Reaction: What Happened to EA and Nintendo's Unprecedented Partnership?

The silent treatment

At last year's E3, EA CEO John Riccitiello shared a stage with Nintendo global president Satoru Iwata and Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime to announce that the two companies would join together in an "unprecedented partnership" for the launch of Wii U. Neither party gave any real indication what this would involve; Riccitiello was left to praise the upcoming console, focusing particularly on the online functionality. It was the first time he had graced the stage of a Nintendo E3 conference. It was a big deal.

Before E3 we argued that Nintendo and EA's partnership was big news and thought about what the pairing might mean. Yet E3 2012 came and went without any further mention of this collaboration. EA had no presence at Nintendo's most recent presentation, save for a brief glimpse of a Mass Effect 3 port in a third party sizzle reel. Nintendo, meanwhile, clearly wasn't shy to share the spotlight with other publishers. Warner Bros. Interactive's president Martin Tremblay joined the party to introduce Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition and Scribblenauts Unlimited. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot showed off Just Dance 4 and ZombiU. But no EA.

Now that we've seen Miiverse and game-specific message boards, we have a decent idea of what Riccitiello was referring to when he spoke about Wii U as a console that takes community to a new level, extending the system's reach to mobile and web platforms. It's similar to EA's own Battlelog in that it pushes information to other devices like this. Yet despite EA's apparent enthusiasm, including remarks that Wii U is “truly transformational” and “a better platform than [EA's] ever been offered by Nintendo”, we're no closer to finding out just what the intention of last year's stage appearance was.

Aside from Mass Effect 3, not a single EA game turned up for Wii U until partway through E3, when information came out that “a number of [EA] sports games”, including versions of Madden and FIFA, would be appearing on the system in the near future after all. But what about Need for Speed: Most Wanted? Dead Space 3? Sim City, a title that could work brilliantly with Wii U's GamePad? At the very least we expected these multiplatform titles to make the jump to Wii U; such strong words implied that Nintendo just might be in line for an exclusive title, or perhaps some unique features, as well.

What are we missing? Has the alleged “unprecedented partnership” cooled down before the general public ever saw a single benefit? Or could it be that EA and Nintendo simply weren't ready to show anything just yet? Hopefully it's something for the future: a pairing that is still very much in existence, and just on the back-burner for now. EA and Nintendo teaming up could change the gaming landscape or turn out to be a high-profile business deal gone wrong. Only time — and games — will tell.

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