The Highs and Lows of Nintendo in 2014

Mario Amiibo

For 2013, much of the news revolving around Nintendo looked like “Wii U-this” and “Animal Crossing-that”. Well, this past year, the news was “Smash Bros.-this” and “Mario Kart-that”. 2014 was doubtlessly an up year for Nintendo. Not only did Nintendo consistently launch the highest quality games around, but we also saw some surprise revelation of the mysterious QOL product announcement. Barring that mystery, it’s time to take a look back at what made up Nintendo headlines for the past year. What was it that made Nintendo fantastic?

The highs

Nintendo Digital Event

E3’s Nintendo Digital Event: 2012 marked the last year to date that Nintendo held a live press conference at June’s E3 conference. Their follow-up Nintendo Direct in 2013 couldn’t be called anything but a disaster. A slew of underwhelming reveals was marred by a desultory live-stream that didn’t run well. Thankfully, Nintendo learned their lesson this year, as their Digital Experience was a rousing turnaround. Partnering with the folks at College Humor was a good start, but the event was enhanced by terrific games and the week-long Treehouse Live events. The reception to Nintendo’s newfound E3 stream has us encouraged about their 2015 showing.

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Bravely Default proves there’s still a market for JRPGs: Early on in February, Nintendo did the publishing duties here for Square Enix’s JRPG Bravely Default. Although it ditched the subtitle ‘Flying Fairy‘, the name still struck many as unconventional for the western market. What no one expected was for Bravely Default to be a hit over here. The excellent JRPG made the news for selling 200,000 copies in its first few weeks. That’s great sales for a niche JRPG with an odd-ball name. The game ended up selling 1 million units worldwide, and now has a sequel on the way in Japan. Here’s hoping it comes westward, too.

Back in the black: Nintendo has been suffering many a financial loss these past few years. Unfortunately for 2014, they saw two quarters in the red as well. Finally, their luck saw a slight turn for the third quarter (beginning in July and ending in September), and they reported a much-needed profit. Of course, this came more from an upturn in the value of the dollar against the yen more than ginormous sales, but it was a bright spot in Nintendo’s topsy turvy fiscal year.

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Nintendo Day: It’s safe to say November 21st was the most exciting day for North American Nintendo fans. Nintendo saw fit to launch no less than three major games and their brand-new amiibo figure line. The excitement for these three games, the Pokémon Hoenn remakes and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, paid off in dividends. Nintendo reported that the new Pokémon sold 1.5 million copies and Smash Bros. sold over 700,000 copies since launch. And amiibo sales are even with Smash Bros. And special kudos to Nintendo for getting Smash Bros. out the door without further delay, closing out 2014 in style and dramitas.

F-Zero Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U give Wii U a lift: Speaking of major releases, Nintendo launched two of their biggest franchises this calender year: Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U The cards were played just right, and both are proven hits. They not only sold many copies, but also encouraged growth of the Wii U. Mario Kart 8 pushed Wii U sales up from the same period last year many times over, and Smash Bros. pushed Wii U sales up 10% from last year at the same time. While the console’s sales still lag behind PS4 and Xbox One, but these games prove that the Wii U is not done growing its audience.

The lows

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Tomodachi Life’s same-sex controversy: The whimsical Tomodachi Life finally launched in the west this year to much fanfare. But Nintendo of America wasn’t prepared for the controversy that embroiled it before its June release. As part of the game, players can only marry Mii’s in traditional man-woman pairings. When asked about why same-sex marriage wasn’t included, Nintendo of America said they didn’t intend to make commentary with Tomodachi Life. The enraged outcry from this callous response proved that not making a statement was actually a pretty big statement. Nintendo responded by stating that they would be more sensitive to this issue in any future installments. This was without a doubt the most tone-deaf Nintendo has been in a long time, proving the need for the conservative company to get with our progressive times.

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Amiibo shortages: While many welcomed the launch of amiibo alongside Smash Bros. Wii U, Nintendo clearly wasn’t ready to meet the sheer demand of the consumer. Amiibo line has seen the discontinuation of several figures less than a month old, the delay of Wave 2 without warning anyone, and scalpers taking advantage of rarer figures by up-charging many times their MSRP. Just ask anyone hunting from store to store for their favorite character and you’ll understand why amiibo has been an anti-consumer headache. Nintendo has done a poor job communicating with consumers and retailers about the product, making what should be a plentiful bounty of figurines into a living nightmare.

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The death of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection: In an effort to push users from the older Wii and DS platforms to newer hardware, coupled with the death of online server provider GameSpy, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection was shuttered on May 20th, ten days before Mario Kart 8. With the loss of Nintendo’s first major online service went major components of Pokémon’s 4th and 5th Generation titles, Mario Kart’s Wii and DS, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and many more. The cynical nature of cutting off the online features of these legacy games, many still played by a large audience, struck the closure as a dark part of Nintendo’s 2014.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Wii U

Third party support hits an all-time low: The Wii U has always been sketchy with third parties, but this year seemed to get worse. On top of many big games skipping the console, 2014 marked the first year we didn’t get a Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed on Wii U. Whatever your thoughts on the games themselves, their absence was telling. So was the lack of South Park: The Stick of Truth, Destiny, and Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor. 2015 promises even more software droughts, and if Nintendo can’t provide incentive for major publishers to come back, they will have to single-handedly prop up the release calender themselves.

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The eShop sees its worst days of shovelware: The eshop on Wii U (and the 3DS version) mostly attracts a quality clientele, but 2014 saw some foul games slip between the cracks. Some rather bad games came out this past year, including the infamously incomplete The Letter, suckering players in with horrendous graphics and “over so fast it’s not funny” gameplay. On top of that, the shop was beset by rather terrible mobile ports/clones. How does Nintendo allow such rotten games on their platforms? Between The Letter and the recent Meme Run, someone needs to tell Nintendo about quality control on the part of indie developers.

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Club Nintendo disappoints with its digital-only rewards: Ever since 2008, North America has enjoyed the goodness of Club Nintendo. All users have to do is fill out consumer surveys in exchange for coins to redeem on exclusive rewards. For the elite few, fans can become Platinum or Gold members at the end of a Club Nintendo year. Contrary to all past year’s rewards, Nintendo offered no physical goodies this year. The company opted to go digital only for Platinum and Gold users. The problem is, most Platinum users would have downloaded those games to become Platinum members in the first place. If this was how Nintendo opted to treat its most passionate fans, one shudders to think what befalls the future of Club Nintendo.

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Of course, this is just some of the news that popped up in Nintendo circles. What are your favorite moments of Nintendo-dom in 2014? Were you captivated by their stellar games, or were you dumbfounded by their dunderhead mistakes? Let us know in the comments.

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About The Author

Editor-in-Chief (Former)

A man with a plan. My favorite video game franchise is Pokemon, but his favorite video game is Resident Evil 4. I can also tell you trivial cartoon factoids.