In the later part of July, Nintendo of Canada hosted a special event for those who did not get to make it out to the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo to see their new and upcoming games. Plus, it was a good opportunity for some of us to get a little more hands-on time with some titles before their release.
For me, this meant one thing above all others: giving The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Kirby Returns to Dreamland, two games I felt I was not able to give the fair shake they deserved at the show. Stay tuned, as those previews are on the way.
I also had the chance to try Super Mario 3D Land another try, with the specific intent of comparing it with the 3D on to when it is off. While others have seen little difference, I found that I had an easier time with the 3D on, especially in one secret chamber with an isometric view and a floating platform I did not realize was floating until I had the 3D on.
But in addition to playing games, I also had the opportunity to once again speak with Matt Ryan from Nintendo of Canada. And as you might expect (he certainly did), I had a number of questions ready for him…
I led off by addressing something which Nintendo had already beaten me to the day prior, that being the change of release date for Star Fox 64 3D. Originally slated for a September 11th release, the company has dialed it back two days to September 9th, which is unusual in that it is a Friday release for a first-party Nintendo game.
“That’s something I would like to talk about,” he told me, “because that’s something we talked about at Nintendo. We at Nintendo of Canada don’t determine the launch dates, but launching on a Friday has many reasons why it could work. The industry doesn’t use it, it’s exciting, we know many people gearing up for the weekend are looking for things to happen around the weekend, and Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday launches are the norm.”
“Sundays, we like to do, and Mondays through Wednesdays we like to do. So Friday is trying something new.”
If it goes well, will we see more Friday launches?
“I hope so… we’ll just have to see! But I don’t think we can use the sales data from Star Fox 64 3D, if it was a success or not, because that game is pretty amazing, and no matter what day we launch it on, it’s going to be awesome.”
From there, I asked if he had heard about Operation: Rainfall, which he replied to in the affirmative. Knowing that Ryan would not be able to say anything about the prospect of those three games coming to North America, I instead opted to ask a question I hoped might be vague enough for him to answer, yet still be informative.
Much of what I have seen of the Operation: Rainfall effort seems to stem from the fact that beyond The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Kirby Returns to Dreamland, there is little in the way of more “traditional” video games coming from Nintendo between now and the launch of the Wii U sometime in 2012 (a year to nearly a year and a half away, by my prediction), and this has fans of such styles of game worried about what they will have to play on their Wiis until then. So I asked…
Would it be safe to say that Nintendo has some unannounced games to fill that void in the Wii release schedule between the end of the year and the release of the Wii U?
“That’s a tricky question to answer,” he told me. After reconfirming the timeframe we are looking at, he noted that I may be “speculating a little too much.”
“Yes, there will be titles to fill the void for 2012, because we haven’t really talked about anything for 2012. We talked about Wii U, we talked about Luigi’s Mansion 2… beyond that, there’s not a lot, but that doesn’t mean those are the only two things to launch, obviously. So… that’s a pretty broad, vague question to ask.”
“Well, I didn’t want to get too specific,” I noted. “‘Are you releasing a new Metroid?’ ‘No,’ I know you can’t tell me that,” I added.
“Actually, I don’t know,” he responded. “Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t; that’s something I’m unaware of.”
“But, yes, Nintendo… we will always release things at a good pace to make sure there’s things throughout the year. Look at how our holiday is going to work: yes, everyone wanted Mario Kart for Nintendo 3DS on launch day, but we wanted this to be a title that happens this many months after launch. Same with Super Mario and Star Fox; it’s all paced out.”
“So, there will be a good pace of titles in 2012. To be honest, I don’t know what they are and we haven’t made announcements about them, so there’s not much I can say.”
I note that this is good, as some have found 2011 a little lacking on the Wii front, and asked if it was safe to say that Nintendo’s Wii focus at E3 was on 2011, with 2012 announcements to come later.
“I don’t know if that’s an accurate statement… I would say our focus was on getting the excitement for Wii U out, but then our focus after that was definitely on 2011 for Nintendo 3DS, and anyone who’s worried about Wii shouldn’t, because The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will be worth the wait. Kirby Wii is another one…”
I interjected, noting that I don’t think anyone is questioning the quality of those two games, but that there are a lot of gamers who buy a game, play it through, and look to the next thing. So they go through Kirby, they go through Zelda, and that’s two titles to sate them for however many months, and these are the people who are forming such campaigns for Nintendo to release the games which Europe and Japan are getting.
“We’ve committed to both consoles, the Wii and Wii U, coexisting together at the same time. We’ve had a lot of questions– ‘will games launch for both systems?’, ‘will you continue to make great games for Wii?’, and we just don’t know the answers to those questions; since we haven’t made any announcements, there’s not much we can say about it.”
“I think we can be confident that both systems will be around for a bit still.”
I asked if this means it will be more like the transitional period from the Nintendo Entertainment System to the Super NES, rather than the GameCube to the Wii, the latter of which saw the older system’s support dry up almost overnight.
“We closed out the GameCube with Twilight Princess, yes,” he told me. “I don’t anticipate we will be doing the same thing with the Wii.”
“Now, the other thing to keep in mind about the Wii is that maybe there are a lot of gamers out there who do not own a Wii yet. There’s a lot of great games, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Donkey Kong Country Returns (one of your favorites, I am aware)…”
“But I know what you’re talking about, the new games. There’s more coming; what, we haven’t announced, and I don’t really know. We’ll have to see.”
Shifting focus to the Wii U, I noted that at E3, much of the focus was on the new controller. With that, I asked if they were also looking to continue the Wii direction of games on the system with more new titles which focus on the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers than on the newer controller, which had reportedly been limited to the use of one per system. After all, the Wii gained quite a following, and it would be a shame to see that direction abandoned before it is fully explored.
“Let me correct something that is a misconception,” Ryan began. “We said that the Wii U system will come with one Wii U controller, but we haven’t said that you can only use one Wii U controller. The fact is that if the developer makes a game or an experience that uses more than one, then anything is possible.”
“What we’ve also talked about is to imagine taking some of the experiences you’ve had at your own home, putting them on your Wii U controller, and taking that with you somewhere else. That would again get rid of that myth and misconception that only one can be used. So, the possibility is there, but the system will only come with one at this point.”
I asked him to elaborate on what he meant, as Nintendo Global President Satoru Iwata had previously noted in response to people talking about taking the Wii U controller with them to the washroom or bedroom to play might have a difficult time getting that kind of range out of it. So what then does he mean by “taking the Wii U experience with you?”
“Okay, so that I can elaborate on. The Wii U is not a portable handheld device you’re going to take with you in transit or into a proximity away from the Wii U console, but you can take content from your console, put it on your Wii U controller, take it with you somewhere else, and be able to upload it. That technology is possible.”
I likened it to the Wii Remote, which has a small amount of memory for storing Miis and the like, and he noted it is “similar, but that’s kind of basic, what you can do with the Wii Remote. Taking a Mii with you is cool and fun, but this has the possibility to do more… not on the go, but once you get somewhere else where you take your stuff to someone else’s environment, it’s definitely possible.”
As an example, I put forth the possibility of loading up your team and plays in Madden and taking it to a friend’s house (who also has a Wii U, of course), and both being able to play from their own controller.
“It’s hard for us to commit to anything concrete, but yes, it’s a possibility because the controllers are compatible. It’s possible to have that kind of experience.”
Getting back to my original question about the continued development of experiences around the Wii Remote, the answer is “in part.”
“Some games will be developed around the Wii Remote, incorporating motion controls and all that, and now it also incorporates what Wii U can do, and how it offers a different perspective or a complementary perspective or a competitive perspective. However you want to look at it, it will involve building experiences around that.”
I noted that some people seem to be worried that motion control might be out, Wii U control is in, save for cases such as the demo Battle Mii, which utilized both for different players.
“But not every game will necessarily have the focal point as the Wii U controller,” Ryan told me. “It’s new technology, it’s a new way to play, but it doesn’t have to be the focal point.”
I commented that this is a good thing, as I felt the Wii way of playing still has a lot of untapped potential. Ryan responded “we know that there are a lot of misconceptions about Wii U; the majority of the population wasn’t at E3, and didn’t get a chance to actually have hands-on, so the reality about what Wii U is going to do is that it’s going to change the dynamic of what happens in your living room, or wherever your TV is. The dynamic of that room is going to change, and it’s going to be Wii U technology that does it.”
“Having this controller that offers a different perspective, or a complementary perspective, or being able to take content off the TV when other people want to use the TV for something else. It keeps people in the room together, either all playing together or doing different things, but they’re all kind of connected in a slightly different way than what’s possible right now.”
“And so changing the dynamic of that TV room space is what Wii U is going to do. That’s a pretty philosophical way to look at it, but you saw only what was potential at E3, and that’s… well, the whole thing is philosophical right now, although it’s a tangible piece of hardware, and an accessory.”
Moving on from that, I indulged myself by asking a question about the console itself– or more specifically, its casing. I said the Wii kind of spoiled me by being able to keep the console vertically-oriented, and that the Wii U does not look like it was made to do the same thing. Word is that the Wii U design is more or less final, leaving me to wonder whether or not there were any plans to be able to keep the console vertical.
“We don’t have anything to say at this point; we’ll just have to see.”
One last question sprang to mind about the Wii U, regarding the version of the Zapper and other accessories Nintendo was showing off. Specifically, whether people would need to buy a new Zapper, or if there will be a way to modify the existing Zapper in order to accommodate the Wii U controller.
“The purpose of showing those accessories was to show they were compatible with Wii U, which just proved the point that the Wii U is backwards compatible not just from a software perspective to Wii, but also from an accessory perspective. So your investment in that box or basket of controllers and accessories you have is still going to be usable with Wii U.”
From there, I noted that The Legend of Zelda is not the only series Nintendo has which is has an anniversary this year. That said, do they have any plans to celebrate any of those other franchises?
After a little laughter, Ryan said that “the reality is we are in a time period when a lot of franchises are experiencing celebrations.” Naturally, I brought up the first two to come to mind, Metroid (25) and Donkey Kong (30).
“Yes, I know, you’re going to be let down if we don’t do something for Donkey Kong,” he replied with amusement (even if it is true). “So hopefully we can do something special, at least for you. We haven’t talked about anything else being celebrated– not that we aren’t celebrating as a company, but we’re putting a lot of time and effort into The Legend of Zelda 25th anniversary, more so than what we did for the Super Mario Bros. 25th anniversary.”
I responded that this was sort of a toss-up for me; some people are wanting something like the Super Mario All-Stars release from last year, but that I would love to see the Broadcast Satellite Zelda titles get a similar treatment instead, since they would not have to worry about cutting into Virtual Console sales that way. After hearing me out on that, Ryan did note “that would be good.”
“So, are we going to celebrate other anniversaries? It’s hard to tell if they’re going to have big campaigns behind them. The Zelda 25th celebration is a big campaign, and of course we’ve told a lot about that already, and there’s more information still to come, too.”
And about the concerts…
“Let’s hope so,” Ryan interjected, knowing exactly where I was going. “I hope so, I hope they’re coming to Canada, I hope they’re coming to Toronto. As you saw with the announcement today, all we know for sure is L.A., and the rest will be announced later on, and the rest is going to happen in 2012.”
“So, you’re not the first person to ask that question, I know that question is coming, and I really hope so, but we’ll just have to see what happens.”
And that concludes our interview! Special thanks go once again to Matt Ryan, for kindly taking the time to address my many questions. Hopefully, this will give Wii and overall Nintendo fans alike something to look forward to in the future.