If early year intentions can be taken as an indication of Nintendo's eagerness to have a big year, then so far things bode well. Despite the various positives and negatives around the Nintendo Switch and its launch offerings, Nintendo did at least go wholeheartedly into presenting it. The live event from Tokyo was glitzy by Nintendo standards, while follow-up streams from Nintendo of America's Treehouse team and from the Japanese teams at the core venue had plenty to enjoy.
Somewhat casually announced on the Treehouse stream was a Fire Emblem Nintendo Direct, with reminders going out earlier this week. Coming so quickly after the major Switch unveiling, it's hopefully the beginning of a sustained and enthusiastic promotional campaign from the big N. We certainly can't help but wonder whether one or two additional details and surprises are yet to emerge around the Nintendo Switch prior to launch, for example.
In any case, the Fire Emblem Direct is today at 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern / 10pm UK / 11pm CET, which is 19th January at 7am in Tokyo and 9am AEDT. Let's consider some realistic ideas of what we'll see, along with a couple of flights of fancy.
Fire Emblem Warriors
This Koei Tecmo tie-in only had a brief concept reveal last week, setting the scene for a more comprehensive look in this Direct. After the success of Hyrule Warriors and the nature of the franchise, don't be surprised if this is more of the same but with a new batch of character designs and environments. That approach has served the Warriors IP well for quite some time.
Of course, like with Hyrule Warriors there can be scope to go big with fan service and to tweak the general formula for some Fire Emblem vibes. For example, perhaps the Adventure Mode maps could take the turn-based approach and add greater depth, riffing on the mechanics that form the backbone of FE's recent 3DS successes.
For fans of the series it'll be all about spotting characters, settings and more, though we'd be surprised if the focus isn't heavily on the cast and settings of those recent 3DS entries. After all, the series struggled for quite some time in the West before Fire Emblem: Awakening came along, so Omega Force may be under orders to stick with familiar characters from recent years.
In any case, here's hoping for a hefty dose of gameplay footage and an indication on whether it'll do anything unique with the Switch's capabilities - it's a Warriors game, though, so keep expectations low on that. Beyond that perhaps there'll be confirmation of the Holiday release window, which was in an official YouTube video description but hasn't been communicated clearly elsewhere.
Fire Emblem on Mobile
This is locked to appear, from what we understand, and that's no surprise. This title could have already arrived or at the very least been showcased more had Super Mario Run not stolen a march on it. Of Nintendo and DeNA's smart device projects so far this one seems like one of the most natural fits. A number of the most successful and highest grossing games on iOS and Android are strategy games, whether real-time or turn-based, and so this IP seems perfect for the platform.
The challenge for Nintendo is how it successfully monetises Fire Emblem on mobile without irritating long term fans. There's big money to be made from the strategy genre on mobile, but also the danger of sliding into cynical business practices that target 'whales' - those that spend significant amounts of money on particular smartphone games. So many pieces of the Fire Emblem experience could be ruthlessly monetised - character unlocks, boosting relationships, breakable weapons that need to be replaced, reviving fallen comrades. In the wrong hands all of these elements could be monetised in an excessive way, leading to negative feedback on social media and a backlash that affects the IP's reputation.
Nintendo, of course, knows this, so will no doubt be seeking a solution that ensures financial success for the project while also being fair. To be blunt, though, the big N and DeNA do need to get their act together with this. Miitomo struggled to achieve longevity and didn't seem to generate much revenue with its limited offerings, while there was a backlash against the one-off purchasing option of Super Mario Run. In the latter case some baulked at the premium price (by smart device standards), but in some cases communication was the problem. The messaging at the 'unlock' phase, in essence to pitch the game after three free levels, simply wasn't good enough.
Beyond monetisation, we just hope to see a well-produced and interesting Fire Emblem title on mobile. Nintendo will no doubt try to make it accessible and standalone for those that haven't immersed themselves in the series before, and it likely won't have the strategic depth seen in the 3DS games. Yet the idea of a Fire Emblem game to dip into occasionally on a phone or tablet is exciting.
Will it be a strategy game in which you primarily battle and fight against other players, like so many of the most popular games in the genre on mobile? Or will it have a hefty story mode to explore? it'll be interesting to find out.
An Unexpected Surprise
The moment a Fire Emblem Direct was announced, the rumours started. You've probably seen them, one being a Switch port of Fire Emblem Fates based upon some web code that was probably an innocent mistake. Official messages about the Direct have simply said it'll discuss Fire Emblem games, but that plural could just mean Warriors on Switch and the mobile title.
There's no harm in dreaming though, right? We suspect the IP's time on the 3DS is over, after Awakening, the enormous Fates and all of the DLC that both games have, but there must be demand for a traditional series entry on the Switch. Both of the 3DS entries, in particular the multiple releases of Fates, proved successful and lucrative for Nintendo. While Warriors will no doubt be popular, it wouldn't surprise us if Intelligent Systems has been tasked with producing a Switch-only main series release.
Is it too soon for a full entry to be revealed? Perhaps not. There was a little over three years between Awakening and Fates in Japan, though extensive localisation meant that the release times were rather later in the West. Fates arrived in Japan in June 2015, so if it had a sizeable team kicking off the next game as it wrapped that project, a 2018 arrival would fit the typical development timeline; if we're being optimistic, there'd be hope that it accelerated its processes to get on Switch by late 2017 / early next year in Japan. Though it's surely a way off yet, it would be a thrill to see a glimpse and tease of the first full Fire Emblem game on Switch.
The rumours of ports also make some sense, of course, especially in light of some titles already making the move from Wii U to Switch, in particular; that said, the transition from 3DS to Switch is rather different and would require a decent amount of remastering. On top of that, the fact those games already sold well on 3DS makes them a less compelling business case, as a sizeable audience has already bought them and played them.
Beyond that, some are speculating - most likely with no actual sources - about remasters of older titles. In our dreams the Fire Emblem Direct will be a surprise reveal for GameCube titles on the Switch Virtual Console, but let's be realistic and say that's a long shot.
In any case, Fire Emblem Warriors and the mobile game are pretty much guaranteed to feature. That'll be intriguing, and if we're very lucky a surprise or two will also pop up.
As always we'll host the stream with a live blog and chat here on Nintendo Life, so we hope to see you there. Let us know what you hope to see in the comments below.