At the latest Nintendo Direct Iwata demonstrated some of the latest footage from the mysterious X from Monolith Soft. It looks fantastic, and the game looks like a proper successor to Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii. What’s not to love? You’ll be able to punch dinosaurs in the face with giant robots in a real time open world! With a codename like X and all of the similarities between it and previous Xeno games there’s almost no question that it will be a part of the series in some capacity. The real question is if it’s enough to turn Nintendo’s fortunes around.
What Nintendo needs is third party support, and they’ve had very little of that for the Wii U so far. Watch Dogs has been delayed, but it and Xenoblade Chronicles represents Nintendo’s third party support. Ubisoft has been a champ, porting nearly all of its major offerings for the system with a slew of unique features, and for the most part they are high optimized. I’d go so far to consider the Wii U version of Assassin’s Creed III is the definitive port of the game. Activision hasn’t slumped ether, putting the last few Call of Duty options on the console with full online multiplayer support, creating one of the few bastions of modern online gaming the platform has to offer.
Yet in the grand scheme of things this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the support the other platforms are getting. Nintendo’s oddball processor choice bears some of the blame, but side by side it’s difficult to really tell between current PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U offerings that make good use of the hardware, at least at this juncture. Despite the staggering difference in raw numbers if you compare hardware stats side by side, both the PS4 and Xbox One use a good amount of their RAM and processor cycles to maintain the OS environment in the background when gaming. Still, several developers have come out and said that using the Wii U dev kit to convert multiplatform games are far from copy and paste jobs, and that it’s way more difficult than it needs to be to port games made for other platforms. This puts Nintendo at a real disadvantage because the competition is all using similar hardware to modern gaming PCs and their development environments reflect this making it super easy for developers to make games across platforms.
Nintendo has at least addressed the problem, promising to make more of their own intellectual properties open for second and third parties to take in brand new directions. What Nintendo really needs is more games like X on the horizon. This might be the first in a wave of games targeted to the hardcore market they’ve long ignored since the runaway success of the Wii along with Bayonetta 2. The Wii U has a lot of potential for hardcore gamers, and if they could bridge the gap with a solid RTS that made use of the touch interface or perhaps take Penny Arcade up on their virtual D&D platform they could very well come from behind and win over the old guard.
Nintendo could still make the Wii U a success if they push their lower price point and get some solid games under its belt. Can they woo third parties back to the temple of the big N in time to make the difference? They need to move on this soon as Valve’s Steam Machines are on the horizon and consoling the gaming PC might shift the paradigm forever.