My Predictions for Nintendo Through 2017
February 22, 2015

One of the neat things about Nintendo is that the company still likes to try and surprise its fans--hopefully to their resulting delight--and that hasn't changed in the more than 25 years I've been playing the company's games. Because Nintendo isn't afraid to be unpredictable from time to time, and because at other times it plays things ridiculously safe, I have a lot of fun imagining what steps the company might take next. Today, I thought it would be fun to share some of my own predictions--and the reasoning behind them--so I can look back later and see how ludicrously wrong I was (or gloat if I happen to be right).

So, here's how I think things will go with Nintendo games and hardware through the end of 2017 or so...

At E3, Nintendo will show a number of games we've already heard about. We'll see an update on Zelda, and Star Fox also. Xenoblade Chronicles X should also make a substantial appearance. Okay, that's the easy stuff. I also think Nintendo will announce a few surprise games, as it likes to do, and I think there's a good chance those will be: a new Metroid title, a new Punch-Out!! game, and probably an HD port or remake of Super Mario Galaxy.

Fans have been asking for Metroid rather vocally, and we haven't heard what Retro is doing next. A new Metroid would be the least surprising project they could tackle, but that's okay. Will it be a 2D game or a 3D game? I'm leaning toward the former, because that way it could still come as a slight surprise and piss off a bunch of people, which Nintendo likes to do on occasion. A lot of fans want 2D, even if more of them would prefer three dimensions, and Nintendo seems to have been on a 2D kick as of late, even with the extra power the Wii U hardware affords its development teams. Retro Studios is quite familiar with 2D game design by now, thanks to the last two Donkey Kong titles, so this would be a good time to crank out a new Metroid in that vein.

Punch-Out!! made it to my list because Little Mac is a character in the latest Smash Bros. game--seemingly out of nowhere, in an unexpected show of support for the franchise from Nintendo--and the Wii title was also just recently released as a downloadable title on Wii U. I think Nintendo is trying to keep the series on people's minds, and I think another update is the reason for that. Next Level Games doesn't work strictly for Nintendo, but it has done great work on recent Nintendo updates and it would be no great surprise if Punch-Out!! is occupying the studio's time.

As for Super Mario Galaxy, it struck me as curious that Super Mario Galaxy 2 was made available for download, but not its predecessor. There are numerous possible explanations, of course, but I think an HD update is the most likely (especially given Nintendo's recent fondness for such things). A gussied up Super Mario Galaxy would interest a lot of people, too, even though a lot of folks would also grumble. It could be a beautiful thing, and we already saw that happen to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker with mostly good results. Then again, Nintendo could also be looking at updating another GameCube title, Super Mario Sunshine, which would also be very cool.

If the titles I mentioned above happen, that would clear the way for Nintendo to potentially have a busy 2015 full of releases. By my recokoning, the possible slate of Wii U releases looks like this: Mario Party 10, Yoshi's Woolly World, Splatoon, Star Fox, Fire Emblem x Shin Megami Tensei, The Legend of Zelda (which might well face an irritating delay into the next year), and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Add in the titles I mentioned above and Nintendo could be keeping fans busy right into 2016.

In 2016, I think we'll see Nintendo starting to slow, but its output should still be reasonable. As we head into 2016, I wouldn't be completely surprised by announcements relating to Nintendo's remaining properties seeing a new console installment: Animal Crossing, Paper Mario, and possibly a racing game. I've been hoping for an update to F-Zero, but rumors suggest that Monster Games or someone else might be working on a Diddy Kong Racing successor. That could also work. We also haven't seen a standard Fire Emblem update, though the crossover project with Atlus could be seen as addressing that particular bullet point. Throw in a more conventional Kirby project and maybe a Mario Golf or Mario Tennis title and that'll probably be about it for Nintendo and the Wii U aside from incidental stuff and maybe one or two other decent surprises (I wouldn't cry over a StarTropics update, or a new Kid Icarus).

What then? Well, the stuff noted above already will get us most of the way through 2016, which is four years into the system's life cycle. With output slowing, I predict that Nintendo will announce a Wii U successor at or near E3 in 2016, for release in late 2017. That would give the Wii U an effective life cycle of five years, which was the old standard before Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 produced the 8-year aberration that is currently coming to its end. A five-year cycle wouldn't mean Wii U was a resounding success, but I don't think it really can be one at this point unless a lot of things change (and I don't believe they will).

Nintendo is likely to announce new hardware that is--at best--as powerful as the PlayStation 4, and there has been talk of providing a platform that will cater to both console gamers and handheld lovers. I don't think there's a huge barrier to developing for both platforms even now, but I do think Nintendo will try to make it much easier and maybe we'll even see a unified account system. This would be just about the smartest thing Nintendo could do, and Satoru Iwata has vocally expressed an interest in such things, so maybe it will finally happen.

Speaking of the portable side of things, the New 3DS is clearly a stopgap, and it wouldn't surprise me overly much if we see a handheld successor arrive in 2016. The real question is whether that timing fits Nintendo's overall hardware plans and access to inexpensive components, which would be the only reason I could see a launch being delayed into 2017. The advantage of launching handheld hardware in 2016 is that Nintendo could start a fresh round of releases featuring its favorite characters--which have all made appearances on the 3DS at this point--and could potentially warm consumers to the idea of another console purchase in 2017.

Anyway, those are my predictions for Nintendo through 2017. What are yours?

Most recent blog posts from Jason Venter...

joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - February 22, 2015 (04:30 PM)
There's no reason Nintendo couldn't make both a new 2D Metroid and a new Metroid Prime. That's what they did in 2002, when they rebooted the series with both the original Prime and "Metroid Fusion". "Zero Mission" and the second Prime were both released in the same year, too. However, I think we won't see a new Metroid until early 2016. Unless they delay Zelda, Nintendo's 2015 slate is already pretty crowded.

I think Sunshine has a better chance at a revival than Galaxy. I'm noticing a resurgence of interest in that game recently, and it doesn't help that it's Charles Martinet's personal favorite Mario game. A new Sunshine could take the form of an HD port, or maybe even a 3DS sequel like "Luigi's Mansion 2".

I think we'll see a Wii U Animal Crossing before we see another Punch-Out game. Animal Crossing is the more lucrative franchise, and it's probably Nintendo's last shot at expanding the Wii U market. It's been three years since "New Leaf", which is the amount of time that passed between "Wild World" and "City Folk". Also, there's that Animal Crossing DLC that's coming out for "Mario Kart 8", and it's being released a month before E3 no less.

This next part might be bat-shit crazy. I think Nintendo's next console and handheld are going to launch side-by-side, and we will see some kind of convergence of the two platforms. The 3DS/New 3DS dichotomy may offer a glimpse of the future. You'd have two systems with the same game library, but developers can program the games to use higher quality assets on the more powerful model, like the recent Monster Hunter does on the New 3DS. A unified account system for a unified home/portable platform would also make sense. Whether Nintendo unifies their platforms or not, I imagine we won't hear about new hardware until 2016. The Wii and DS had roughly a six year life span, and the 3DS came out in 2011, so I expect a new model to be released in 2017. On the other hand, the original Game Boy had a nine year lifespan, and I think there's still plenty that Nintendo could do with the 3DS.

You know, with the Wii U getting sequels to "Kirby: Canvas Curse" and "Mario vs. Donkey Kong", I wonder if we might see a "Mario & Luigi" game on the Wii U? That would be quite the curve ball.
espiga espiga - February 22, 2015 (11:30 PM)
We also haven't seen a standard Fire Emblem update

Yes, we have.
honestgamer honestgamer - February 23, 2015 (08:44 AM)
Espiga, I had hoped it was apparent that I was referring to a standard Fire Emblem update on Wii U, since that's where I was confining my comments at that point in my post. I'm of course aware of Fire Emblem: Awakening (which I own) and the second upcoming 3DS one that was recently announced and shown in the trailer you linked. The 3DS has been absolutely terrific, which is no secret to anyone who has been paying attention. My post was more concerned with exploring Nintendo's console future.
Genj Genj - February 23, 2015 (02:30 PM)
I think Sunshine is more likely to get the remaster treatment than Galaxy. I don't now why they haven't remastered more GameCube games for Wii U. Half their fanbase probably aren't old enough to own one and the other half would gladly rebuy them. Frankly most Nintendo games age well anyway. Personally I'd love for remasters of Metroid Prime and Twilight Princess most of all.

I've said before I really want a new Metroid game and I would prefer 2D HD on the Wii U. We're seeing more on and more 2D platformers on Wii U. I think we'll get a Metroid announcement this E3.

BOLD (likely inaccurate) PREDICTION: Sega will have Nintendo make a 2D Sonic game.
overdrive overdrive - February 24, 2015 (10:52 AM)
Would Sunshine get remastered on the Wii U or the 3DS though? Asking because I'm not positive as to what the 3DS' specs are as compared to the GameCube's, but if compatible, it would make sense, since Nintendo has been big on remastering older games on their handhelds, with Super 64 on the DS and both N64 Zelda's now on the 3DS.

I do agree that, in theory, that makes more sense at the moment than Galaxy, as that game is just one generation old, so it doesn't have the same nostalgia factor that a game like Sunshine, which a person can't just walk into a GameStop-type store and grab off the shelf, would possess.

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