but I doubt an explanation is needed as to why I can barely put my 3DS down these days!
Mark Reece: A mix of the disappointing (it shouldn't take nine months for a console to gain steam) and the bloomin' marvellous. The Wii was host to some of the greatest games ever made this year, hands down.
Marcel van Duyn: Aside from Ghost Trick in January I don't even remember anything great from the first half of the year, but after that it became pretty great, though it's pretty obvious the Wii is on its last legs by now.
Dave Frear: Overall it was a mixed year. Despite some problems (lack of eShop) the 3DS launch was exciting but then things went quiet until later on. I enjoyed the Zelda anniversary and thought it was handled a lot better than the confused "Super Mario" one was in 2010.
Thomas Whitehead: A common theme seems to be that the second half of the year gained steam. Looking at the release schedule for early 2012, do you think Nintendo can maintain that momentum in the next few months?
Christopher Ingram: That’s debatable at best. Nintendo is going to have some solid competition with Vita dropping on the market in February. Both Kid Icarus and Luigi’s Mansion 2 are looking to be very solid titles, but we’ll have to see if they draw the mass audience that both of the Mario titles did in 2011.
James Newton: It has a better chance than last year - some good stuff lined up for 3DS in Metal Gear Solid 3D, Kid Icarus and so on. Wii, less so, though Europe gets RPGs and US gets Mario Party and Rhythm Heaven.
Marcel van Duyn: I think the Wii will struggle with just a few games lined up, but the 3DS shouldn't have a problem with Luigi's Mansion, Metal Gear Solid and all the other awesome stuff.
Dave Frear: There's some big names on the way for the 3DS and as long as they don't all come at once, it should be fine. I think the Wii will struggle. Some of the games may turn out well but I suspect years from now we'll write "not a lot of people played this back in the day..."
Ron DelVillano: I feel like they better have some pretty solid tricks up their sleeves. I'm not overly impressed with the current big release line-up so far. The new Luigi's Mansion game should be pretty good, but it's going to take a lot more than Resident Evil and Metal Gear to get me really excited.
Mark Reece: The key thing for Nintendo to keep in mind in 2012 — in my opinion — is that we as consumers don't want a repeat of last year in regards to the 3DS. We've got Resi Evil and Kid Icarus in the first 3 months, but they should space out the big hitters. A lot of the big games don't have release dates yet, and I certainly don't want to have to wait until November for anything else decent to play.
Thomas Whitehead: Just picking up on something Ron said, is there a concern that the third party release schedule is a bit thin? Is the current third party support actually up to scratch on the 3DS?
James Newton: I think it lost momentum early — it lost Assassin's Creed, Saints Row, DJ Hero, Mega Man — but hopefully that's returning now. I think confidence is growing, but we won't see the full fruits of that for a while yet.
Marcel van Duyn: I actually have to look at our coming soon list for 3DS to answer that so that's probably not a good sign.
Dave Frear: It is a little concerning. There's promising looking games but not enough of them.
Ron DelVillano: Just sort of piggy-backing on my previous response, the third party 3DS games look pretty good, but that's exactly what they are: third party handheld games. I'm sure they'll sell well and they'll be fun to play, but I don't see third party games moving a significant amount of 3DS consoles or being overly important in the long run.
Mark Reece: As James said, there've been far too many cancellations for the 3DS already, which can't fill third party developers/publishers with much confidence. I do think the third party release schedule is certainly on its way there though — we'll have Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts, etc — but you can never have too much third party support.
Christopher Ingram: I think the 3DS has a pretty solid line-up coming in 2012. Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D was a big one for me, but since its 3DS announcement, we’ve gotten the HD Metal Gear Collection on the HD systems and I think that is going to definitely impact its sales on the 3DS. But, with the likes of Heroes of Ruin, Monster Hunter 3G, Tekken 3D Prime Edition and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, it’s looking like 2012 will be a good year for 3DS and third party titles. If Namco Bandai gives us a new 3D Ace Combat with Circle Pad Pro support, I’ll be thrilled!
Thomas Whitehead: I think it's an issue, personally. My excitement for Resident Evil Revelations is very high, but only highlights how little else is coming from third parties that really builds the hype, in my view. That said, some analysts are saying that 3rd party support is likely to ramp up again following the 3DS revival. As James has said, however, it'll take time for that to come through.
Marcel van Duyn: There's some nice stuff from the usual guys (Konami, Capcom, Ubisoft, Square Enix) but there's still not a whole lot of support from other big companies.
James Newton: I don't know about that — who out of the big group is missing?
Mark Reece: What have Activision got on the go at the moment?
Marcel van Duyn: Maybe western companies would be a better way to describe that, I'm talking EA, Activision, THQ, etc.
James Newton: True, THQ and Activision haven't got much that we know of, but EA has done some sports. I expect that'll be the limit of its 3DS support, though. Nintendo did announce a lot of third parties at E3 2010 but there's not much to show for it so far. It'll come in time I think.
Marcel van Duyn: I think all of them have announced some good support for Wii U already though, so that's a bit disappointing.
Thomas Whitehead: The third-party release schedule seems to be a mixed bag. Let's have a chat about the first party titles. To play the role of devil's advocate, are these titles lacking originality or a new 'angle'. I'm really referring to the likes of Mario Tennis, Luigi's Mansion 2 etc.
I do think the third party release schedule is certainly on its way - we'll have Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts, etc - but you can never have too much third party support.
James Newton: I'm happier with them being true sequels or series instalments rather than N64 remakes, to be honest.
Thomas Whitehead: Amen to that! I’d be frustrated if they announced Majora's Mask 3D, I think it’s time for a new handheld Zelda title as promised.
James Newton: Headline: "Nintendo Life Hates Majora’s Mask"
Thomas Whitehead: Not quite what I meant, but that would certainly be controversial!
Ron DelVillano: James hit it on the head. Even though I'll probably keep buying any classic remake they put out.
Dave Frear: As has been said at least they are new instalments rather than re-releases. The forthcoming releases may not promise amazing originality but Nintendo usually deliver solid gaming fun for your money.
Also Nintendo asked us if we thought people would be interested in a Majora's Mask for 3DS, and we told them no.
Mark Reece: That's the Nintendo way, Thomas. Every Nintendo console for as long as I can remember has had that core bunch of titles that are familiar to long-time supporters, along with a bunch of stuff that's really out-there and pushes things in new directions.
I dare say E3 will bring to light 3DS games we never even dreamed of.
James Newton: That's got to be true one of these years, right?
Thomas Whitehead: I felt Super Mario 3D Land was fairly innovative. Kid Icarus is something new as well. Mario Tennis, for one example, looks to be playing it very safe, however. Time will tell of course.
James Newton: I'd like to see more of Mario Tennis, especially if it has an RPG mode. And Mario Golf, make a Mario Golf RPG too. Thanks, Camelot!
Mark Reece: You forgot the "xxx", James.
Ron DelVillano: James is reading my mind on this topic. Mario Tennis RPG would be great. Like the Game Boy Color game.
Christopher Ingram: I’m right with James here too! If Mario Tennis returns to the RPG elements of the GBA classic it will have the potential of being a hit, but otherwise it’ll likely just be another alternative Mario title. Kid Icarus is such a drastic new ‘angle’ that I’m a bit concerned on how it will turn out too, but many times Nintendo finds a way to impress me when I’m doubtful of the changes they make.
Marcel van Duyn: Nintendo's always gonna stick with their usual games because they know they work, but we're getting some original stuff in the form of Kid Icarus and some download games (Pullblox last year, Rolling Western soon).
Thomas Whitehead: Stepping away from my role as Devil’s Advocate, are we all looking forward to, and planning to buy, the upcoming list of 3DS first party titles?
I certainly am, very much so.
James Newton: I only need Animal Crossing and then I can go on with my life much more happily.
Dave Frear: Yes, yes I am. I'm especially looking forward to Kid Icarus and I don't know why as I've never liked the previous games.
I'm a bit worried about Animal Crossing, I'm sure there will be some good new features but then it will be only ever-so-slightly-different and I'll be disappointed. Again.
Marcel van Duyn: I'm waiting on reviews for Kid Icarus (I was a bit unsure what to think about what I played) but everything else is bought for sure.
Dave Frear: Waiting for reviews seems like a good idea actually.
Thomas Whitehead: I'm looking forward to Kid Icarus with the Circle Pad Pro. Oh yes, I went there.
Mark Reece: Nowt wrong with Circle Pad Pro, Thomas. The readers went up in arms when I stated it would bring a lot of heavy-hitters to the 3DS, but you mark my words: there's a lot of money and extra 3DS adopters to be gained from that peripheral.
Thomas Whitehead: Here, here, Mr Reece.
Dave Frear: I doubt I'll use the Circle Pad Pro unless a game forces me too, but if it means more sales then yay for ugly add-ons!
Ron DelVillano: Luigi's Mansion is a day 1 purchase. Kid Icarus is very possible. Everything else is looking a little bland. I was never a huge Paper Mario fan.
James Newton: Me neither, though it looks great in 3D. Kid Icarus would have to be much improved to get my money. Just haven't liked what I've played on the ground so far.
Christopher Ingram: Paper Mario and Luigi’s Mansion are both instant purchases, but I’ll probably just rent the rest of them.
Mark Reece: The only real reason I buy Nintendo consoles is for the first party stuff. I’ve loved Mario, Zelda, F-Zero (please!), and so on since I was still picking my nose. That's not about to stop anytime soon.
James Newton: So since last week?
Mark Reece: I'm picking it right now actually.
Thomas Whitehead: Let's pick up from the Circle Pad Pro and talk accessories, remodels etc. Realistically, what do you think the 3DS will bring in terms of accessories or a dreaded 3DS Lite? Will 2012 be relatively quiet on that front, or full of more madness and big headlines?
James Newton: What else could they add to it?
Mark Reece: A soft drinks dispenser?
Thomas Whitehead: This is Nintendo we're talking about. OK, maybe accessories are unlikely (apart from an official battery expansion, perhaps?), but what about 3DS Lite, do you expect an unveiling this year?
Marcel van Duyn: There's already rumours they'll reveal a Lite version this month with longer battery life and a slightly more compact design, and I wouldn't really be surprised if it happens.
Ron DelVillano: I won’t be very happy at all if that happens.
Thomas Whitehead: Indeed Ron.
James Newton: I think next year, sure. I'm not certain the technology has moved on enough to make a second version that much better than the first.
Mark Reece: The argument of a 3DS redesign is academic. Nintendo really dropped the ball with the lack of a second circle pad on the 3DS and the Circle Pad Pro shows that. It might not happen this year, but there WILL be a new 3DS model with the second circle pad included.
Ron DelVillano: Beyond the second circle pad, I can't really imagine how they'd improve on the design. It's already pretty compact for what it is.
Christopher Ingram I agree that a redesigned 3DS is inevitable. When it will happen? I’d like to think that it’s pretty much anybody’s guess. The fact is: Nintendo should have released the system with two analogue sticks in the first place! Now I just hope for a 3DS Vitality Sensor, so I can monitor my precious heartbeat while I’m walking around the city collecting my daily allotment of virtual coins and street passes.
Mark Reece: I think Nintendo's focus — once the 3DS redesign is released — will be less on adding new hardware features and more on software. More stuff in the vein of Letter Box.
James Newton: Yeah, we're going to have to face up that there'll be another two or three designs of 3DS in the coming years. And that's good, right?
Thomas Whitehead: It's good for business, though after recent losses and the current revival maybe they should save R&D costs for 12 months and let the current model fly off the shelves.
James Newton: Six months ago, did anyone think we'd say that?
Mark Reece: Six months ago I was genuinely bricking it over the prospect of having bought into a console that was going to bomb.
Ron DelVillano: Even if it still bombs, I'm content with playing Mario Kart 7 for the rest of my life.
Mark Reece: I needn't have worried of course, but when the rumours start flying and the games aren't appearing, it's hard to not get a tad worried.
I think any flag-waving should be reserved until Nintendo turn a profit again. Many sales of a loss-making console means little, they need serious software sales this year.
Thomas Whitehead: I do think that any flag-waving based on recent sales should be reserved until Nintendo turn a profit again. Many sales of a loss-making console means little, they need serious software sales this year.
James Newton: Did they come out too fast too soon with Mario Kart and 3D Land? What's left in the tank?
Well, Pokémon, I suppose.
Mark Reece: Ooh, Pokémon. Now we're talking.
Thomas Whitehead: Pokemon will be a big reveal this year, surely. Heck, just whack an old DS game design onto the Pokédex 3D engine, and there it is.
Marcel van Duyn: Mario Kart came out so soon this time I wouldn't be surprised if there's actually another one before the end of the 3DS lifespan.
Mark Reece: Blasphemy, Marcel!
James Newton: TWO Mario Karts on one console?! This is insanity!
Mark Reece: You need professional help. You're deluded! Keep away from me!
Marcel van Duyn: I just want to play as Waluigi and Diddy again, why did they leave them out!
Mark Reece: I was heartbroken at the loss of the baby Mario Bros. and their baby strollers.
Check out page 2 for our thoughts on the Wii U, as well as our hopes for 2012 on Nintendo Life.