When we saw Nintendo in 2014, we saw a company better than it had been in years. After almost three years of the Nintendo Wii U being a flop sales-wise, we saw Nintendo finally get their game face together. Their release of Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U was a critical success and a sales powerhouse. With new characters being added in for future updates, the game was looking to be stellar. Earlier that year, fans saw the release of Mario Kart 8, the next iteration of the series that turned into one of the best party games for the Wii U to date with stellar content and additions from franchises such as The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing. Nintendo started out strong, and ended even stronger. A powerful E3 presentation saw Nintendo mark another victory in the books for best conference that year. It looked like they had 2015 in the bag.
2015, though, became the year that everybody forgot about, or looked upon with scorn. It was also a sorrowful one. This year, Nintendo dropped the ball on a number of occasions, resulting in some serious screw ups. This year, we saw the rise of the gimmicky amiibo figurines, which went from collectibles to necessities for titles. Games like the Animal Crossing amiibo Festival or Mario Party 10 put a sour taste in fans’ mouths as they realized that their game price would increase with the requirement of these figures or cards. The content roster for first-party titles was extremely grim. Nintendo had nothing major for 2015. We did end up with Super Mario Maker, the well-received world building title that brought creation to the hands of its players, Splatoon, which completely dominated Wii U sales and became a first-rate shooter, and Xenoblade Chronicles X, which received stellar reviews this holiday season and was a massive open-world RPG. Outside of that though, Nintendo did not have much else to offer. On its 3DS line, the release of the slightly above-average niche title Tri Force Heroes left much to be desired. There were no releases for the main Pokemon titles, nothing spectacular from Mario on the handheld front, and who could forget the vitriol of the potential release of Metroid Prime: Federation Forces? The year was looking awful by any means, and it was only going to get worse.
This July, Nintendo suffered a tragic loss. An event that spread like wildfire internationally, we at Gamer Professionals would like to take a moment of silence to honor the memory of former President Satoru Iwata, who passed away suddenly in July from cancer. A president who changed the face of the video game industry, a man who understood his fans and wanted to make gaming fun for everyone. The man who spearheaded the monster generation of the Nintendo DS and the Wii, and won gamers over at the Game Developer’s Conference in 2005, with the following:
“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.”
Not only did the industry have to mourn such a sudden and tragic loss, but his death impacted popular culture as well. Fans, developers, and celebrities were paying respects to him. A tragic moment, considering that his final days may as well have been spent on the lingering and bitter aftertaste of a tepid E3 conference. For the first time, Nintendo may have finally thought, “have we done the wrong thing?” The 2015 Nintendo E3 Digital Event was almost universally panned, featuring a lackluster launch lineup and weak holiday material to present to its eager players. Nintendo had its hopes riding on Star Fox Zero, which was supposed to release this holiday season, but ended up seeing delays and pushed back to 2016. The Legend of Zelda for Wii U, a game that has been desperately needed on the home console front, was pushed back to 2016 by Eiji Aonuma because he didn’t think it was ready. While Shigeru Miyamoto may have claimed that a delayed game will eventually be good and that bad games are bad forever, this was inexcusable to many. Nintendo could have had a critically successful year in its books, but due to numerous events and poor decisions, floundered.
That isn’t to say though that Nintendo can’t rebound. If anything, 2016 looks to be an even bigger year than 2014 was. With the new President Tatsumi Kimishima as the face of Nintendo, a President who truly does understand the needs of his fans, this is going to be a huge year for the Japanese company. Not to dig on the accomplishments of Satoru Iwata as a person or as a business executive at all, but Kimishima actually seems quite informed about the affairs going on at Nintendo that need to be fixed. An interview with TIME Magazine gave a great insight into his character and his ideals as a President of one of the largest gaming companies on the planet.
“I know that everyone is interested in how long I will be around,” he says, laughing. “I really want to say that all the initiatives I’ve discussed with you, these are on me, these are my responsibility and I have every intention of seeing these to fruition.”
That, and the fact that he is well aware that in order to be successful, it is important to stay within his own means. With only a few months of the position under his belt, he has already made some ground-breaking moves and is determined to become a financial and public face of the company in light of Nintendo’s recent struggles.
Looking at 2016’s bright future, the mysterious Nintendo NX console is purportedly scheduled for an unveiling sometime in 2016. Previously delayed titles such as Star Fox Zero and The Legend of Zelda for Wii U are going to land, and if Nintendo were to attach Zelda to the NX as a launch title, the console is going to become a hit out the gate — one of the main reasons why the Wii U struggled so badly, with a major lack of good first-party titles at launch. The Nintendo front could also see the release of a new mainstream Pokemon title, the new Pokken Fighters for Wii U, and more.
2015 may not have been the brightest year in the eyes of fans, but with 2016 approaching rapidly, it’s time for us to look up with hope again. While we lost Satoru Iwata, we gained a capable leader in the form of Tatsumi Kimishima. With the floundering Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS, it’s time to look at the Nintendo NX and what it could bring to the gaming world. Nintendo has quite the year ahead of it, and we’re ready to face it. Are you?