Every year E3, brings us the biggest gaming news of the year, as Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo drops their biggest announcements about upcoming games, release dates, and new consoles. With the three-day conference fast approaching, I figured it would be a good time to release my 2015 predictions. With so many recent developments happening over at Nintendo headquarters, I believe, there is a reason to be optimistic about Nintendo’s presence at the event this year – even, if the new Legend of Zelda game doesn’t make an appearance. It’s always hard to guess what Nintendo will announce since the company has always been so unpredictable, but I have high hopes for what could happen during Nintendo’s live-stream presentation. So what surprises are in store this year? Here are my best guesses.
Note: This is a list of predictions, and not things we already know to expect such as gameplay footage and release dates for games such as Star Fox, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Yoshi’s Wooly World and so on.
1. New Super Mario 3D World
WiiU has Mario Maker to look forward to, but the 3DS doesn’t yet have any new Mario game scheduled for an upcoming release… at least not yet. Super Mario 3D Land reinvented everything fans love about Mario gaming and it is still considered one of the best games on the portable platform. It was also released four years ago, and considering the series turns 30 this September, I’m expecting Nintendo will announce a new Mario game for their portable system. Super Mario 3D World was developed by the same team that created Super Mario 3D Land for Nintendo 3DS, so instead of predicting a direct sequel to Land, I’m guessing they’ll release a handheld version ofSuper Mario World instead.
2. Retro Studios / Metroid
With Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze out of the way, Retro is free to focus on their next project. Initially, there were rumors that they were working on Diddy Kong Racing 2 with Monster Games, but those same rumors also promised it would be shown at last year’s E3 as well, and it never was. Discussion of a Wii U Metroid game started with tweets stating that the developer is working on “a Wii U game with a new engine,” and recent job postings on the developer’s website indicate that they are indeed working on something. Since Retro Studios was responsible for the popular first-person shooter iterations of the sci-fi epic, it wouldn’t be at all surprising for the Big N to hand the reigns back over to the Texas-based studio. We know a Metroid game is eventually coming, but I think the bigger question is what sort of Metroid game will we get? After Metroid: Other M failed to reach the critical and commercial success of thePrime trilogy, so going back to what didn’t work with the franchise doesn’t make much sense. When Samus does indeed return, I think she will return in two forms; the first will be a return to the 2D platforming roots and released only for the WiiU. The second will be a first-person shooter exclusive to the New 3DS, a game that takes full advantage of both screens as well as the handheld’s C-stick. There isn’t a Nintendo franchise more in need of a revival than Metroid, so why not release two games instead of one? Expect to catch a brief glimpse of these two projects at the very end of their presentation.
3. DENA Mobile Games
With their recently announced partnership with DeNA, Nintendo has made it clear that their first smartphone and tablet games are due out before the end of the year. I don’t expect Nintendo to focus too much attention on this new partnership, but I do anticipate the announcement of their first three titles. The question is, which games or franchises might be headed to smart devices. Could it be a Super Mario endless runner or a side scrolling platformer much like Super Kitty? Nintendo’s chief didn’t say, but he did rule out porting its existing classic games. If I had to place a bet on which franchises they choose, I would put my money on a mobile version of Punch Out, Wario Ware andMario Kart, three games that would easily work on a mobile device without the need of a controller.
Companies like Activision and Disney have enjoyed massive success with their respective toys-to-life offerings, Skylanders and Disney Infinity. Activision noted that their franchise had crossed $2 billion in worldwide sales – an impressive feat for an independent publisher. The first edition of Disney Infinity alone has generated over $500 million – and that was before the release of their future editions which reportedly outsold the inaugural set. There was some question of whether the market would be too crowded for Nintendo to make an impact when it launched Amiibo alongside Super Smash Bros. but those concerns were crushed when Nintendo released the numbers for the third quarter of its fiscal year and revealed that the company sold 5.7 million amiibo worldwide, and counting. Nintendo has been caught off-guard by the success of its Amiibo line, and with most figures in short supply, expect Nintendo to announce a re-release of some of the most sought-after characters. Don’t expect them to re-stock on every character, but certain figures such as Captain Falcon, Ike and Marth should come back with larger supplies. Nintendo’s interactive figures have been a huge success for the company, and there’s no reason for them to stop production. Beyond that, the remaining roster of Super Smash Bros. will be brought to life in toy form, and set for release before the end of the year.
5. Super Mario WiiU 30 Year Anniversary Bundle
The WiiU has been a huge disappointment for Nintendo, and even with post-Mario Kart 8 sales, it continues to lag behind expectations. Nintendo is the most venerable name in gaming and yet Wii U has not sold nearly as many units as the company hoped. Almost two years into its life, Wii U has so far sold only 10 million units into retail. Compare that to the Wii which went on to sell over 100 million worldwide. Nintendo wants to sell more consoles. They take pride in their system, and with good reason. The WiiU is perhaps, their best console to date, and the best way for Nintendo to sell more WiiU consoles so late in the game, is to release a Super Mario 30 year anniversary bundle which includes Mario Maker and one other Mario game. Expect a new model with more than 32GB and a new color and/or Mario theme to match the big event.
6. GameCube Virtual Console Support
Now that Nintendo has begun releasing N64 games on the virtual store, expect them to release games from the Gamecube era as well. GameCube is the only home console not featured on the Virtual Console and with the recent re-release of the Wii U GameCube Controller Adapter, it only makes sense.
7. Next Level Games
Next Level Games have made a name for themselves over the past decade after working closely with Nintendo on numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful titles. The independent video game developer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, is best known for its work with Nintendo, having wowed us with Punch-Out!!for theWii and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the 3DS. Dark Moon proved that Mario’s younger brother was far from irrelevant while Punch Out brought back the biggest names in boxing after a 15-year hiatus. Recent rumors hint that Next Level Games are currently working on a new unannounced Wii U game which is set to make use of Nintendo’s own intellectual property. Next Level developer Dan Pratezina revealed via his personal website that working at Next Level Games and ”being surrounded by Nintendo IP all day” is ”making him want a Wii U”. If this is true, the question remains, what Nintendo IP are they tackling, this time, around? My guess is a sequel to Mario Strikers which will, of course, come with amiibo support and allow you to add any amiibo character to your roster.
8. Shigeru Miyamoto takes the stage one last time.
Miyamoto maintains an active role at Nintendo, developing several projects at a time. He has, however, announced that he will be retiring soon, and has been preparing Nintendo for the time when he no longer works for the company. As part of this, Miyamoto revealed multiple projects at E3 2014 including a completely new franchise for the Wii U. His next project Star Fox is slated to be released in 2015 and is guaranteed to be at the forefront of Nintendo’s presentation, but I also expect a full blown demo and trailer for Project Giant Robot and Project Guard as well. This will be the last time Miyamoto takes the stage at E3, leaving Nintendo to abandon the digital presentation of previous years.
9. Pokken Tournament for WiiU and 3DS
Last August, fans of Pokemon were shocked when the teaser trailer for Pokken Tournament, a collaboration with Tekken publisher Bandai Namco, was released. Ever since, the biggest topic of discussion has been whether or not the Japan arcade exclusive fighting game will grace the Wii U console. While some third party publishers have left the Wii U, Bandai Namco remains loyal and considering how much money thePokemon series makes, there’s little doubt that both Nintendo and Bandai Namco have Wii U in mind for the new fighting game; After all, Bandai Namco is the co-developer for the new Super Smash Bros. on 3DS and Wii U. Rest assured that Pokken Tournament will make its way to the Wii U eventually. The question is when, and will they also consider a version for the 3DS as well? Given that Super Smash Brothers made its handheld debut thanks in part to Namco’s assistance, it’s not out of the question to think a 3DS version of Pokken Tournament could also be in the works. As it stands, the arcade version is Namco’s first priority, but it seems likely that with some fine-tuning, the game can get a console release as early as 2016. Either way, there will be some mention of Pokken Tournament at E3 2015, albeit brief, with more info to follow during the 2016 Japan Expo arcade game showcase, which takes place sometime in February. More Pokemon games also mean there is a good chance Nintendo will develop amiibo in the form of playing cards for the Pokemon universe; and considering the hundreds of characters Pokemon has, a card-based system would make more sense than the toy figures they currently produce.
10. SNES Remix
The NES Remix series is more than just a trip down memory lane – it is a huge win for Nintendo. Having exhausted the NES library, the SNES library would be the next step and when IGN asked NES Remix director Koichi Hayashida about the possibility of expanding the series to include other platforms like Super Nintendo or Game Boy Advance, he replied, he has a large desire to explore the very idea and it is something they are considering so long as there is enough of a demand. I expect SNES Remix to be announced at E3 and released sometime around Christmas.
Special Mention – Mother 3 release
18 years after debuting on the Super NES, EarthBound was once again released on the Virtual Console in North America and Europe to everyone’s surprise. Given the tremendous exposure surrounding the launch of the game, you might expect Nintendo would want to consider the possibly of localizing other titles in the Mother series — specifically the Game Boy Advance sequel Mother 3 — which remains the most notable Nintendo game to never see release outside of Japan. When asked by IGN if the positive reception given to Earthbound would change the way Nintendo views the franchise, Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime replied, “I have nothing to announce regardingMother 3 at this time.” For the unfamiliar, there are some significant hurdles that impact the prospects of Mother 3 ever being localized namely, a substantial amount of animal cruelty, a notable scene of physical violence, repeated drug and alcohol references, and more importantly, potential copyright issues with certain musical numbers. But there is still hope: Firstly, Earthbound has its fair share of animal abuse, drug and alcohol references, prostitutes, drug dealers and musical copyrights as well, and that had its initial release 21 years ago. Secondly, the latest Nintendo Direct confirmed that Gameboy Advanced Games would be on the Wii U Virtual console, and obviously, Mother3 is on the GBA. Considering the addition of Lucas in Super Smash (a character from the Mother series) and the fact that Earthbound was in the top 10 on the Wii U eShop for a very long time – I see no reason why they shouldn’t localize the game. That said, I don’t honestly think Nintendo will bring Mother 3 to North American shores, but one can dream.
Looking ahead, I believe Nintendo’s future is very bright. I don’t expect the NX console to get a release until late 2017, but there is still plenty to look forward to. 2016 marks the 30 year anniversary of The Legend of Zelda series in Japan and I believe Nintendo decided to not focus on the new Zelda game come E3, simple because they plan on releasing several big plans for the series all at once. I expect that Nintendo is indeed working on either a TV series or big screen adaptation of the franchise. With movies like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Avengers bringing in billions of dollars of revenue, a Legend of Zelda film is very much possible. I also expect we will eventually get the Legend of Zelda LEGO set and game we’ve all been asking for. And yes, an entire line of amiibo figures dedicated to Hyrule is also possible.