News Article

Feature: Why EA and Nintendo's Partnership Is Big News

Posted by James Newton

Crowd pleaser

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Last year at E3, Nintendo promised a lot to core gamers. "Wii U will be right just for you," Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said, playing a showreel of hardcore shooters and action games to win over the crowd. Talking heads from big publishers all crowed about the machine's capabilities and its new controller — top brass at THQ, Activision, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. and more all appeared on video with nothing but praise for Wii U.

But EA went one better. CEO John Riccitiello joined Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime on stage for his first ever appearance at a Nintendo conference. Riccitiello's speech may have been necessarily vague, but his presence said it all — two of the gaming world's biggest names are working together more closely than ever.

It was cheering to see EA's still committed to Nintendo platforms after a rocky time on Wii. EA published 78 Wii games — significantly fewer than the 110 and 116 it brought to PS3 and Xbox 360 respectively — that varied between excellent and abysmal: Boom Blox and Dead Space: Extraction sit alongside Charm Girls Club Pajama Party and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. For all its efforts, though, EA never had a hit the size of Just Dance or Zumba to push it to the top of the third-party publishing pile: few would see Wii as a genuine success story for EA.

Perhaps that's why Riccitiello chose E3 2011 to appear on stage with Nintendo — a show of faith, a way of acknowledging that both companies need to collaborate to succeed. Riccitiello spoke of an "unprecedented partnership" between Nintendo and EA, and while we don't have all the details yet, it could be vital to Wii U's future.

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Super Sidekick

So, what is this "unprecedented partnership"? Riccitiello didn't say much specific. Of course EA will bring its big HD franchises to Wii U — that almost goes without saying — but when the CEO of one of the industry's biggest forces uses the phrase "unprecedented partnership", that usually means much more than just FIFA, Battlefield and Madden.

In sharp contrast to talking heads from other publishers, Riccitiello said more about Wii U's online connectivity than its controller, and that's because EA is working closely with Nintendo to get the online side right. Riccitiello discussed DLC, matchmaking and leaderboards — all standard fare by now — but he also spoke of the online service expanding beyond just Wii U:

Imagine these EA games on a console with content, gameplay and community that can be extended to mobile and social networks as well as the web.

Nintendo's been slow to embrace social networks (to say the least) and its battle against mobile plays out in the media every time a mobile developer expresses an opinion about Nintendo, but both services are crucial to EA. While Nintendo plays catch-up with online multiplayer, EA has moved into companion services like EA Sports Football Club and Ultimate Team, expanding the online experience beyond its console restrictions. As Riccitiello puts it, EA is "changing games from a thing that you buy to a place that you go."

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OnlinEA

No wonder EA is so keen on Nintendo's online services: the two companies are working closely together to make sure Wii U's online is up to spec. Riccitiello said:

Nintendo's next console is truly transformational as well: a better platform than we've ever been offered by Nintendo, deeper online capability and all of it driven by an unprecedented partnership between Nintendo and Electronic Arts.

That last part got the internet's collective cogs whirring. Some decided to read it as "online capability... driven by... Electronic Arts" to suggest Wii U would run on EA's servers and Origin service, but it's far more likely EA is providing Nintendo with feature requests, guidance and expertise rather than anything more tangible. After E3, EA Sports vice president Andrew Wilson told Eurogamer.net:

[Online is] something that we're working very closely with Nintendo on. We are highlighting to them what we believe are the most important elements to that infrastructure to deliver a connected experience that we think is the future of gaming. They have demonstrated an openness and willingness to work with us and work with developers that I think will only land us in a positive place.

Of course, Nintendo will have its own vision of the future of gaming, but taking EA's considerable online expertise on board speaks volumes about its willingness to work with third parties on more than just development support and marketing.

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Outside the Box

All signs point to Nintendo and EA teaming up to create Wii U's online infrastructure, but what if the collaboration's something else? If the two are sharing technical expertise and feature wishlists, could they be sharing more? How about franchises, tools or development teams?

DICE's powerful Frostbite 2 engine behind Battlefield 3 could easily come to Wii U, and the potential there is mouthwatering. A high-definition Star Fox with destructible environments would be good; a new Metroid using the engine could be incredible.

To take another step towards the abyss of rampant speculation, Nintendo and EA could even share their big IPs and characters. Mario once appeared in NBA Street V3 and SSX On Tour, but the crossovers could go deeper. Dead Space studio Visceral could do a fine job of Eternal Darkness or Metroid; BioWare and Paper Mario or The Legend of Zelda would be very interesting. Or what about Samus Aran in Mass Effect? OK, that's going too far.

EA publishes console games from some of the world's biggest developers: BioWare, Valve and Crytek have created big sellers, and if EA is this excited about Wii U that could extend to its development partners too. We're not saying Mass Effect Trilogy for Wii U, but EA's enthusiasm will surely motivate studios to create exclusive content for the console.

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Divide and Concur

There'll be those of you shaking your heads at this, grumbling about EA being "evil". The publisher splits opinion like few others: some object to its relentless annual cycle of sports titles, though it doesn't seem to do their sales any harm.

No matter how feelings are divided, we can all agree Nintendo is taking a massive step in the right direction with this team-up. Shedding its typically insular approach to developing online services can only benefit developers, publishers and players alike, and teaming with a company the size and scope of EA is a huge vote of confidence to Wii U's future.

12 years ago, SEGA launched the Dreamcast, a console with all the promise in the world. Two years later, without a single EA game in its catalogue, it officially died.

You may not think EA has the same make-or-break power today, but if Nintendo really wants to muscle in on the HD market it'll need EA's full support. EA has spent years developing software and services for HD, connected consoles; bringing that expertise to Wii U is a very, very good thing for Nintendo and its fans.

John Riccitiello stood beside Reggie and Iwata at E3 for the first time last year. Don't be surprised to see them stand side by side for a long time to come.

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User Comments (57)

Platypus

#1

Platypus said:

I'm worried about EA making an online service. Every time I get an EA game that has an online function I either need to make an EA account or Gasp get Origin.

BenAV

#2

BenAV said:

Interesting article.
Personally, I don't really care for many games that EA makes, but I'll be interested to see how this turns out and hopefully it'll benefit us Wii U owners.

thanos316

#3

thanos316 said:

ea and nintendo partnering to develop ninty's online strategy is a good thing. ninty needs a good online structure when it comes to the wii u, no more friend codes and simplicity. i don't know about crossing over there ip's but i hope ea stop making crappy sports games for nintendo consoles, the first madden and fifa for wii was excellent, but it all went downhill after that. and so sad that the dreamcast died after 2 years, but those 2k sports games on the dreamcast was far better than anything ea was bringing out at that time. so i think the demise of the dreamcast had much more to do than having ea supporting it...

19Robb92

#5

19Robb92 said:

If the first picture is supposed to showcase big EA titles it fails badly when having Portal 2, from ValvE, in the corner.

Rawk_Hawk

#6

Rawk_Hawk said:

"BioWare and Paper Mario or The Legend of Zelda would be very interesting. Or what about Samus Aran in Mass Effect? OK, that's going too far."

Blah! No way. keep those franchises away from those developers. Now if EA would like to do a new SSX or NBA Street game for the Wii U the I would be all for that.

TravelingD

#9

TravelingD said:

I'd rather have nintendo and valve do an online plan than the modern day equivant of ColecoVision.

BulbasaurusRex

#11

BulbasaurusRex said:

The friend codes never bothered me that much. I'm more interested in getting online lobbies and (for spots games) roster updates.

UnseatingKDawg

#12

UnseatingKDawg said:

OK, as long as this only applies to the online setup, then I'm somewhat fine. Nintendo's franchises do fine without help from EA. Plus, there had better not be a friggin' code to go with every damn game released; all of the content on-disc better be available from startup and DLC must be on the side and not part of the disc content that is locked.

Debageldond

#13

Debageldond said:

I would kill for MVP Baseball 2013. That's really all I want from EA. Everything else would be icing on the cake.

Nanoline

#14

Nanoline said:

You were doing well right up until you talked about Bioware doing Zelda or Paper Mario. Abso-f*cking-lutely not. NO.

EA has had a bad habit lately of using up other bought companies and spitting them out. Bioware is on it's way out - DA2 had issues, ME3 definitely had issues, and I shouldn't have to say anything about the state of The Old Republic.

Keep these people the hell away from my Zelda and Paper Mario. And any other Nintendo IP.

Portista

#15

Portista said:

Off topic, I love how you guys set up the article! The HD pics are awesome, and it is organized. This should be how you guys always make your articles! :D

King_Boo

#18

King_Boo said:

I just hope we get, and keep, some exclusives this time. Maybe another Dead Space prequel that tells the discovery of the first marker.

Alienfish

#20

Alienfish said:

The death of the Dreamcast followed the failure of the Saturn. If Nintendo is to die, it will come after WiiU fails; IF it fails. In my personal opinion, I don't think Nintendo can ever fail or die like Sega did.

Lew3107

#21

Lew3107 said:

Great, this partnership could lead to more EA games and there are so many good EA franchises! I wanna see FIFA 13, OverStrike, NFS:MW2/Underground3, a new Simpsons game akin to Hit & Run, NBA Street Vol 4, maybe a Star Wars MMO (not TOR), Mirror's Edge 2, SSX (but I'd prefer 1080 Snowboarding 3) and other notable Valve and BioWare games. This could be epic!

Edlicious

#25

Edlicious said:

Sounds amazing and can open up serious doors. Hopefully Dragon Age 3 is for the wii u! or mass effect ported or anything really. EA dominates when it comes to amazing Triple A titles, dead space, dragon age, battle field, mass effect, just to name a few.

Obvious78

#26

Obvious78 said:

EA is Activisions rival when it comes to fps: Battlefield 3 against the COD series. I dont think Activision is glad with this and will strike back with something...maybe a cut off for the Wii U? Dont hope so...

Slapshot

#28

Slapshot said:

@warnerdan I wouldn't put too much money on seeing the Half Life series ever being ported to consoles again. The last time it was tried, well, it didn't go too well at all. ;)

Dreadjaws

#29

Dreadjaws said:

"12 years ago, SEGA launched the Dreamcast, a console with all the promise in the world. Two years later, without a single EA game in its catalogue, it officially died."

Well, that's a pretty terrible analogy. The reasons the Dreamcast failed are far many more than just the lack of EA games. That's not to mention the fact that SEGA was in a bad place already. Also, EA was much more different 12 years ago than it is now.

As long as Nintendo doesn't let EA take over the development of its franchises, the problem might be insignificant, but still, I'd take this bit of news with caution rather than hope.

DarkKirby

#30

DarkKirby said:

One of the things Nintendo needs the most is good online, more power then the current PS3, and game developers to know they won't have ridiculous requirements and restrictions put on them when putting games on their consoles.

Although when I look at Tales of Abyss on 3DS I almost would have wished Nintendo told Namco to no half donkey that one.

Emaan

#31

Emaan said:

Hopefully a lot of EA's franchises actually make it to Wii U and this isn't just speculation, because that would really help with the third party support. About EA developing Nintendo games though, that's a bit extreme. I can see them helping out with online and having their own games appear on Wii U, but that's about it. Anyways, Wii U is looking better and better!

GazPlant

#33

GazPlant said:

Despite the controversy around Mass Effect, Mass Effect Trilogy would be a smart move for everyone. It's a popular franchise and a trilogy edition could save the franchise from ignomy. That and the tablet is a natural addition to the game

janettocrossing

#34

janettocrossing said:

Well, Nintendo better listen to EA if they don't want to be "behind" PlayStation and Microsoft all the time. lol :P

Infernapeking

#37

Infernapeking said:

Nintendo doesn't care about Competitors.
They know they will be ahead of time in Gaming Experiences and they only been behind with Wii and DS. People make seem like the been behind forever but only been Wii and DS.

kdognumba1

#38

kdognumba1 said:

I really could care less about new systems and graphics but I'm very VERY interested to see where Nintendo takes online with Nintendo Network. If companies like Gearbox and EA are speaking very well of these services and they're known for strong online games, it has me totally stoked.

rjejr

#39

rjejr said:

So, I read the article, and now I'm wondering, is there anything in this article a week before E3 2012 that couldn't have been in this article a year ago a week after E3 2011? It's a well written article, I was just hoping the beginning of it would eventually lead into something a bit more recent about EA and Nintendo's online plans. Oh well, in another week hopefully we'll get a whole lot more.

Adam

#40

Adam said:

A friend of mine told me Origin is awful. I hope that's not true, if EA is involved in the U's online. But it's not like it can get worse than the Wii's, so I'm not worried.

mamp

#41

mamp said:

Metroid going Mass Effect style well that sounds kinda cool but then again you just got me thinking evil thoughts now. Seriously though no touching Nintendo's games most developers don't do a good job when working on games that they did not originally create (well capcom did alright with Zelda but still most developers don't do a good job).

luminalace

#42

luminalace said:

EA are crucial to Nintendo and especially the Wii U. The only thing that bothers me is that this Partnership may scare Activision who are just as important!

EvilLucario

#44

EvilLucario said:

Steam >> PSN > Xbox Live >> Origin >>>> Games for Windows Live > 3DS >>>>>>>> Wii

Point is, EA's experience with online services are so much better than Nintendo's offerings. So even if EA handles the online, at least it'll be better than freaking Games for Windows Live. :P

nfzeta007

#45

nfzeta007 said:

@Obvious78 I doubt this would be a problem, after all even though they say they will be teaming up it will just be for the purpose of making business smoother between them, so just like on the other consoles both BF and COD can co-exist.

James

#50

James said:

@rjejr It got kinda glossed over last year and now on the verge of E3 2012 everyone's mostly focused on games and graphics. Just wanted to remind people there's more to Wii U than just horsepower and how many controllers it can use; it's going to be an industry force, and this is why.

edhe

#51

edhe said:

I was a bit apprehensive about EA working with Nintendo in this way, but then I remember it's only PC users EA seem to hate with a passion.

Aviator

#52

Aviator said:

@Adam I don't think the problem with Origin is that it's awful, it's just that it isn't doing anything new for digital distribution. It's just steam but with a different company.

shingi_70

#53

shingi_70 said:

@Tmi

So much BS in that poll and it was voted by people angry about ME3. No way in hell should EA when in a worst comoany when bank of America and those other companies actually Do harmful things to the economy and peoples lives.

@PrimedMetroid

It wont be. When windows 8 is out GFWL is being scrapped for regualr xbox live.

MAB

#56

MAB said:

All I want from EA 'its in the game' is all of their SNES and Genesis VC goodness.

Uncle_Optimus

#57

Uncle_Optimus said:

@James thank you for the article. Indeed, this announcement that the companies were partnering on certain Nintendo services has been incredibly under-covered in the year since!
Yet Nintendo's online platform is every bit as important a component of their strategy over these next 5+ years as any hardware choices, and probably more important. What I am curious to know is the scope of EA's involvement. Beyond helping to design a network of features for developers to utilize and users to connect, is there actual tech being licensed? With their Origin experience, will EA advise on digital storefront policy and...gulp, security?

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