Feature: Nintendo in 2012 - Part Two
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
The month before Wii U's arrival was particularly busy, not just in terms of the new system but also for 3DS and DS. Among the serious business was the usual mix of enjoyable and off-the-wall stories, including a scarcely believable half-time show from a College Football game in the US. We learned that world-renowned author Salman Rushdie found valuable escapism through Super Mario World when in hiding from extremists threatening his life, awful clone Super Maria Land made a mockery of itself through its sheer crumminess on Android and iOS platforms, while the whole Nintendo Life team fancied a ride on the Pokémon train arriving in Japan.
There was some interesting news on the 3DS front, meanwhile, with confirmation of DLC for New Super Mario Bros. 2 suggesting a potential new direction for the franchise's future, while there was happy news that North American September software sales on 3DS had been 89% higher than the equivalent period in 2011. A Pikachu 3DS was confirmed, which prompted much queuing and enthusiasm in Japan and some interest elsewhere, while the news that Treasure is working on a 3DS exclusive caused many giddy high-pitched squeals in Nintendo Life Towers. On the Wii U front, news that each system would sell at a loss was offset by clarification that one game sale means a profit, while reports that in-game voice chat was unlikely to utilise the Wii U GamePad's speakers and microphone irritated some. Most seriously, it emerged that manufacturer to the world's biggest companies, Foxconn, had employed children as "interns", during which they worked excessive hours in difficult working conditions. These violations had occurred in a Wii U facility, turning the heat on Nintendo after earlier Foxconn violations had affected Microsoft, Apple and others.
October was a relatively busy month for new releases, with Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask arriving on 3DS and the long awaited Pokémon Black and White 2 landing on DS. NightSky was a 10/10 arrival on the North American eShop, meanwhile, with Just Dance 4 just about keeping the Wii release schedule ticking over.
November was Wii U month in both North America and Europe, with Nintendo's homeland surprisingly coming last in the release pecking order. North America went first on 18th November, with much excitement in the Nintendo Life team among those contributing to our launch day blog. The launch line-up was generally considered to be strong, albeit one arguably low on exclusives and heavy on ports already available on alternative systems. There were occasional hiccups, as well, with the day one system update taking over an hour for some, with a few reported cases of people bricking their systems by cutting power while it was in progress — never do that. Updates for almost every game added to the waiting time, but eventually games were played, while the Wii U eShop kicked off with a fairly impressive launch list. Europeans had the chance to join in at the end of the month, despite rather limited stock, while the system sold around 400,000 units in its first week in North America.
Away from the regional launches, Wii U was in a number of other headlines, perhaps most notably with reports from those that claimed to have deciphered the CPU and GPU speeds of the system. The results could be doubted or spun in almost any way, but quotes that Grand Theft Auto V was being considered for the system were welcome. Shigeru Miyamoto said he was taking on the important task of encouraging third-parties to work on the system, while we rather enjoyed the Nintendo Direct footage of Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime enjoying a call via Wii U Chat. Nintendo unveiled the Wii Mini for Canada, a smaller version of the already diminutive system that lacked any online capability, 3DS continued to dominate in Japan while passing eight million sales in the country, Nintendo of Europe offered a free retail game to 3DS XL owners, while download fans rejoiced at confirmation that Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is coming in 2013. Zelda fans were also treated nicely, with a new cover, trailer and limited edition confirmed for Hyrule Historia, while awesome YouTube team FinalCutKing gave us an epic Zelda animation.
Phew, so what about games? Well there was the Wii U launch line-up, in truth dominated by Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U and Ubisoft's exclusive ZombiU. There were other gems, of course, with a notable high-scorer in our reviews being Sumo Digital's Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, with enough pacey racing and fan-service to please almost anyone. Of the eShop titles there were no real duds, at least not in the opinions of our review team, while Fallblox/Crashmo was happily snapped up by eager download fans on the 3DS platform. Paper Mario: Sticker Star was the major 3DS retail release for the busiest gaming season of the year, pleasing plenty while some felt that — perhaps like New Super Mario Bros. 2 before — it lacked the magic of series predecessors.
And so we come to the Holiday month, where Nintendo went big once again with advertising and efforts to sell Wii U, 3DS, Wii and DS systems at various price-points. We had perhaps the most underwhelming Nintendo Direct broadcasts of the year, in the opinion of some, with various known games shown and further release delays to Pikmin 3 and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Wii U dominated headlines in various ways, with a particularly charming story revealing that Shuhei Yoshida, President of Worldwide Studios at Sony, had a Wii U of his own and was tweeting and posting on Miiverse. Thankfully he'd bought the real deal, rather than this questionable lookalike, while 7000 "hot" consoles are out in the wild after they were stolen in Seattle.
Distribution troubles had hit Europe, meanwhile, with some Wii U Deluxe Set pre-orders not including a copy of Nintendo Land, prompting Amazon to provide eShop download codes instead. It was reported that Nintendo's console was the "greenest" HD system in terms of energy consumption, but worrying figures showed that an average of just 1.2 games were bought with the hardware in its early days in North America, which is a poor attach-rate perhaps reflective of limited budgets for consumers. Away from Wii U, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity was confirmed for a March 2013 release in North America, while Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy was confirmed to be on the way as a free app on iOS — to match up the 3DS version's content would cost more than the boxed retail release, however. Capcom announced a new Mega Man game, hooray... it was a free PC cross-over (Street Fighter X Mega Man) produced predominantly by a fan, boo.
For Wii U owners hoping for new download action, December was a particularly disappointing month, even if the early content on the platform was still far more substantial that the equivalent launch of the 3DS store. The blossoming 3DS eShop was the source of the month's best gaming, with Hydroventure: Spin Cycle, Crimson Shroud, Gunman Clive and escapeVektor all earning favour from our review team. Although overshadowed by its Wii U brethren, Scribblenauts Unlimited arrived on 3DS in North America to continue the series' heritage on Nintendo's handhelds.
So there you have it, a summary of a rather busy six months in all things Nintendo. We didn't cover everything, of course, so let us know which stories stood out for you in the second half of 2012 in the comments below.