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Is Nintendo “Playing it Safe?” Why Some Nintendo Properties are Dormant and Mario, DK and Smash Bros. Aren’t

During the E3 Nintendo Direct, Nintendo showed off some big titles like Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS. However there’s a consensus where Nintendo is “playing it safe” with franchises that are known to sell well. They know a lot of people will enjoy this sort of content, and with the Wii U in this current state, I expect this to be the best medicine for it.

While Nintendo is using their best selling stuff to boost the Wii U, they are also putting a few different experiences into their lineup, such as Bayonetta 2 and the new Monolithsoft game. These are successors to highly regarded games and though they may have not sold millions of copies, Nintendo believes that they deserve another romp. However, there are many other Nintendo properties that are currently on the shelf and certain fans believe the Wii U will be a great platform to see them come to life once more. We’ll go through some of the more popular Nintendo properties on the shelf and see why. Following that, we will also see why Nintendo might be relying on their most successful franchises at the moment, and realize that they might not be the only ones doing it.


Metroid

Before Donkey Kong Country Returns, Retro Studios made the stunning Metroid Prime series. Retro was able to do what no one thought was possible; they successfully brought the wonderful 2D Metroid series into the third dimension. It was an Ocarina of Time-like revolution, taking what was excellent from the series and repurposing it into a new perspective.  In Metroid’s case, it became a beautiful first-person adventure.

The problem is that DKC Returns sold about as much as the three awesome Metroid Prime games combined. Due to that, the idea of Nintendo green-lighting a new Donkey Kong versus a new Metroid must have been seen as a better investment. If I were Mr. Iwata, I would have thought the same thing (though I’d let them make a new IP if anything).

Plus, the destruction of Samus’s character in Metroid: Other M isn’t helping her future chances either.


Star Fox

Fox McCloud hasn’t been getting much love from Nintendo as of late. From being outsourced in his GameCube and Nintendo DS outings from being completely absent on Wii, Nintendo is obviously not excited to bring back their intergalactic aerial combat series. Nintendo however did remake Star Fox 64 to the Nintendo 3DS in 2011, but it reminded fans that the series may have not aged as well as they thought.

Nintendo would have to reinvent Star Fox in order to bring back the franchise, and that would need some serious software engineering. What helps Star Fox versus many other dormant Nintendo series is that it has the popularity to garner decent sales, similar to when Punch Out or Kirby returned to consoles on Wii.


F-Zero

Congrats F-Zero fans, you’re getting a new game! …It is called Mario Kart 8.

After seeing Mario’s latest racer in action, it’s clear that many of the gimmicks in it were derived from F-Zero. Having the karts hover in order to ride on walls or upside-down were totally ripped from Shigeru Miyamoto’s SNES racer. Sadly for fans of Captain Falcon and friends, this is probably the closest to a F-Zero revival on Wii U they will ever see.

Like Sony’s Wipeout series, these futuristic racers never seem to do well sales-wise. All the F-Zero and Wipeout games became worthless after a while and with little demand for games like these, it’s a trend that not ending soon. At least Sony thought a little more intelligently and launched the PSP and Vita with a Wipeout, so at least they got impulse sales from system launch buyers. Although, now that Sony closed the developers of the Wipeout games, it even looks like Sony doesn’t want to bother with the genre.

With the Wii U launch behind them, Nintendo would have to resort to other delivery methods for F-Zero since the series doesn’t have the pull to have a ROI (return on investment) with a sixty-dollar packaged product. F-Zero should go the way of Crash-mo or Dillon’s Rolling Western and become a smaller eShop series. It worked for Sony when they decided to make a Wipeout download-only on PS3, and I believe Nintendo can achieve the same, but smaller success with Wii U.


Is Nintendo “Playing it Safe?” with Mario, Smash and DK?

I can’t fault Nintendo for relying, at least for the next year, on some of their best selling games. Donkey Kong Country Returns sold about 5 million units and Super Mario Galaxy sold double that. While Super Smash Bros. Brawl also broke the 10 million mark, its predecessor Melee kept the GameCube alive for its entire lifespan. Finally Mario Kart on both Wii and Nintendo DS has sold well over 30 and 20 million copies respectfully. In all honesty, if there is any way to propel a console, it is with successors to games that have sold eight digits worth.

Even if Nintendo brought back these other series, pundits would just criticize them for whoring their IPs even though some of them haven’t been around for a while. They would say that Nintendo is relying on nostalgia instead of advancing the medium with some new, shocking software. It’s idiotic to think that, especially now since the Wii U isn’t doing all that hot, you would want familiar faces to not just drive console sales, but to regain trust in third-parties. Plus with many of these dormant franchises, an ROI is not even guaranteed.

The Nintendo-bashing is even sadder because Nintendo aren’t the only ones that take advantage of their properties; they only just have the most properties to take advantage with. In fact, the biggest pops from the crowds during Sony and Microsoft’s press conferences were the announcements of a new Killer Instinct, Dead Rising, Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts for the Xbox One and/or PS4. Hell, Electronic Arts won gamers over this year thanks to not only the amazing looking Battlefield 4, but more importantly they announced a new Mirror’s Edge and Star Wars Battlefront. And when the year is said and done, games like Grand Theft Auto 5, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed 4 and Pokémon X/Y will be dominating sales charts. That’s what good established franchises do, and it’s not a Nintendo-only trend.


However, hope is never lost – we’re only a half-year into the Wii U’s life so there’s a ton of time. If I wrote this last year, I would have included Fire Emblem on this list, but now the series now is in better shape than ever before thanks to the magnificent Fire Emblem Awakening. Let’s also not forget that Pikmin returns this August after nine years and Kid Icarus came back last year after being dormant for over 20 years! If Metroid can come back after eight years and complete reboot the series in a new dimension, if Donkey Kong Country can come back and dominate after fourteen, any one of Nintendo’s sleeping franchises could possible rise like a phoenix. It would just require some TLC… and money, but more importantly demand.

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