Nintendo certainly seems to have an interesting strategy for this generation. While their competitors are focused on gaining an exclusive edge with multiplatform titles from huge developers, such as Sony’s deal with Destiny or Microsoft’s early DLC for Call of Duty, Nintendo is reaching out to small and medium sized developers to gain exclusives. Nintendo is working with Platinum Games on the Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2, with Atlus for Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem, with TT Fusion on Lego City Undercover, and with Sega for Sonic Lost World. Nintendo may wind up losing out on larger franchises like Madden and Battlefield, but can a slew of smaller exclusives help the Wii U overcome its rivals?
I’m not sure how this strategy will work from a business perspective, but as a gamer, I love it. While many fans are upset about Bayonetta 2’s exclusivity, I’m just happy that the game is coming thanks to Nintendo’s intervention. Lego City Undercover provided an opportunity for TT Games to work outside the boundaries of an established license. Wonderful 101 seems like it may have had trouble getting off the ground without Nintendo as a developer. I think we’re going to see a whole lot more of these kinds of deals from Nintendo. Which franchises should Nintendo invest in? Here are my thoughts on the matter.
Skies Of Arcadia
Poor poor Skies of Arcadia. Skies was an absolutely phenomenal RPG that had the misfortune of being released on the poorly supported Dreamcast. Eventually, the game saw a remake on the Gamecube. While the remake sold marginally better than the original, it was, at best, a niche title. By the time 2012 rolled around, the game’s visuals were a bit dated, and the marketing effort wasn’t particularly strong. Unless you happened to be a big RPG fan, you probably never noticed Skies of Arcadia.
Skies was and is a pleasant alternative to the angst that has become prominent in the JRPG genre. Vyse and his pals are always upbeat and optimistic, and the game is bright and colorful in terms of visuals and tone. Skies is a loveable RPG with plenty of warmth, a memorable cast, a unique world, an interesting story, and some innovative game ideas. Sadly, the franchise never really got the chance to take off.
The chances of Sega, a company that has been struggling, scraping together the funds to develop a sequel for Skies of Arcadia are slim. Sega has been focusing less on AAA titles recently, and it’s hard to imagine them investing in a niche franchise like Skies. However, the lighthearted RPG would make a good addition to the Wii U’s lineup, and can draw fans of the genre to the console. Nintendo has invested in securing a pretty wide variety of exclusives so far from strategy RPG to beat em ups, and a good ol’ Japanese RPG would help the Wii U’s growing library. If Nintendo were willing to publish Skies of Arcadia as they’re doing with Bayonetta 2, this dream could become a reality.
No game really embodies what Sega was better than Shenmue. Shenmue was a hugely ambitious title that was ahead of its time. It is arguable that even to this day, no game has managed to create an authentic and living environment the way Shenmue has. Shenmue was beautiful, engrossing, original, creative, and marketed horribly. That’s Sega in a nutshell.
Shenmue was about as successful as the Dreamcast’s small install base and short life would allow. Even if it wasn’t a major success, the game generated enough buzz that Ryo Hazuki could have survived the death of the Dreamcast. However, Sega made an awful decision when they decided to make the game an X-Box exclusive. The X-Box’s fanbase was small in the West, and non-existent in Japan. The fanbase that the X-Box did have showed little interest in Japanese style adventures. Shenmue could have been successful on the PS2, but its fate was sealed when the game came to the X-Box.
Sega doesn’t seem to have the money or the desire to invest in a huge project that Shenmue 3 would be. If Shenmue 3 is ever going to happen, some other company would have to step in. To be honest, I think the PS4 might be a better fit for the franchise, but Nintendo has shown more of an interest in this sort of partnership. Nintendo owners would likely be more receptive to a Japanese style game than X-Box owners were back in the day. Shenmue 3 would also help Nintendo grow its library of hardcore non-shooter titles. The odds of this happening are slim considering the investment that would be required, but a man can dream.
Banjo-Kazooie is another franchise that wound up on the wrong console. I don’t mean to bash Microsoft, but the X-Box 360 simply wasn’t a good destination for the cartoony bird and bear. Microsoft hoped that getting Rare on board would allow them to tap into Nintendo’s family friendly audience. Things didn’t work out that way. Rare produced several interesting and quirky, but not very commercially successful titles such as Viva Pinata and Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts.
Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts was an underrated title, that was very innovative and deserved to sell much better than it did. I believe that the game could have been more successful that it was had it been released on the Wii. After Nuts and Bolts’ underwhelming performance, Microsoft does not seem to have any interest in the franchise. The IP is worthless to Microsoft, and hopefully, they would be willing to trade the franchise for a few bucks.
Many of Rare’s developers have left the company, and at least one of them would like to work on a new Banjo game. To quote Grant Kirhope,
“I keep wishing that all the ex-Rare staffers would just get together and form a company, and go to Nintendo and say ‘give us the money. We’ll make you Banjo 3 for the Wii U’ or whatever. Just make Banjo 3 like it should have been made back then and it would be great, and it would be great on Wii U, and all the ex-Rare guys would be together again all happy and kissing each other. I just keep thinking we should just give it a try.”
Hopefully, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Rare’s ex-staffers could work together to make this happen.
Kingdom Hearts has always been about a bizarre mash-up between Square characters and Disney characters, but does it have to be? Sora and his pals have already explored nearly every Disney World worth exploring. Given the structure and story of the franchise, there is no real reason that Kingdom Hearts has to revolve around Disney. Every world we’ve seen so far has been a Disney or Squeenix world, but there is no story reason that Disney characters have to lurk in every keyhole. The heartless could easily invade Dreamland, Hyrule, or the Mushroom Kingdom.
I readily admit that this is not a realistic possibility, but then again, a Disney/Final Fantasy crossover would have seemed incredibly bizarre 15 years ago. As much as I love the Kingdom Hearts series, sitting out a whole console generation makes me question how relevant the still is. Nintendo’s fanbase would be perfect for the franchise, and getting Nintendo’s IPs involved could be a huge boost to the franchise. If we could get Cloud, Mario, Link, Sora, and Mickey in the same game, the gaming world may implode.
At one point, Mega Man starred in several games a year. The little blue guy couldn’t adjust to the HD era, and has long ago been exiled to digital shops and handheld consoles. In recent years, Mega Man has seen more cancelled games than actual retail releases. Mega Man is a franchise in dire need of help, and Nintendo can save the franchise.
Mega Man is a franchise that has been able to appeal to two groups. Firstly, Mega Man has a strong appeal among retro gamers who remembered the original games or the X series, and younger gamers who simply like awesome little blue robots. Nintendo performs very well in these two markets, so the Wii U would be a better choice for a full fledged Mega Man game than the PS4 or X-Box 720. Despite awful mismanagement of the franchise by Capcom, Mega Man has maintained a loyal fanbase that has stuck with the Blue Bomber over the years. Mega Man isn’t exactly Call of Duty, but Mega Man would seem to be perfect for a partnership with Nintendo. The Mega Man series is small enough that Nintendo could secure exclusivity without breaking the bank, but large enough that it could make a splash in the gaming world.
Ideally, a new Mega Man title would take one of two forms. Firstly, I would absolutely love it if Mega Man Legends 3 eventually became a reality. Putting my personal love for Data the Monkey aside, Mega Man is a franchise that is in need of, yet another, reboot. The Mega Man series has become a bit too fragmented. Series like Mega Man X and Mega Man classic have become niche titles for older gamers who cut their teeth on NES and SNES controllers. Games like Battle Network and Starforce appealed to gamers who grew up during the gotta catch em all craze that Pokemon generated. Legends has sadly been out of the spotlight for so long that it would require a large marketing effort to succeed as more than a niche title.
While Capcom has arguable transitioned into the HD era more successfully than any other Japanese developers, they are still a fairly small developer compared to Western giants like Activision and EA. The company could definitely use some help in reviving what was one of their largest IPs, and Nintendo could use a strong exclusive title. Make it happen guys.