Why first-party titles will establish Nintendo’s consoles as a force to be reckoned with.

Gaming consoles live and die by their first-party titles – exclusive games tied to the publishers’ platform developed with pushing hardware sales in mind. 2013 was considered a monumental moment in gaming history as two of the sectors biggest players released their next-generation offerings to feverish public reception. Whilst early conversations centred on the hardware’s technical specifications, consumers began to make executive decisions based on each platforms respective first-party exclusives.

On one hand we had Microsoft’s Xbox One with a launch calendar packed with tried and tested favourites – with the odd exception – such as the fifth entry in the Forza Motorsport series, a revamped classic in Killer Instinct, hacker/slashers Ryse & Dead Rising 3 and hit-and-miss arcade titles LocoCycle & Powerstar Golf. On the other hand we had Sony’s powerhouse PlayStation 4 launching with the blockbuster FPS Killzone: Shadow Fall, family orientated Knack and indie titles (with differing success) Contrast, Flower and Resogun.

Both consoles also shared a number of cross-platform titles but none of these will seal victory for either manufacturer. Instead, both sides of the fence and their fans are banking on announced, but not-yet released, exclusives to tempt users to their cause. Microsoft achieved a bit of a coup in grabbing one of 2014’s most anticipated titles – Titanfall – as well as promising a next-generation entry in their flagship Halo series and Remedy’s next sure-fire hit, Quantum Break. Sony’s 2014 offering is no less impressive, with Gran Turismo 7 & Drive Club looking set to mix up the racing genre, stunning third-person action/adventure Infamous: Second Son, contemporary shooter The Order: 1886 and the next instalment of the hugely successful Uncharted series.

One company who can testify to the harsh realities of failing to provide a solid launch line up is Nintendo. Their Wii U console launched with a whimper in November 2012, offering little reason for consumers to invest in the console. With technical specs. that lingered somewhere between current & next generation consoles and a lack of public backing from major third-party developers, innovative first party titles were the only way Nintendo were going to make inroads in a hugely competitive market.

With a high-definition remake of a Nintendo 3DS title in New Super Mario Bros U, a child orientated Lego exclusive and a bundled family based mini-game offering in Nintendo Land, there was little to entice core gamers to stump up the cash and invest in the Wii U.

Of course this isn’t the first time a Nintendo console has suffered a stuttering start. The 3DS launched with a handful of yesteryears games re-imagined for the 3D universe such as Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs + Cats and Lego Star Wars. You could argue that it wasn’t until 2012/2013 that the 3DS gained true traction and in turn helped it become a popular and well-supported platform. In the last 2 years the 3DS has seen massive success in the form of Paper Mario Sticker Star, Star Fox 3D, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Mario Kart 7, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and more recently Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Super Mario 3D Land and Pokemon X/Y making it one of the world’s most must-have consoles.

It seems this slow burn is also impacting the Wii U, but 2013 offered a few glimpses that the console might be ready to explode in to the limelight. Mid to late 2013 saw the launch of Nintendo’s first wave of exclusives designed to offer gamers a reason to purchase the Wii U, and included titles such as the zany (and incredibly short) The Wonderful 101, Pikmin 3, a HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and their behemoth isometric platformer Super Mario 3D World (easily one of the best games of the year).

And Nintendo is showing no signs of stopping there. December offers our first look at a HD Wii Fit, which was massively popular last-generation. It’s 2014 however that Nintendo has pegged as its comeback year. We’ll get our mitts on high definition monkey action in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (February), a gravity-flirting reincarnation of the popular racing series, Mario Kart 8, highly anticipated cuddle-em-up/brawler Super Smash Bros. U, cult-classic third-person slasher Bayonetta 2, and maybe… just maybe… Zelda.

Nintendo aren’t just focusing on their living room releases either, with the 3DS (and newly released 2DS) set to have another exceptional year. Handheld titles Super Mario Bros.3, Mario Golf World Tour, Super Smash Bros. 3D, a slew of games from the newly formed exclusive partnership with Sega, bolstered by the fact that renowned third-party developers are much more keen to support the 3DS than the Wii U, stand Nintendo’s portable device in good stead.

It’s clear the public perception of the Wii U is shifting thanks to some top-quality titles and the rejuvenated focus on casual, fun gaming. Whilst the hardware itself might not reach the summit of the best-sellers list (the 3DS being an exception), we imagine Nintendo will be in-line for a few game of the year contenders come December 2014.

Nick is a writer for http://www.consoledeals.co.uk/ and has been playing video games since he was a lad. His current favourites are Assassins Creed: Black Flag and GTA 5. When he’s not playing video games, he’s reading or writing about video games!

Image Source: [Wikipedia.org]