A multiplayer Mario couldn’t do it, but maybe a new Zelda game could pick up where Nintendo’s mushroom-addled plumber has so far failed. The struggling gaming giant showed off what it’s got on deck at this year’s E3, and early buzz has observers wondering whether Zelda and a few lucky breaks couldn’t turn things around for Nintendo’s disappointing Wii U console.
The biggest news out of E3 for Nintendo was the announcement of an open-world Legend of Zelda title. The game is as yet unnamed, but a brief look at the title, courtesy of Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma, made fanboys’ tongues wag and likely made those who’d written off Nintendo sit up and take notice.
By open-world, we mean a game that apparently less structured than previous entries in Nintendo’s Zelda series. Think less like Twilight Princess and more like Skyrim. Now, wipe away that drool.
To top it off, Nintendo – which didn’t have an E3 keynote this year, sticking instead to pre-recorded videos released on the net – gave us a look at the title. It’s apparently got a massive world with a cel-shaded style reminiscent of Wind Waker, but far more detailed.
The new Zelda is made possible by the beefed up internals of the Wii U. While still underpowered compared to the PS4 and Xbox One, the Wii U is leagues ahead of the original Wii, allowing for bigger worlds and high-definition graphics. Those improved specs, though, haven’t translated into solid sales for the console.
While the Wii U was released a year and a half ago, it is already lagging behind both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in terms of sales and consumer excitement. Many observers have pronounced the console “dead,” and some have been speculating that Nintendo could follow up the Wii U very quickly with a different console.
Instead, Nintendo appears to have doubled down on its troubled home console, and the new Zelda title is just part of that plan. The Japanese game maker also announced a Wii U sequel to fan-favorite title Star Fox, one that takes advantage of the Wii U’s unique, iPad-like controller. There was also an adorable new Yoshi’s Island game announced, as well as another installment in the Xenoblade series for all of the JRPG fans. There’s even another entry in the Mario universe, with gravely-voiced series bystander Toad getting his own… umm… platforming, puzzle-solving… adventure? We don’t know, exactly, but it looks cool.
Add to that the breakout success of Mario Kart 8, the viral sensation that is the Luigi Death Stare, and some solid buzz for a forthcoming Super Smash Bros. game, and it’s starting to look like Nintendo might be able to turn things around. Nintendo consoles have always relied on the strength of the company’s first-party titles in order to drive sales, and the Wii U has been sorely lacking in that department since its launch.
Now, though, with a solid lineup generating actual buzz for the Wii U for the first time since it hit store shelves, Nintendo might be ready for a big push to try to right the ship. Kotaku pointed out yesterday that game publishing giant Ubisoft has already said that it has completed titles that it’s keeping locked away until the Wii U has a bigger install base, so a few months of solid sales based on first-party titles could actually directly result in more quality third-party titles, maybe even sparking a virtuous cycle of sorts where the Wii U gets more titles because it’s got more units sold because it’s getting more titles, und so weiter…
That’s really getting a bit ahead of the game, though, as Nintendo has yet to announce solid release dates for the next Zelda, Star Fox, or many of its other titles. Still, that open world in the trailer does look gorgeous, doesn’t it? Kind of makes you want a Wii U, even if just for a little bit?