With so many recent developments happening over at Nintendo headquarters, I believe there is reason to be optimistic about Nintendo in 2016. 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 we could get over the next twelve months. So what surprises are in store this year? Here are my crazy 2016 predictions:
1. Mother 3 gets a release stateside
18 years after debuting on the Super NES, EarthBound was once again released on the Virtual Console in North America and in Europe to everyone’s surprise. Given the tremendous exposure surrounding the launch of the game, you maybe expected Nintendo would want to consider the possibility of releasing other titles in the Mother series. Well, they did with EarthBound Beginnings last year during E3. But while Beginnings is a good game, it is the weakest in the series, and fans are still impatiently waiting for the Game Boy Advance sequel Mother 3, which remains the most notable Nintendo game to never see release outside of Japan. 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 Nintendo never had a problem releasing it 21 years ago on the Super NES, and later on the Wii U. Secondly, a batch of Gameboy Advanced games began popping up on the Wii U Virtual console in 2015, and obviously Mother3 is on the GBA. Considering the addition of Lucas in Super Smash along with his very own amiibo, 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. Oh, and did I mention that the 20 year anniversary of Mother 3 is later this year?
2. Metroid Prime: Federation Force is delayed and retitled
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 the Wii 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. Last year I predicted that the developers would announce a Metroid title and I was right. Unfortunately, that game ended up being Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which was met with a massive backlash that eventually led to a petition to cancel the release of the upcoming 3DS title. I didn’t share the Internet’s knee-jerk rejection of the game, but I have to admit that I’m not at all interested in playing this game, much less buying it. And clearly I am not alone. I predict that while Federation Force is set for release in 2016, it will be delayed and eventually have the word “Metroid” removed from its title.
3. Amiibo to work on mobile phones
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 were some questions 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. Since then the line of Amiibo figures have generated 204.1 billion yen (about $1.7 billion in USD), with 71% of the sales generated outside of Japan, accounting for about 1.2 billion dollars. Needless to say, Nintendo isn’t slowing down in producing more amiibo. However, the company has yet to release a game outside of Smash and Super Mario Maker that takes advantage of the majority of these pricey interactive figures. My guess is that Nintendo is going to release a mobile game that somehow incorporates amiibo. Since the figures use a common technology protocol, NFC (near field communication) — the same technology that is already built into most modern iPhones, Androids, and Windows Phones — it is more than possible for Nintendo to do this. And if we know anything about Nintendo, they are always thinking far ahead. Chances are they already had the idea to bring amiibo to mobile games even before they announced their partnership with DeNA. Amiibo could be a major selling point for Nintendo games on your iPhone or Android, especially if they could be used to transfer data between Nintendo’s proprietary systems and your phone, and unlock bonus material and maybe even free games.
4. The next three DENA mobile games
With their recently announced partnership with DeNA, Nintendo has made it clear that their first two 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 next three titles by March. The question is which games or franchises might be headed to smart devices. Miitomo didn’t exactly impress anyone. I mean seriously, who wants a social networking game, but for Miis? And while it might not matter much what fans think, the reaction among investors has been extremely negative. Clearly Nintendo has a strategy though, and they will somehow tie Miimoto and Nintendo consoles together, and so I can’t help but think they are saving the best for last. Don’t expect to see a Super Mario endless runner or a side-scrolling platformer much like Super Kitty. If I had to place a bet on which franchises they choose, I would put my money on a mobile version of Wario Ware (without the Wario Ware branding) and a new sequel to Brain Age — all games that would easily work on a mobile device without the need of a controller.
5. Retro Studios / Metroid
There were rumors flying about in 2015 that Retro Studios were working on Diddy Kong Racing 2 with Monster Games, but those same rumours 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 job postings on the developer’s website last year indicated 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? Metroid: Other M failed to reach the critical and commercial success of the Prime 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 a first-person shooter exclusive to the NX. And seeing as Metroid is also celebrating its 30 year anniversary this year on August 31st, I have a feeling we will see the first footage of the game during E3. However, it won’t be released until late 2017.
6. Additional Star Fox amiibo
Star Fox Zero was originally scheduled for release on the Wii U in November 2015 but was eventually delayed to April 2016 to allow for more development time. I believe there are two reasons for the delay of the sixth installment in the Star Fox series. First, I’m pretty sure Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to do some additional work on the controls, which many people complained about when testing out the game at various conventions last year. But I also believe that the delay gives time for Nintendo to develop a new line of additional amiibo, designed specifically for the game in mind. Expect an amiibo for both Peppy and Slippy to launch alongside Star Fox Zero in April. That said, don’t expect much from these amiibo. Miyamoto has already gone on record to say that he is against blocking off content for gamers who may not own, nor want to buy any of the figures. “In terms of being able to unlock content,” Miyomoto said, “I don’t really want to go down that path. For this game, I think of it more as, for people who have the Amiibo, they’re going to get a little something extra and that’s how I’m planning on it with this game. So rather than actual abilities or things like that changing in the game, it would be like getting a different skin for the Arwing or something like that.”
7. Legend Of Zelda is the Wii U’s swan song but Nintendo won’t admit it.
Zelda U will finally be released in November for WiiU and for the NX later in 2017 but Nintendo won’t mention that they will release in on the NX anytime in 2016. Even though the NX is the future of the company, they don’t want owners of the Wii U to feel like they were robbed and bought a console that Nintendo basically gave up on. Nintendo is also proud of the Wii U, and they should be, and so I doubt they’ll want to turn their back on it so soon. I believe 2016 is all about the Wii U and Nintendo is going to end on a high note before rolling out a new system.
8. More and more Pokémon accessories and games on the way.
2016 will be the year of Pokémon, which makes sense since the billion dollar franchise is also celebrating a big anniversary this year. Not only is Nintendo releasing Pokkén Tournament, an arcade fighting game developed by Bandai Namco that combines gameplay elements from Bandai Namco’s Tekken series with characters from the Pokémon franchise, but they are also releasing Pokémon GO, a mobile game for iOS and Android that allows players to interact with virtual Pokémon in the physical world around them. The concept of the Pokémon GO is to play the game wherever and whenever the player wants. There will even be a supporting accessory that the player should have when playing the game called the Pokémon Go Plus that acts as a wristwatch-like device and runs via Bluetooth signal to detect Pokémon around. Even the original base set of Pokémon trading cards are supposedly getting re-released later in the year. I believe we will get even more Pokémon-related products before the year is over including amiibo, trading cards to be used with a new Pokémon game (perhaps Pokémon Z), and amiibo figures for Pokkén Tournament, much like those released for Super Smash Wii U.
9. We will see a glimpse of the NX but Nintendo won’t release too much info to the general public
The Wii U is selling much better now than its first couple years on the market, and while it isn’t reaching the heights of the Wii, Nintendo has at least made a profit from it. Still, Nintendo needs a change, and they need to make that change sooner than later. Despite what many people are saying, I believe Nintendo will give us a brief tease of what the NX is at E3, but I don’t think we will have detailed information until late 2016, after Zelda Wii U is released. As I mentioned above, 2016 is all about the Wii U, and while I would love to own the NX as soon as possible, that doesn’t seem likely. Nintendo will share whatever info it needs to share with third-party developers and investors, but they won’t let the fans in on too many secrets until they are sure it is ready to launch. I do, however, think they will officially announce the name of the next console, and the NX will be a thing of history. The decision to dub the Wii’s successor as the Wii U confused many customers who assumed Nintendo’s new hardware was the same machine, only with tablet added on. This time around, Nintendo will choose wisely and pick a name that most people will not only like, but recognize.
10. More Wii U games not yet confirmed for release will be released in 2016
I know many people believe that Nintendo will save all of their big future game releases for the NX, even if the games are finished and ready to be shipped out. I, however, am not in agreement with this. Nintendo is a company that takes pride in what they do, and they are proud of the Wii U, regardless of sales. Nintendo realizes that in terms of sales and marketing, the Wii U has pretty much been a disaster, but they worked hard on both the hardware and software for the system, so I don’t see them holding back or delaying any games that were meant for it. I also believe the that the NX will somehow be backwards compatible. In fact, I think the NX is going to somehow connect both the Wii U and the 3DS and have a virtual library that contains all of Nintendo’s hits from the past. All that to say that Project Guard and Pikmin 4 will be released before the year is over.
- Ricky D