Despite a strong string of releases in 2013, Wii U is still struggling. The last major release on the console was Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in February, and nothing but NES Remix 2 has a solid release date before or after Mario Kart 8 on May 31. The recent Nintendo Direct dedicated to Super Smash Bros. didn’t do much to reassure anyone about the console’s future either; Super Smash Bros Wii U was given a winter 2014 launch window, and with only the aforementioned releases confirmed until then, it appears Wii U owners could be in for some barren months.
But Nintendo is a prideful company, and it won’t let its console fade away without a fight. It’s only April, after all; E3 is on the horizon, which hopefully means big reveals, and Nintendo are notorious for playing things close to the chest. Let’s not forget titles like Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors, and Watch Dogs are all expected before 2015, and don’t be surprised to see a few new titles throughout the summer, digital or otherwise, while Nintendo continues to work on producing the best multiplayer brawler its ever made. Of course, it’s hard to imagine the Japanese company releasing anything bigger than Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. in that time, but a few well-made games between those two blockbusters could be a wonderful solution to the Wii U’s present game drought . The hype created by Mario Kart 8 will inevitably increase console sales, especially if Nintendo bundle it with the system, and riding that wave of Wii U interest while dropping a few appealing titles and welcoming indie developers may be the perfect combination to keep the Wii U relevant in the console conversation until Super Smash Bros. arrives.
Exclusives are the lifeblood of Nintendo in the current market. Beloved franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, and Pikmin are only available on Nintendo consoles, and that won’t be changing anytime soon. Wii U offers something different than its competitors. It’s a position Nintendo has been proud to hold and brave to believe in, evidenced in its trailblazing systems built around motion control and dual-screened handhelds. As in every form of experimentation, sometimes the results aren’t as favorable as one might hope. The Wii U gamepad has yet to be utilized in a truly innovative way, and many curious consumers are still confused about how the Wii U differs from the Wii. These are issues Nintendo is dealing with, and despite a lack of third party support the company has diligently produced some absolutely glorious games through its own studios. Super Smash Bros., is the kind of exclusive that could change the fate of the struggling console. Except it isn’t an exclusive; it’s coming to 3DS this summer, months before it finds its way to Wii U.
Nintendo’s handheld has a massive install base, much larger than the Wii U’s, and it will only grow larger with the release of a gigantic title like Super Smash Bros. Nintendo is constantly making the 3DS more attractive to consumers, with a price point $100 lower than Wii U and an ever growing library of top class titles. The 3DS has become a resounding success for Nintendo, despite stumbling out of the gate, and is an invaluable source or revenue while Wii U sales remain sluggish. It will be great to finally have a handheld Super Smash Bros., but offering the 3DS version so much earlier than its Wii U companion will inevitably steal the thunder of a title Nintendo is counting on to drive console sales through the holidays. That is, unless the developers can create a truly compelling reason to own the Super Smash Bros. Wii U.
It was hinted at in the Super Smash Bros. Nintendo Direct that some sort of communication between the handheld and console versions of the game will be present, with specifics coming at a later date. This is a promising proposition, as it could provide a great incentive to buy both versions. There’s also the extended development time being afforded to the Wii U version, which will hopefully make it the definitive iteration and a must-have during the holiday season. It’s also important to note that Super Smash Bros. 3DS is receiving an exclusive game mode called Smash Run, and you can be sure the Wii U version of the game will feature its own exclusive content as well. Even if consumers purchase the 3DS version this summer, there is enough time between releases for players to hunger for what will undoubtedly be a gorgeous, polished, and seductive package on Wii U. With some calculated marketing and perhaps a playable demo at both E3 and PAX Prime, the disappointingly long wait for the games’ release might not be the death sentence it first appeared to be.
The Wii U isn’t out of the woods yet. Sony and Microsoft’s consoles are outselling and outperforming Nintendo’s in a depressingly decisive manner. But the sun might be about to shine on Wii U with the approaching release of Mario Kart 8 and eventual release of Super Smash Bros bookending a year of huge potential. What happens in between will set the tone for the future of Nintendo’s console, but there is hope for good things to come. Admittedly, much of this hope is built upon unfounded optimism, but it’s also a product of the trust Nintendo has forged with its consumers for decades. The Japanese company is taking its time to create a truly amazing product, and with any luck Super Smash Bros. might just be the holiday hit to make the Wii U finally take off.