Wii U launched last year and most of its major titles received fairly decent review scores. Nintendo Land and ZombiU both scored in the high 70s, whereas New Super Mario Bros. U reached over 80% on review aggregate website GameRankings.
Meanwhile, the embargo on PS4 games has been lifted and the results? Not so good for Sony. Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack, two titles integral to the PS4 launch lineup, are both scoring below virtually every Wii U launch title, with Knack sitting at a very poor 57.39% at the time of this writing.
Review scores aren’t everything, and I’m not trying to say that Killzone and Knack are bad games. I won’t formulate an opinion on either of them until having thoroughly played both of them myself this weekend and the week after. But review scores do have an effect on public opinion and they can have an effect on sales.
It’s no secret that Wii U has not been doing so hot in the sales department. It had a strong launch, but a lack of major software support from Nintendo this past year has caused Wii U sales to plummet.
In recent months, however, Nintendo has cranked up their first party support and has managed to impress with their willingness to experiment with alternate pricing and release methods. They’ve introduced sequels to two of their top-selling Wii franchises in the form of Wii Sports Club and Wii Fit U, and the way they are spreading the word about these games is very unique.
Basically, Nintendo is taking the concept of a demo and expanding it greatly. Anyone can play Wii Sports Club for free for 24 hours after downloading it the first time. After that, players can choose to only purchase the sports that they actually enjoy and want to play. There’s no denying the immense popularity of Wii Sports, and updating that classic game with online play was a smart move for Nintendo.
With Wii Fit U, Nintendo is giving anyone that wants to play access to it for free for an entire month. This is unheard of in the industry, and it’s also a very smart move. Nintendo is doing this in an attempt to regain some of the casual market that they had with the original Wii, and stunts like this will go a long way in improving the Wii U’s shaky image with the public.
Wii U sales have improved recently thanks to new bundles and a price drop. Nintendo has slashed the price of their 32GB version of Wii U by $50, in addition to releasing a bundle that contains The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, one of the Wii U’s highest scoring titles to date.
Two Wii U games have cracked the elusive 90% on GameRankings so far. The first is the aforementioned HD remake of Wind Waker, and the other is Rayman Legends. Originally a Wii U exclusive that was supposed to release all the way back in February, Rayman Legends saw a controversial delay so Ubisoft could port the title to seventh generation platforms such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. However, the definitive version of Rayman Legends is only available on Wii U, featuring exclusive content and gameplay simply not found in the other versions of the game.
To close out 2013, Nintendo is being incredibly aggressive against their competitors. While no high profile Nintendo games have a release that coincides with the PS4 launch, Nintendo doesn’t really need to worry about that day now thanks to the far less than stellar reception to PS4 and its launch lineup. Wisely, they are releasing three heavy hitters on the same day that Microsoft is launching the Xbox One.
In fact, they are releasing brand new entries in their two biggest franchises. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds will release for Nintendo 3DS, and it is joined by Mario Party: Island Tour, a game that looks to completely revitalize the creatively stagnant Mario Party franchise. Of course, Mario Party isn’t that other big franchise I am talking about…the other huge game releasing that day and arguably has far more potential than any PS4 or Xbox One game that hopes to release this year is Super Mario 3D World.
Super Mario 3D World did not impress me at first, but in the months after its E3 reveal, the game just keeps looking better and better. The title looks almost impossibly fun, thanks to the blend of 4-player co-op with the 3D Mario gameplay, the new power-ups, and the astonishing amount of content that is contained in the game. Super Mario 3D World has Game of the Year potential written all over it, and its success is integral to Nintendo making an impact this holiday season.
If 3D World lives up to the standards of its predecessors and scores very highly, not only will it have its brand name to live by, but the most hardcore gamers will not be able to ignore it either. Those that don’t have Wii U’s yet will want to play the newest Mario game, especially if it lives up to expectations, which, going by Nintendo’s track record, it most likely will.
Nintendo will really be able to cause damage in 2014, however. Early 2014 is a barren wasteland for both PS4 and Xbox One in terms of new releases, with nothing that noteworthy coming until February when PS4 receives the highly anticipated Infamous: Second Son. Infamous will have to compete with the new Donkey Kong Country game, and not only that, but Nintendo is launching Mario Kart 8 in early 2014 as well. What else does 2014 have in store for Nintendo? Oh, nothing really…except we know the new Zelda will be revealed at E3 that year and they’ll also be launching the latest entry in the juggernaut Super Smash Bros. franchise.
What Nintendo needs to do in early 2014, probably in March right before the release of Titanfall, is release a new Wii U bundle that includes Super Mario 3D World. The game promises to be to the Wii U what Super Mario Galaxy was to the original Wii — a true masterpiece that needs to be played by everyone. If Nintendo plays their cards right, Wii U won’t just recover, it could win the entire generation.