Nintendo plans new devices, apps, and Skylander-style NFC figurines to shake its Wii U funk
It's not game over yet. Nintendo has teased a trio of new products designed to pull the company out of its Wii U-caused quagmire, highlighted by a plan to release new gaming devices next year—but only for emerging markets.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata revealed the emerging market plans in an interview with Bloomberg, though he didn't offer any specifics. It's not even clear whether these devices will be full-blown game consoles or something else entirely.
“We want to make new things, with new thinking rather than a cheaper version of what we currently have,” Iwata said. “The product and price balance must be made from scratch.”
Typically, Nintendo designs a single gaming system and releases it globally. This appears to be the first time that Nintendo will create a gaming machine specifically for emerging markets. It's possible that the end of China's ban on video game consoles was a factor in Nintendo's decision.
Super Mario meets Skylanders
For mature markets, Nintendo is doubling down on the Wii U. At an investor briefing this week, Iwata said the company would “prioritize making and proposing Wii U software titles that can only be made possible with the Wii U GamePad.” The lack of innovative uses for Nintendo's touch screen controller has been a sticking point for the Wii U, as it's not mandatory for recent titles such as Mario Kart 8 and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Players are free to use a traditional game controller or Wii remote instead.
But Nintendo has other plans as well. At the same investor meeting, Nintendo said it's working on a set of figurines that could talk to the Wii U through near-field communications. These figurines will work across multiple games, allowing players to “raise or train your own Nintendo characters” over time.
The idea sounds similar to Activision's Skylanders series, and to Disney Infinity, both of which use figurines to store game information. But Nintendo seems to have broader plans, referring to the figurines as a “platform” that will span multiple games, and will eventually work with an NFC reader/writer for the Nintendo 3DS. These figurines will debut for the Wii U by the end of this year, and for the Nintendo 3DS next year.
Mario Kart goes mobile
Nintendo also gave some more details on its smartphone plans, which, as the company has repeatedly insisted, do not entail porting old Nintendo games to mobile devices. Instead, Nintendo showed off a website that will let players watch game videos, view their rankings and see what their friends are doing. In this regard, Nintendo is just playing catch-up with Microsoft and Sony, both of whom offer mobile apps for their respective consoles.
Nintendo says it will have more details on all these plans at the E3 trade show in June.