Is there any doubt that Nintendo put on an incredibly fan friendly digital event that got us excited about what’s in store? No. But I remain unconvinced they did enough to get the Wii U back on the radar. There’s a lot of talk about Amiibos, Nintendo’s answer to the NFC figure craze. Who is in charge of naming this stuff? I imagine them having meetings in which the marketing department suggests names and somebody screams “Get back there and don’t come out until you’ve thought of something really stupid!”
Amiibos are actually a prime example of what’s been happening at the Big N in recent years. Toys for Bob pitched the Skylanders concept to Nintendo first. For reasons only it knows, Nintendo declined. They could have and should have been first to market with this, now they’re third. Nobody ever said “the third bird gets the worm.” Sure, there’s “third time’s the charm,” but that’s really only something we say to console the people that finish third. The real hope for Amiibos is likely connected to Pokemon, and how many people would feel compelled to catch them all in NFC figure form. That would have been brilliant had Nintendo gotten there first. Between Skylanders and Disney Infinity, this market is dangerously saturated.
Nintendo’s first-party games, including Zelda and the new Super Smash Brothers look incredible. No one’s ever questioned its ability to make wonderful games with its iconic characters. Pound for pound, their games were more impressive than what Microsoft and Sony had to show from their own studios. But third-party support matters more than ever, and Nintendo had precious little to offer there. Another Bayonetta and Xenoblade Chronicles will probably be good games, but they’re titles with niche appeal. It’s all but impossible to survive now without the NBA 2Ks and Call of Dutys of the world. Those publishers won’t get aboard Nintendo’s train without a higher install base for the Wii U. Even if they wanted to reverse course and start supporting the console now, they’ve missed any opportunity to do so in 2014. That gives Sony and Microsoft more time to widen the rapidly increasing gap.
Nintendo had the best games to show, but without support from other publishers that’s no longer enough.