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Mario Kart 8 dated, Nintendo Network platform, “quality of life” platform inbound – Nintendo briefing

Thursday, 30th January 2014 01:45 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Mario Kart’s release window was narrowed down during a Nintendo corporate strategy event today, during which CEO Satoru Iwata discussed the company’s plans for the future, including some startling digital service plans.

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In summary

Mario Kart hits Wii U in May 2014.

Nintendo plans to announce new Wii U games during 2014.

Wii U games showing off the Game Pad to be fast tracked.

DS Virtual Console library coming to Wii U.

Nintendo Network ID to become a platform.

A “quality of life” platform to launch in 2015.

Nintendo to push into emerging markets with lower pricing.

No smartphone ports, ever.

The most concrete news out of the event is that Mario Kart 8 is coming to Wii U in May, a more specific window than its previous “northern spring 2014″ launch.

In general, Iwata said Nintendo isn’t looking to do a Sega by changing its strategy of selling hardware and software – something many arm chair analysts have suggested – and reiterated that Nintendo won’t be bringing games to mobile devices. However, it has learned lessons from the past, and will continue research and development on hardware in the future. Nintendo needs to identify opportunities and create new markets, the executive added.

Saving the Wii U
As for the Wii U, its weakness is the Game Pad, he admitted; consumers believe it’s a Wii add-on, and Nintendo can’t afford to cut the price. Software to justify the hardware is thin on the ground. As an example, the Game Pad’s NFC reader functionality has been neglected, Iwata said, with just one game taking advantage of it.

Games that show off what the Game Pad can do are Nintendo’s highest priority, Iwata said, and confirmed that new titles in this vein will be announced this year via Nintendo Direct. The company hope to fast-track their release, too. Mario Kart 8 is one such title.

An upcoming firmware update will make the Wii U Game Pad fire up much faster, hopefully encouraging users to use it more frequently. In addition, the DS’s library of Virtual Console titles is coming to Wii U.

In a later Q&A, Iwata said that the Wii U is not expected to be a big financial driver in the coming financial year – the 3DS will do that – but that Wii U software will contribute to turning the console’s fortunes around longterm.

Regarding software, veteran designer Shigeru Miyamoto told questioners that the Wii U was impacted by a lack of key franchises, but that he believes the issue has been resolved. That’s not to say the Wii U it out of hot water in that regard, he added; although games like Super Mario 3D World earned strong reviews, single-player experiences are unsatisfying and users are not communicating about games they enjoy.

Interestingly, Miyamoto said that he believes Nintendo franchises can be evolved in a more “stable” manner by working with third-party developers; he may mean more frequent releases, as fans often decry the lack of a Zelda or Mario at key periods.

Miyamoto concluded that the Wii U had a release drought in 2013, and that NintendoLand, a title designed to showcase the console’s strengths, failed to do so. Iwata indicated his agreement regarding the lack of release in the console first full calendar year.

Nintendo Network as a platform
Iwata said Nintendo wants to change its understanding of platform, separating it from hardware like the 3DS and Wii U, Something like EA’s Origin ID or a PSN log-in, Nintendo wants its Nintendo Network ID to extend to other hardware like smartphones – although not, Iwata reiterated yet again, because Nintendo is bringing its games to mobile. Instead, Nintendo wants to establish relations with smartphone users on the devices they are already familiar with.

In a Q&A following the briefing, Iwata said Nintendo’s smartphone services aren’t about making money, but about communicating with them.

Nintendo hopes that what it provides through this service won’t just be advertising; it has to be fun and clever, so that people want to view it and engage with it.

In the Q&A following the presentation, Nintendo made some very interesting comments on this subject. Iwata said that Nintendo must emulate Android and Apple’s single architecture across various iDevices, so that handhelds and portables no longer exist in separate ecosystems, but are like brother and sister.

Nintendo on demand
According to tweets out of the event Iwata said that Nintendo is considering launching an on-demand service sometime this year. Such a service would be tied to Nintendo ID, not device. No mention of this services was found in the official English transcript, however, so it may have been a misinterpreaiton of Nintendo’s more vague discussion of the Nintendo Network ID platform.

Nevertheless, Iwat’s NNIS platform talk segqued suspiciously into talk of using smartphones to open games to a much wider audience This would allow Nintendo to make games in general cheaper; Iwata even suggested lowering the pice of a game for users who play it with friends.

It doesn’t sound like Nintendo’s plans are concrete, though; Iwata said the company will experiment on Wii U first. Nintendo also hopes to expand into emerging markets by 2015, Iwata said, although it understands its usual premium pricing won’t work in many territories.

Nintendo’s “quality of life” platform
The company also wants to move beyond just entertainment and into helping improve quality of life. Wearable devices are possible, Iwata said, but Nintendo wants to leapfrog that trend to have users structuring a healthy day-to-day life, as enabled by non-wearable Nintendo devices – presumably handhelds, consoles and the Nintendo Network platform, accessible via your smartphone.

There are synergies between a games platform and a quality of life platform, Iwata added. The quality of life platform will roll out in 2015, and will be integrated with games. Details of this business plan will be announced later in 2014, with profits expected in FY 2016.

Miyamoto plans to build a flagship title for this new kind of platform, he said during the Q&A.

Licensing Mario
During the core presentation, Iwata briefly mentioned that Nintendo is changing its attitude to licensing IP, and may seek a partner to help it expand its reach. In the US, merchandising is increasing aggressively, he added.

When queried on the subject, Iwata said the company will be more flexible about licensing character IP, but won’t license everything – it doesn’t want to undermine or introduce competition to its own products, of course.

Nintendo is already in licensing discussions, he added, and although it has not set a firm budget it expects to begin making a profit from this in the not so distant future.

Assuring investors Nintendo wouldn’t emulate Sanrio by spamming its characters on everything, Iwata said licensing may include things like official wallpapers for mobile devices.

A full English transcript of the event is available here.

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28 Comments

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  1. POOhead

    Nintendo need a new image, they have been having an image problem since the gamecube, the wii was just a fluke, they should just invest in a wii 2 with a controller thats on par or better then the move

    #1 5 months ago
  2. jakrabbit

    On the licensing out of Nintendo’s IP’s I’m expecting Nintendo characters to hit the big screen if that is the case then we’ll probably hear something about that within a year.

    #2 5 months ago
  3. The_Red

    Wait… “quality of life”?
    Is Nintendo’s next move really going to be Vitality Sensor 2?

    #3 5 months ago
  4. Brenna Hillier

    Article updated now that the official English transcript is out; Iwata’s comments about an on-demand service are significantly less substantial than second-hand reports indicated.

    #4 5 months ago
  5. Telepathic.Geometry

    Licensing their franchises out to other devs is a great idea, and one which could really help them solve the age old problem of how to get 3rd party devs on board and get more content on their system asap.

    Instead of being scared off by having to compete with Ninty franchises, devs would be pretty much given a license to print money. Like say, give the ‘Tales of’ devs the rights to Zelda, and see what they come up with…

    #5 5 months ago
  6. MrSec84

    Mario Kart 8 is really going to take until May to get released?
    Another 4+ months for a core franchise to get released.
    No doubt that will probably be late May or pushed back again, so the game’s not rushed. ;)
    This is Nintendo’s problem, they take way to long to get software out, if games were going to take this long to release then they should have started development sooner.

    I understand how platform creation works, but this just isn’t good enough.

    So right now all you have coming is what 2 exclusives coming before Mario Kart, it’s 2013 all over again.
    2014 should be the year that Wii U starts to shift numbers, but the reality is that probably won’t be happening until next year.

    God only knows when a decent Zelda, Starfox, X, Metroid or any of the real hard core games actually make it to the console.

    Hardcore is what Nintendo needs, they have so little to bring to an audience that’s crying out for those games.
    How can Nintendo not get it at this point.

    Light a fire at the backsides of your developers, kick them up the ass & tell them this isn’t good enough, Wii U needs games, it’s the only real reason why the platform’s not selling very well.

    #6 5 months ago
  7. gilberd

    I am sceptical about nintendo licensing out their series. I am a little afraid they will pull stuff like konami and capcom licensing out their series to no name companies that did pretty mediocre jobs with their games(silent hill, lost planet), but I don’t really think they would do something like that. If they do though, I hope they at least get companies that can capture the look and feel of their games.

    #7 5 months ago
  8. dizzygear

    Heres how you improve “quality of life” across all your platforms for free Iwata: remove the fucking region lock on the 3DS and Wii U with the next firmware update.

    #8 5 months ago
  9. Ireland Michael

    This all feels like baby steps.

    The average consumer doesn’t want to play Mario anymore. They moved on a decade ago.

    They don’t want advertising and toys.

    They don’t want an extended platform as long as you keep babysitting everyone on them.

    They don’t want any of the stuff mentione above.

    They still can’t seem to understand that the problem is with *them*.

    #9 5 months ago
  10. polygem

    @Ireland Michael
    please speak for yourself. i think it´s your view on nintendo that is pretty outdated, not nintendo.

    @topic: this sounds just right.

    nintendo is making so much more things just right atm than they are doing things wrong.

    it´s so weird that you folks fail to see all the good stuff that works.

    what i believe would definitely help in the near future: focus on one system, don´t spread nintendo onto a handheld AND a homeconsole. too much competition, too many platforms to play games on already. combine that to make sure that first party games can release more frequently . make THE ONE nintendo machine, don´t aim for the playstation, xbox, pc crowd. never. don´t listen to the naysayers. stay nintendo. stay cute, stay true to making games and toys, stay different, stay nintendo. that´s the most important thing. i´m glad that they seem to know that and don´t listen to short sighted analysts and spoiled so called hc gamers raging on the internet for the last 5 years or so.

    unified accounts make so much sense of course, being able to get your id and purchased games on any system you bought, improving VC as well – ds games on wiiu is fantastic, licensing ip´s to some great devs and indies could become awesome too if not rushed, avoiding mobile for anything but advertising is the most clever thing they can do.

    i don´t think nintendo has lost it – i think you guys still don´t get what they are about. it´s your loss. nintendo are the toyfactory of the videogame industry. love that or hate it but it´s not going to change. it´s what they are.

    noone is forcing you to buy a system from them. stop raging. let people enjoy them for what they are. go play your playstations if that´s where you´re getting your kicks from. where´s the problem?

    #10 5 months ago
  11. Ireland Michael

    @polygem I’m speaking for the average consumer, not myself.

    #11 5 months ago
  12. polygem

    @Ireland Michael : but why does mario work very well on the 3ds and not the wiiu. it has nothing to do with people being tired of mario. not at all.

    i agree that some games might feel a bit sameish these days, especially if you only look at it from a distance. a mario 3d world seems to be very similar to a mario 3d land and i indeed think that it´s just too much sometimes. people love mario, want to play mario but it´s not working on two platforms anymore. people can´t afford that anymore. there are so many systems to play games on these days. you can´t have them all. people want their nintendo fix but it seems like most of them are buying a 3ds for that and it makes sense. it doesn´t mean that nintendo is doing everything wrong or have to change how they interpretate the medium videogame. i believe that would be a mistake, it´s the wrong conclusion. this is their strength and not their weakness. too much change in that department would hurt more than it would help.

    they shouldn´t drop out of the hardware business (many are saying that) – it would be stupid to do that imo but they should focus on one machine to deliver nintendo games – that and a better id / online management and their “problem” will be solved. the rest is just pure online videogame forum hysteria.

    #12 5 months ago
  13. SplatteredHouse

    erm, Nintendo are just now addressing things which they failed to elevate/steer towards at the time of THE GAMECUBE. :x (Gamecube-GBA…Outside of, well Pokémon mainly, it was just another half-baked solution which they didn’t stick with long enough.)
    Nintendo ID ought to have been solidified/finalised in place years ago. Nintendo are just stalling.

    So,we get more of their water-treading. I guess things aren’t severe enough for them to make drastic changes.

    #13 5 months ago
  14. SplatteredHouse

    Nintendo be playing the press like they do their fans,

    #14 5 months ago
  15. polygem

    @SplatteredHouse : why “playing the fans”? i enjoy their games more than i have ever before. this part is what makes me scratch my head whenever i enter a nintendo internet debate. people complaining about nintendo being the best nintendo they have ever been. sure, the wiiu isn´t taking off as expected, sure the online features have been neglected in the past 10 years (but miiverse is a fantastic interpretation and it was well worth the wait. it will improve from there on now obviously). the software, the games, you know the part that matters the most, still, after all these years, feel fresh and unique and at the same time VERY nintendo. people seem to underestimate what a great achievement that really is.

    #15 5 months ago
  16. fihar

    @polygem
    How in the world is being the best at doing the same thing they’ve been doing for the past 25 years an achievement?
    You really need to move out of Pleasantville bro.

    #16 5 months ago
  17. Ireland Michael

    You’re missing the point polygem.

    This isn’t a criticism against you, but you aren’t the average gamer. Nintendo are providing you with what you want, and that’s great. But what you want isn’t what the larger market wants.

    None of these moves are going to convince people to care about the Wii U. Not even licenced game. The market has aged. They’ve moved on.

    People want games that just aren’t toys anymore. They want cool stories and developed characters and modern graphics. The only franchises in Nintendo’s stamble that even come close to providing something like that are Zelda and Metroid, and one of those isn’t even being used right now.

    It doesn’t matter even if they tried. Without third party support from the major players, nobody is going to care.

    The Wii U is dead. Long live the Wii U.

    The 3DS is doing fine, but the Wii U is a noose around their neck, and it’s start to get a little too tight for comfort.

    #17 5 months ago
  18. SplatteredHouse

    “people complaining about nintendo being the best nintendo they have ever been.”

    In what way? They’re only successful if enough people agree with their ideas and products. Please wait…Until May. and then?
    “NintendoLand, a title designed to showcase the console’s strengths, failed to do so. ” So, they sat on their hands and stared blankly, until the sales figures came back, whereas other companies might attempt to: Engage with users (rather than guess/hearsay what the concerns are!) Commission improvements deployed via patches (a convenient means to address shortfalls to expectation)

    I think Nintendo are beyond help. Iwata’s content to sit back and keep bouncing the companies’ train against the bridge in hopes it may eventually make a tunnel.
    Also – sod that tablet they’ve strapped onto their box, altogether – did anyone ask for that?
    It’s true that no-one asked for a Wiimote, but you know, it served a purpose. A very good one. It addressed a need. The buying players reacted and everything was fantastic for a bit.

    #18 5 months ago
  19. SplatteredHouse

    But now it’s just everyone wants a tablet, so we will have a tablet. and. um…You can use it to play on when the tv is in use (when the game’s specifically coded for it – but don’t tell them that bit, beforehand :/ ) and you haven’t a mobile to hand!

    #19 5 months ago
  20. SplatteredHouse

    “People want games that just aren’t toys anymore. They want cool stories and developed characters and modern graphics.”

    Meanwhile, the indie uprising is catering to that unserved audience VERY nicely, with the happy rub to boot that one is supporting and encouraging NEW future development and ideas (they’re doing that on the one hand, but at the other, they’re addressing the broadest possible audience. They’re not genre-constrained. Their characters are still a means to an end (rather than the end, itself) and all that, with selections at prices to suit every pocket.

    #20 5 months ago
  21. monkeygourmet

    And……. Yep, I think I’m done.

    This has to be one of the worst re-designs I’ve ever have ever seen.

    Catch you all on the flipside! :)

    #21 5 months ago
  22. Ireland Michael

    @SplatteredHouse Not really sure what that has to do with anything. The indie market is a different topic altogether. It’s a great ompanion to AAA gaming, but it isn’t going to keep a format alive.

    Indie games are great, but they aren’t going to turn Nintendo’s successes around.

    #22 5 months ago
  23. SplatteredHouse

    “Not really sure what that has to do with anything. The indie market is a different topic altogether. edit: Nintendo’s a great ompanion to AAA gaming, but it isn’t going to keep a format alive.”

    To answer your question though, Nintendo has allowed their audience to go elsewhere. The closest elsewhere to Nintendo’s niche is indie creations, and they are typically: priced competitively, and sustainably (i.e. the games are priced by their creators at figures which enable them to turn a profit)
    It reminds me a little of the difference between mobile and console business models. Nintendo, they profit ONLY when players BUY (and even Miyamoto admits that word of mouth from users is in short supply…Funny how pulling down official message boards might go towards that, really… But, a mobile dev, or indie – he can profit following ANY interaction with, or even just featuring, his game. It’s a much stronger situation.

    #23 5 months ago
  24. SplatteredHouse

    The other thing the indie situation has to do with anything is that they tend to hold a strong level of retention of their playerbase, accumulating support over titles.

    #24 5 months ago
  25. LB

    I was expecting a March release for Mario Kart 8 on Wii U but May will do. But there is a problem after the February release Donkey Kong Wii U, there is a two month drought between the two, nothing announced for March/April. Then theres the issue of no games releasing this month and one game being able to hold momentum until May.

    And LOL at the “quality of life” platform well i suppose Nintendo have to expand outside of games in case anything goes wrong and they have the QOL to fall on.

    As for mobile devices they need to embrace it as quickly as possible.

    #25 5 months ago
  26. antraxsuicide

    @Ireland Michael I completely agree. Mario just doesn’t bring in ANY excitement anymore. Nintendo has already released 2 Mario games for the Wii U (3 if you count Nintendoland minigames), and sales didn’t budge an inch. People just don’t care anymore.

    #26 5 months ago
  27. polygem

    nah, i think they absolutely deliver what the market wants…with the 3ds. the wiiu is a different story and that´s my whole point: the times have changed. too much, good, very good competition out there. you can´t have two devices that basically do the same thing (deliver games) – both going through the roof saleswise. it´s not working anymore. look at sony and the vita. the vita is a great machine but most people prefer to buy homeconsole playstations. it´s the same with wiiu and 3ds but vice versa. mainstream wont buy two devices from the same manufacturer. they buy one of them if interested. if they want to expand their gaming hardware they buy a machine from a different manufacturer and that makes a lot of sense. this doesn´t mean that people don´t enjoy mario anyomre, or nintendo lost it or anything like that. it just shows that nintendo (and sony) should focus on one device to let their brand to shine in full glory. too much competition out there to split your devs on two fronts.

    #27 5 months ago
  28. polygem

    @polygem: where´s the damn edit button ffs?

    :)

    #28 5 months ago