Nintendo, for reasons covered frequently on previous occasions, can no longer rely on sheer volume of releases for 3DS and, in particular, Wii U. What it can do is share its passion for its hardware through its own game releases and how it delivers them to fans. In its 3rd March Nintendo Direct broadcast the company did just that.
When we asked you for your views on the Direct - after the dust had settled - the overall perspective was positive; at the time of writing 46% had said "it was really good, well done Nintendo", with a comfortable majority choosing generally positive choices. Having established beforehand that the presentation was all about Wii U and 3DS in Spring and Summer Nintendo largely stuck to that remit. It only broke the rule to briefly show Paper Mario: Color Splash on Wii U, which is due later this year - NX and mobile were, as promised, left out of proceedings barring a very brief Miitomo mention.
That was an entirely logical and sensible move, too. Though fans have an insatiable appetite for information Nintendo still needs to structure its reveals for the broader market - Nintendo Direct broadcasts are for fans, not always the mainstream, so the next generation of hardware will wait for the biggest stages (possibly E3). Likewise Nintendo wouldn't have wanted to bury additional details for other mobile projects in a broader presentation, as it'll want to generate buzz for those ventures in their own right.
Considering those circumstances and the limited cards Nintendo had in its hand, the Direct did a rather good job. Productions values were high, there were winks and nods to that big N style that's much beloved, and there were some blockbuster games included. With some projects coming a little sooner than expected, there's a relatively steady flow of exciting major releases in the Spring and Summer months.
When summarising the events of the broadcast we were reminded, once again, of how Nintendo's priorities are - unsurprisingly - stacked to its most popular current-generation hardware. While Wii U sales momentum has improved in the past year as the 3DS sees its sales decline, the portable family is still the bankable platform. It has a far higher userbase and still outsells the home console, after all.
That showed in terms of the volume of announcements and games on the way to each system. The Wii U line-up is still, ultimately, rather thin, but there are high-profile titles to help keep fans reasonably happy. The Paper Mario trailer was clearly designed to reassure, yet with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD now in stores and Pokkén Tournament around the corner, much focus will fall on Star Fox Zero to be a season-holding release in April. Yes, there's the free-to-play Lost Reavers in April and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE in June, but with the best will in the world those latter two can only be regarded as intriguing but niche titles.
It has been the case since early 2015, effectively, that the Wii U line-up relies on quality over quantity, with a few of those titles - perhaps all, the jury's still out - promising just that. It was no surprise to see segments devoted to Splatoon and Super Mario Maker, either, though observed in isolation the details for those games were extremely minor - gameplay tweaks and simple updates in Splatoon, and a handful of new items in Super Mario Maker.
In the cold light of day the Wii U maintains its status as a system of quality that's quietly seeing out time - there's still a new Zelda title to come, of course, but with each passing month with no new footage the odds of it mimicking the cross-generation life of Twilight Princess increase.
It was on 3DS, ultimately, where Nintendo made its clearest statement of intent. The volume of announcements, and the nature of the games, showed that the company plans to walk the walk after all the talk of giving the 3DS life beyond 2016. There's an inevitability that it - and the New 3DS - are heading towards lowered pricing and a budget machine status, yet Nintendo clearly feels that the right game line-up can ensure continued and steady sales beyond the arrival of NX and smart device apps.
The 3DS games shown certainly catered to various demographics. There's platforming (Kirby: Planet Robobot), titles targeting a slightly more 'casual' or relaxed demographic (Disney Art Academy) and releases to satisfy dedicated and experienced gamers (such as SNES VC games and Capcom's Monster Hunter Generations). Both sides of the Atlantic are also playing catch-up in localised RPGs - this writer can't wait for Fire Emblem Fates in Europe - and some key eShop titles were also shown off, especially in North America.
Most intriguing was the charm offensive launched for Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which was much maligned during E3 2015 and is somewhat surprisingly due in 'late Spring'. It was a spirited defence of its place in the franchise, along with claims that it was many years in the making and - as a result - far more than a cheap and rapid spin-off. It seemed to sort of work; we could sense a slight lessening of disgruntlement towards it in the live chat at the time, and it didn't fare too badly in our community polls. It's still not flavour of the month, but there seems to be an increased willingness to give the Next Level Games-developed release a chance.
For the 3DS there's certainly a sense that significant and no doubt increasingly efficient and affordable development for the platform is laying the groundwork for a sustained library. The hardware is of a certain age that developers familiar with it can surely turn projects around relatively economically, and let's not forget it'll have a significant push in the Holiday season with Pokémon Sun and Moon. While its days as a big-selling industry leader are fading rapidly, the 3DS may have some legs well into 2017.
There may be one or two smaller Direct broadcasts prior to E3, or perhaps Nintendo will forego that approach to focus on smaller reveals and game detail announcements via social media and YouTube. Either way, as a placeholder major presentation to keep the current generation in business it arguably did its job well. The 3DS was the bigger beneficiary, but by pushing through with the likes of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE and the high profile Star Fox Zero, Nintendo has shown its commitment to keeping the home console ticking into the Summer months.
In the circumstances the Direct delivered as much as we could realistically expect.