Throughout 2013 Nintendo Direct broadcasts were a monthly affair, with some being small broadcasts focused on specific titles. After the pre-Christmas broadcast that surprised us with games such as NES Remix and more so with Hyrule Warriors, January passed without a further update. That was hardly a surprise due to Nintendo's management being force to reveal and deal with poor financial and sales figures — for a time the focus wasn't on games, but what Nintendo was going to do to revive the Wii U and return to handsome profits.
What those briefings did reveal, among many other things, is that Nintendo sees the 3DS as its major driver of profit this year and will continue to promote and push the Wii U in its current form — in other words, the GamePad is going nowhere. While around two weeks have passed since, those strategic decisions at least make it clear that the Wii U will focus on its GamePad, and that the slim list of confirmed 3DS games for the latter half of 2014 is likely to be beefed up substantially in the next few months.
But what of today's Nintendo Direct? For its part Nintendo has said that it'll focus on "Wii U and Nintendo 3DS games launching by the end of spring". It's standard for Nintendo to focus in on a period in its announcement, though we'd be surprised if at least one surprise isn't thrown in for good measure. As we await the hype and madness of the event, let's outline some of what we feel are relatively realistic expectations.
More Details on Imminent Arrivals
Playing into Nintendo's official description, these are the most obvious and safe bets. We'd expect another extended trailer and some final detail for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, the next major Wii U title getting increasingly close to stores around the world. Mario Kart 8 will likely be a main attraction, as it's due relatively soon (May) yet we know so little. Based on preview builds and official information we simply know that there'll be an option to post footage to Miiverse with Mario Kart TV, Baby characters, customisable vehicles, new tracks and some usage of the GamePad's touch screen (a map and horn button) and motion control, yet there's much yet to be confirmed. How many tracks will there be? Are there any new single- or multiplayer modes? Will the online setup be similar (including Communities) to Mario Kart 7, or perhaps expanded further? Nintendo has plenty of scope to reveal more.
In terms of the 3DS, we'd anticipate a bit more information on Yoshi's New Island now that it has a Western release date. North America will be hopeful of dates for Professor Layton Vs. Ace Attorney and, quite likely, an upcoming Inazuma Eleven release — Europeans may expect more footage of the former due to a date already being confirmed.
Extended Footage and Release Windows of Previously Confirmed Games
There are a whole raft of titles confirmed for 2014 that are yet to receive release windows; if Nintendo needs a big finale that isn't a surprise, a Super Smash Bros. release window would be ideal. There are plenty of other games that are due updates, and one that some are excitedly predicting, based on some retweeting, is Monolith Soft's X; that would be just fine by us. Bayonetta 2, announced with such excitement way back in September 2012, is also long overdue further footage and, ideally, a release window, while Yarn Yoshi has been almost entirely elusive since its announcement over one year ago. As for Hyrule Warriors, it feels too soon for that to re-enter the hype cycle in any meaningful way, but that depends on how far along Tecmo Koei's development has advanced.
Moving to the 3DS, we'd be surprised if another Nintendo Direct passes by without some mention of Mario Golf: World Tour, which was announced a year ago and expected in Summer 2013, yet has somewhat fallen off the radar. We also wonder whether Kirby: Triple Deluxe has a release window ready for an announcement, as some retailers have started listing it with placeholder dates in May.
New Products and Surprises
This Nintendo Direct will be 40 minutes long, so it's one of the longer broadcasts. It's also the first of 2014, and the equivalent of 2013 was used to blow doors off and build some excitement. Nintendo needs buzz right now, especially so for the Wii U but also, to an extent, for the 3DS. Last year was terrific from a 3DS software standpoint, which it needs to try and emulate, while the easiest way to change the message of gloom around the Wii U isn't through talking strategies and concepts, but with irresistable games.
Nintendo is notoriously tough to predict, and we suspect many will be happy with firm release dates for various exciting titles confirmed for the Wii U. Nevertheless, we hope there'll be at least one segment and sizzle reel dedicated to the eShop platforms, perhaps even with a surprise "available now" download, a trick Nintendo's pulled before.
As for what games we'd all love to see on both systems, that list could go on for an eternity. There's always a chance there won't be any "wow" moments, but then Nintendo's surprised us enough times that we can at least dream. If Satoru Iwata and his teams in North America and Europe have a new, previously unheard-of killer Wii U game announcement, it would help bring a warm glow back to the system. We like to fantasize, in any case, and at the very least would hope that this broadcast will throw in a few curve balls, as was the case in December.
What are your hopes for this Nintendo Direct, realistic and otherwise? Share all in the comments below, and be sure to keep it here where we'll provide live streams with commentary and post-broadcast reaction when it all happens.