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Feature: Looking Back at Nintendo in 2013 - Part One

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

We're already looking forward to the coming year here at Nintendo Life, picking some of our most anticipated Wii U and 3DS of 2014, while hoping for good times and another year of excellent gaming. Yet still, part of looking forward is understanding what's happened before, and as is our yearly tradition we'll sift through the 2013 archives — archives can be merely days old on the web, not like those dusty real-world equivalents — and remind ourselves of the biggest stories of last year.

It's safe to say it was a mixed 12 months for Nintendo, with impressive highs and some terrible lows. We'll try and pick out some of the most important stories, and others that are just a little bit of fun — let's get started.

January

January can typically be a quiet month in terms of new games, but in the case of Nintendo in 2013 was rather busy and packed with news. To start with reveals, two major Nintendo Direct broadcasts set the tone for exciting games on the way. Pokémon X & Y were announced in a special Nintendo Direct, confirming a new generation of the iconic franchise for the 3DS; in a first, it was announced that there'd be a co-ordinated global release in October. Not long after that we had a barnstorming Wii U Direct — this looked ahead to games coming later in the year and beyond, with confirmation of The Wind Waker HD, a Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem mash-up and Monolith Soft's X being revealed; we also learned that new entries in the Mario Kart, Mario and Super Smash Bros. franchises would be shown at E3. We now know what those games are, of course, but there was an exciting air of mystery at the time.

It was a busy month for Nintendo as a business, too, as it prepared to reveal its latest sales figures and was still within the rather lengthy Wii U "launch window". In an intriguing move the company unified its handheld and console divisions, with an all-new building in the plans.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata spoke of the company considering free-to-play and various pricing options. Iwata-san address a number of subjects throughout the month, stating that at the time the Wii U was "selling steadily", while also admitting that the company would continue to explore alternative game models — free-to-play, "cheap-to-play" and DLC were all confirmed as ongoing possibilities with the company considering the best moves for various franchises. When the quarterly financial results emerged at the end of the month they made disappointing reading, with sales targets missed — most tellingly for the Wii U — and Nintendo continuing to make an operating loss; exchange rate conditions helped the company to squeak a net profit, however. It wasn't what the company would have had in mind, though a happy landmark was reached — the 3DS passed ten million sales in Japan.

Away from such serious matters there was the pleasing confirmation of a Fire Emblem: Awakening hardware bundle in North America, will the title hitting the region well ahead of Europe. We had confirmed March release dates for Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on both 3DS and Wii U, though the rather sad news that the end of April would bring the closure of the Monster Hunter Tri Wii servers. There was troubling news that the financially insolvent THQ would be sold off one IP at a time, while the Twitter Master himself, Hideki Kamiya, reminded fans to stop asking him for the original Bayonetta on the Wii U — that's down to Nintendo and SEGA and, to date, not happening.

A particularly interesting set of poll results emerged, meanwhile, with the Nintendo Life community answering our detailed survey and sharing opinions on the Wii U. It was also a month with its share of strange, WTF moments. There was a Sonic fan-film that had distinctly mixed reactions but the praise of Mr Sonic himself, Yuji Naka, while the ESRB rating for 3DS title Castlevania: Mirror of Fate humorously stated that "a male werewolve [sic] character appears to have an appendage/genatalia between its legs". Hm.

New games were few and far between, but the 3DS eShop had a notable and peculiar arrival with Tokyo Crash Mobs, while the Wii U was particularly quiet aside from Zen Pinball 2 and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge arriving in Europe.

February

Nintendo maintained a consistent run of Nintendo Direct broadcasts over the course of the year, and kept up the momentum with a 3DS-focused broadcast in this month. It unveiled details and release dates focused around the Year of Luigi, for one thing, letting us know when Mario & Luigi: Dream Team would arrive, along with platforming DLC with New Super Luigi U. Mario Golf: World Tour and Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D made their début appearances, while a lovely Fire Emblem: Awakening XL hardware bundle was confirmed for Europe, perhaps making up for the wait to its April release — North America had the aforementioned alternative standard-model bundle; Animal Crossing: New Leaf was also dated. The arrival of the Circle Pad Pro XL was triumphantly confirmed, for those that wanted to test the limits of their portable's, erm, portability — joking aside, it's particularly useful for Monster Hunter fans.

In commercial success news, Nintendo reported that it was on course for the financial year to be its most successful in download sales, with the 2012 emergence of retail downloads — New Leaf's Japanese release was a particular eShop success — at the forefront. On a smaller but also notable scale, Gunman Clive on the 3DS eShop outsold the Android version, and would go on to outsell both the Google platform and iOS sales combined; it was a pleasing success story for the platform. More sales success followed for Super Mario 3D Land and possibly irritated some 3D Mario enthusiasts, as the 3DS title showed stronger sales momentum in its first 13 months than the much-loved classic Super Mario Galaxy on Wii.

This would also be a month, to be replicated throughout the year, where there would be disappointing news for the Wii U. Reports of hardware sales plummeting in early 2013 were countered by the announcement of a ZombiU Wii U bundle, but the determination of EA to shun the system was emphasized by the new Tiger Woods skipping the console. There was a frustrating Fire Emblem: Awakening shipping delay in North America, with very limited early stock, and there was a baffling delay to Scribblenauts Unlimited in Europe — it would finally arrive in the region in December. Less depressing news came with iconic developer and Nintendo subsidiary Brownie Brown becoming the aptly-named 1-UP Studio, while we could chuckle at the prospect of Wii Mini coming to Europe... because it's the Wii Mini.

In terms of new games, it was all about Fire Emblem: Awakening on 3DS in North America, the fantastic strategy RPG that also saw Nintendo pushing the boat out with DLC. A highlight on the Wii U eShop was the initial soft-launch of the Virtual Console in the form of Famicom Anniversary discounts, with F-Zero available for less than a chocolate bar. Elsewhere on the 3DS front, North American gamers could enjoy Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan, while NightSky finally arrived in Europe.

February also brought us this...

March

After a relatively busy opening two months of the year, Nintendo unsurprisingly didn't produce too many earth-shattering reveals in this month, but there was still plenty for fans to consider. There was a reveal for Flipnote Studio 3D, big news at the time that has lost relevance due to its continually delayed arrival in the West and the closure of the Friends Gallery functionality in Japan. On a more positive note we had a 3DS system update that improved background downloading options in the 3DS, while opening month sales for Fire Emblem: Awakening in the U.S. were the best in the series' history.

Elsewhere in the world of Nintendo, a frustrating European Wii U eShop policy that restricted details and downloads on 18-rated games to small, late-night windows was lifted. It also emerged that Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, announced in the previous month, was being produced by Monster Games — the studio ended up doing an excellent job porting Retro Studio's Wii title. 3DS owners in Europe could also rejoice that Etrian Odyssey IV, a recent arrival in North America, was confirmed for localisation to the region. There was cause for some optimism, too, with the formation of Yacht Club Games from former staff at WayForward — the company is currently working towards the release of Shovel Knight on Wii U and 3DS.

This was also a month packed with unconventional news. A pleasing find was that F-Zero AX can be accessed from the F-Zero GX disc on GameCube; it's not super-easy to setup, but it's welcome for fans of the arcade iteration. There was the heart-warming tale of a father overcoming gender-issues in Donkey Kong, so his daughter could play as Pauline. Capcom also began its own "Year of Mega Man Irony", as we'll call it, releasing anniversary goodies that didn't include a new game in the series; these Mega Man Ultrabook designs and usb sticks were to be joined by plenty of other bits-and-bobs throughout the year.

March did brings a host of games to both Wii U and 3DS, drawing to a close a drought on the home console. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and LEGO City Undercover were major arrivals on the home console, while Need For Speed: Most Wanted U was a high quality port. Capcom's Monster-slaying epic was also on 3DS, while the portable's stand-out was arguably the fantastic Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, a game that elevated Next Level Games to the big-time. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate was a divisive entry in the series from Konami, while Nano Assault EX and HarmoKnight lit up the handheld's download store.


So that was Q1 of 2013. Check back tomorrow for all of your Q2 shenanigans.

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User Comments (39)

WingedSnagret

#1

WingedSnagret said:

Last year for 3DS was phenomenal, but I'd rather forgot the Wii U's sorry side of the equation...

AdanVC

#3

AdanVC said:

Wii U survived the disastrous drought of games of Q1 thanks to that iconic Wii U Direct on January 2013. That Direct give us hope knowing that huge games were (and still) coming. Nintendo Directs are my favorite thing to look forward on videogames each month or so. Fortunately, 2014 looks 1000x times better for Wii U on Q1 just for the fact that there's DKC: Tropical Freeze on february and Mario Kart 8 after... Let's hope another iconic Wii U Direct is coming on the upcoming weeks as well :)

XFsWorld

#4

XFsWorld said:

My Q1 favorites: Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, HarmoKnight, and Lego City Undercover.

Mr_Nose

#5

Mr_Nose said:

As a fan, it's been nothing but the best of times. Had some great 3D gaming experiences, and had my notions of what a next generation console could offer, blown out of the water by Nintendo's amazing Wii U. Best Ninty system yet.

I've experienced no drought,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wii_U_games
and been nothing but pleased with Wii U and it's features, on a daily basis. And the future looks even brighter.

rjejr

#6

rjejr said:

I'd like to give a big congratulations and round of applause to Nintendo and Gamefreak for having a Jan announcement w/ an Oct release for X + Y, then keeping the hype coming all year, and then hitting their planned release date w/ a global launch. They even used the game to piggy back the launch of the 2DS hardware. Job well done. (I know bank and transport didn't work out but that was 2 months later)

Spoony_Tech

#8

Spoony_Tech said:

Umm........no Rayman mention!! That was the biggest news in the first quarter if you ask me.

FiveDigitLP

#9

FiveDigitLP said:

@rjejr Too true! I was reading this and had completely forgotten that Pokemon was first announced in the same year that it was released. It's impressive that they were able to meet their worldwide deadline.

unrandomsam

#10

unrandomsam said:

@FiveDigitLP Pokemon is not that impressive it is pretty much all Game Freak do. Different situation to Nintendo who don't have enough people to complete a reasonable number of titles each month across both platforms. (At the current difficulty level it wouldn't be unreasonable to go through a game a week just playing an hour a day.).

MAN1AC

#11

MAN1AC said:

2013 was a GREAT year for the 3DS. Probably one of the best showings Nintendo has ever had when it comes to developing and publishing games. I hate to say the 3DS has peaked, but its going to be REALLY hard to top what they did last year.

It was a nightmare for the Wii U though. There was so much negativity surrounding the console and the company for the vast majority of 2013. Droughts, no stage presentation at E3(the ND stream was even bad :( ), devs openly talking down on the console, the Rayman Legends situation,etc etc :( Hopefully they can keep some of that positive holiday momentum in the early stages of 2014.

VolcanoFlames

#12

VolcanoFlames said:

Yeah... I had a blast with Wii U in Q1. Then that's when my first copy of Nintendo Land stopped working. But it was still good, though!

ThomasBW84Admin

#14

ThomasBW84 said:

@Spoony_Tech Oopsie. My bad, that delay wasn't particularly great, as an understatement.

@Kawaii_Neko Nintendo hasn't issued it yet, I'm afraid. I'd now expect it to be tomorrow morning in Europe at the earliest.

unrandomsam

#17

unrandomsam said:

@Windy SNES 1994

Donkey Kong Country
Super Metroid
Breath of Fire
Demon's Crest
Final Fantasy III (VI)
Knights of the Round
Illusion of Gaia
Megaman X
Earthworm Jim
R-Type III: The Third Lightning
Sparkster
Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World
Super Metroid
Super Punch-Out!!
Super Return of the Jedi
Super Street Fighter II
Uniracers

Do you think in 19 years time this year will have as many games still being rated 9/10 and 10/10 as that year ?

ikki5

#18

ikki5 said:

YOU TRICKED ME!

I saw the picture before the title and though "Yay! a Nintendo direct to give us new stuff for 2014!" and then... I read the title. lol

Nintenjoe64

#19

Nintenjoe64 said:

If this year's Wii U releases had been steady and on time I'd have been much happier but either way. I still racked up more time on this console than on any launch window console. There were loads of honorable mentions that came in just below Lego City's 32 hours:
Total 1524.4 Hrs
Top Ten (eleven because internet browsing doesn't count):
1. Internet Browser 265.24 hrs
2. FIFA 13 150.07 hrs
3. Deus Ex 106.5 hrs
4. F-Zero (VC) 82 hrs
5. WWHD 80.66hrs
6. Black Ops 2 68.41 hrs
7. SM3DW 66.3 hrs
8. Earthbound(VC) 53.75 hrs
9. Pikmin 3 35 hrs
10. Link to the Past (VC) 33.66hrs
11. Lego City 32.5hrs

kunimitsu

#23

kunimitsu said:

I had owned an iPhone and switched to galaxy s4... still don't play "games" on either of them except nintendo and ps emulators. I feel bad for kids who grow up playing such crappy games on phones and tablets. Long live ninty!!!!!!! :)

DestinyMan

#25

DestinyMan said:

The bright spots of early 2013 for me were the Nintendo Directs, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, and Harmoknight. It was tough to be an early Wii U owner, but Miiverse managed to keep me from letting my Wii U collect dust. The Rayman Legends delay was a total fiasco and it's a huge omission not to have that in this feature.

MAB

#26

MAB said:

How many times do we need to look back at 2013... There has already been 10 articles in the last 2 weeks ;)

divinelite

#27

divinelite said:

Last year we got many promises for wii u as reveals. Hope 2014 we could get them done

X is still my most waited one, with monolith (xenogears/xenosaga) as my fave studio

WiiULoveSquid

#28

WiiULoveSquid said:

Ahh Q1 2013. For me the year really has made me wonder if Nintendo can substantively support 2 platforms anymore. The 3DS didn't just get lucky, it had all of Nintendo's support and showed us that Nintendo didnt seem to have the same aggressive software schedule the previous 2 years for Wii U output, I think.
Also the general gaming consumer largely seems to only embrace the better platform for their nintendo gaming. Or so it seems to me.
Also other game industry media seem to only want to praise one Nintendo platform at a time if the can even manage that, otherwise they look like they are selling out to Kid friendly gaming far more than their readership approves.

Good year, 3DS. Here's to better, Wii U.

WaveBoy

#29

WaveBoy said:

2012 & 2013 for me have been 2 years of lack luster gaming, on my part that is. I need to break out of this waning faze i keep getting myself in! :P The Wii era for moizy was a truly exciting time, i want to recreate that magic. I've been gaming sparsely here and there, but it's mostly because i'm too distracted with other things going on in my life right now in regards to my health, which i need to put aside right now and just try and enjoy myself no matter how wonky the situation is or distracting it can be. I keep delaying things, saying i'm going to play this and that but months fly by and i never get around to it haha. I'm terrible. :*

I've played very few games in 2013, with Luigi's Mansion 2: dark moon being the only retail 3DS game(Wasn't that great imo, found it a wee' bit tedious with child-like difficulty.) Need to get on A Link Between worlds, but other than that i feel that 2013 has been a lousy year for the 3DS, most of the stuff that has been released retail-wise just isn't my cup of tea outside a couple titles.

JaxonH

#30

JaxonH said:

2013 was a fantastic year! I didn't notice any games drought. By the time I was done playing New Super Mario Bros U and Nintendoland, Fire Emblem Awakening was out, and by the time I finished that, Luigi's Mansion, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Lego City Undercover were out. I never finished any of those before Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D was out, and by the time I finished that, it was E3 and hype went through the roof! I absolutely LOVED the E3 Nintendo Direct. Tears rolled down my cheek after each new reveal. It was surreal.

After E3, it was Shin Megami Tensei 4 time baby, and almost immediately after, Pikmin 3 launched. And only a week after that, Mario & Luigi Dream Team launched. And only 2 weeks after that, Splinter Cell Blacklist launched. And two weeks after that, Wonderful 101 launched. And two weeks after that, Zelda Windwaker HD launched. And a week after that, Pokemon X/Y launched. And one week after that, Deus Ex Human Revolution launched. And one week after that, Batman Arkham Origins, Sonic Lost World, Wii Party U and Assassin's Creed 4 launched. And a week after that, Call of Duty Ghosts and Wii Sports Club launched. And two weeks after that, Zelda Link Between Worlds and Super Mario 3D World launched.

It's been one hellova ride on Nintendo consoles this year! Wii U and 3DS supplement each other PERFECTLY. I cannot recommend owning both console and handheld enough.

And 2014 is set to be straight fire:

Wii Fit U
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Bravely Default
Watch Dogs
Mario Kart 8
Yoshi's New Island
Super Smash Bros 4 U
Super Smash Bros 4 3D
Kirby's Triple Deluxe
Hyrule Warriors
Bayonetta 2
Mario Golf: World Tour
Monolith Soft's X
Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem (possibly?)

+

double that list due to as-of-yet unannounced titles for 2014 (most games we got in 2013 weren't announced until months before there respective releases)

JaxonH

#31

JaxonH said:

@CountWavula

Seriously, get Fire Emblem Awakening, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Shin Megami Tensei 4, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and Zelda Link Between Worlds and I think you'll realize why we all thought it was such a great year. Particularly Fire Emblem Awakening, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Zelda Link Between Worlds.

And if you have a Wii U, you need look no further than Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101, Zelda Windwaker HD, Rayman Legends, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Wii Sports Club and Super Mario 3D World. There's actually about 20 others worth listing too but those 8 right there are the sacred nectar

gatorboi352

#34

gatorboi352 said:

The issue with Wii U in 2013 was perception. The reality didn't matter (actually a pretty decent line up of games to play) because the perception killed it. Sales picked up a little in December though.

Spoony_Tech

#35

Spoony_Tech said:

@unrandomsam That's a great list but i still think this year was just a bit better! I alone bought at least 10 retail games and countless eshop games as well! @Windy was right as it will be hard to top last year for the shear amount of quality games released! Ill still be playing them i fear till 2015 O.o

MrGranger

#36

MrGranger said:

Great list. While the WiiU still has some growing up to do, 3DS ended the year with a huge bang. I think 2013 ended any doubt whether or not Nintendo could deliver the goods still. They delivered amazing games in spades.

Linkypoo

#37

Linkypoo said:

For me, 2013 was a bust. The only good thing was the 2DS and ALBW. Yep. I thought the 2DS was the WORST decision Ninty (Nintendo) ever made, but I'm on it a lot! I'm typing this from one. But, 2014 will be awesome. With the release of Flipnote Studio 3D, Mario Kart 8, SSB 3D and HD, and hopefully the new Zelda for Wii U, the will probably be one of the awesome-est years for Ninty!

AyeHaley

#39

AyeHaley said:

"More sales success followed for Super Mario 3D Land and possibly irritated some 3D Mario enthusiasts, as the 3DS title showed stronger sales momentum in its first 13 months than the much-loved classic Super Mario Galaxy on Wii." I know Galaxy should've sold better but this is crazy! How can this be anything but positive? 3D Land is an amazing portable 3D Mario and deserves a great sales momentum.

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