If it wasn’t obvious at this point, Nintendo is very quickly running down production for the Wii U and 3DS this year. Both find themselves bare of most games this year, and the ones that are showing up are being shunned from the limelight in place of the one game for Wii U, the subtitle-less The Legend of Zelda, which has already been confirmed to be coming to Nintendo’s NX console.
Zelda on NX all but confirms that the new system will at least be a home console, but recent patents and most rumors point to the NX as having more mobile capabilities, likely being the hybrid console that many have speculated Nintendo would make eventually.
Now there’s a couple of reasons to be concerned about a Hybrid console– how much power goes where, how large will games’ file sizes be if they need code for two versions of the game (handheld and console) and will hybridity make the cost of the system unreasonable in a business being dominated by consoles that most consumers are generally happy with.
But on the other hand, the ability to play at home or on the go, among other things, makes for an interesting concept that might make it easier to sell the system. More importantly, though, is how different it will make the NX’s game lineup when development efforts aren’t being split for 2 different systems.
And that got me thinking. And then Emily Rogers posted a great article pointing out how Nintendo’s game output could increase immensely for NX.
And that got me started very quickly on a project to gather all the games Nintendo has made since 2011 and figure out what it would look like if they had released such a hybrid console in that year instead of 3DS.
An Ominously Familiar Launch Year
The basic idea for this little project was to look at what the game lineup would be each year for a Nintendo Hybrid system if it had launched in 2011 instead of the Nintendo 3DS. And my first executive decision was essentially made for me when I took one look at the game lineup for 3DS and Wii in 2011: The release lineup was insufficient for such a system to launch in March of that year.
If anyone has been paying attention to the recent news of the NX’s launch date of March 2017, they might realize that I’m likely making a similar decision to what Nintendo is doing now: delaying the release of a system so that games are ready at launch. And just as the NX releasing next year leaves a void of games for Wii U and 3DS this year, moving the Hybrid’s launch from March 2011 to November 2011 has meant that Wii and DS games from Nintendo are few and far between.
Of course, that’s no problem for Wii. Nintendo had barely published any games for the system that year already, but without the 3DS releasing in the spring, that left several months between March and November without much if any handheld titles from Nintendo– three to be exact: Pokémon Black and White Version, Kirby Mass Attack, and Fossil Fighters: Champions. Seem familiar? In the 9 months preceding the NX’s release, we’re getting a Pokémon game and a Kirby game for 3DS.
The good news is that while this might be kind of depressing to see, the fact of the matter is that the situation in 2011 would have been much easier to handle than the current situation with Wii U and 3DS. The Wii and DS had already experienced monumental achievements in sales by the time 2011 rolled around, and as such, both were receiving a healthy amount of 3rd party support to lighten the burden Nintendo has had to carry with their current systems. Plus it’s hard to make folks angry about the state of DS when they’re getting a Pokémon game to keep them busy early in the year and a brand new system to look forward to later.
Wii might have had a harder time with that. Its 4 Nintendo titles throughout the year included Mario Sports Mix, Wii Play Motion, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, and, of course, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Additionally, I considered the possibility that Nintendo might want to pad out that space, even if in reality they didn’t. The real reason I wanted to do this was the result of Operation Rainfall: if a replacement for Wii were launching in November, would Nintendo of America really localize Xenoblade Chronicles come April 2012, when it actually launched in the US? Not likely. So I decided that that game, at least (sorry Last Story and Pandora’s Tower), should release in 2011– closer to its release in Europe.
And in a final twist of fate, I very quickly decided that there would have been no way that Nintendo would have released a Zelda game in late 2011 on Wii in the same month that it released a new home console. So with that in mind, I made the third and most executive of decisions in deciding that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword would be developed like Twilight Princess and now Zelda for Wii U and release for both Wii and the Hybrid console.
So that’s it, a sparse and likely disappointing line-up for Wii and DS in this version of 2011– just like 2016. But the change in making Skyward Sword release for the new console and pushing all 3DS developments from March to April did it’s job, and by the time the new Hybrid console would release, its launch line-up was looking rather spiffy.
The Hybrid Launches
One of the hardest parts of this project was taking a look at the 3DS and Wii games that came out during the time this Hybrid system released and then deciding where the development time and resources would have gone instead. For the most part, I just assumed that they’d develop the same or similar game in HD instead, and occasionally, I thought that it was also likely that a delay was going to happen. After all, Super Mario 3D World reportedly was originally intended to release around launch but instead came out a year after.
That’s why when I looked at Super Mario 3D Land’s release in late 2011, I made another decision to say that they would have missed the release date and move into 2012. And it wasn’t the only game. With Grezzo not working on a 3DS game anymore, I considered that maybe they would take a little more time on remaking The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time into HD. It sure didn’t hurt that this would mean that the new release schedule would both avoid having two 3D Zeldas compete against each other at launch and also help spruce up 2012’s underwhelming lineup.
As for games that I felt would just release as HD versions as what we got instead on 3DS (and perhaps more spruced up), I concluded that Pilotwings Resort, Steel Diver, Star Fox 64 HD, and Pokémon Rumble Blast all still seemed like reasonable choices. What didn’t quite make the cut was a Hybrid version of Nintendogs + Cats. Don’t get me wrong, I think a Nintendogs game could work wonders on a system with both home and mobile capabilities. I just decided that Nintendo wouldn’t make it considering how tied that series was to the DS line. Instead, while I couldn’t think of what they might develop instead, I decided that the extra manpower would go towards moving the release of the HD Mario Kart 7 up from December to November for launch.
The final launch game, I concluded, would likely be something along the lines of Nintendo Land for Wii U. Without that game to develop, it stands to reason that the same production studio within Nintendo would just make a different game, the most obvious of those would just be a pack-in game for the Hybrid console to round out it’s launch line-up.
After that, Intelligent System’s Pushmo would release in December, closing out the year for the new Hybrid console.
Nintendo’s “Hybrid” Game Lineup for 2011:
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword [Launch]
- Pilotwings Resort [Launch]
- Steel Diver [Launch]
- Star Fox 64 HD [Launch]
- Pokémon Rumble Blast [Launch]
- Mario Kart 7 [Launch]
- Title from Animal Crossing/Wii Sports/Nintendo Land Developer [Launch]