Nintendo have long disregarded the rest of the industry. In the N64 era they began to ignore third-party developers and focus more on first and second party software. With the Wii, Nintendo paid no attention to the industry leap in graphics. They forged their own path with motion controls and began to create a line of casual software. Their business decisions proved lucrative, but have recently begun to sour. Sony and Microsoft recognized the newly-found, waggle-proficient, casual market and have hatched plans to woo them into HD territory. But, they haven\’t forgotten their original gold-mine of traditional gamers for even one moment. Aiming for both markets seems to be the new plan. And where Sony and Microsoft have aimed their cross-hairs at Nintendo’s new hatchlings (if it’s not too much of a stretch to include sixty year old women and hockey moms in the term \”hatchlings\”), Nintendo has kindly reciprocated and placed HD gamers directly in the Nintendo line of fire.

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If Nintendo wants to win over this crowd they have to change their attitude. They must learn to listen. Listen to the needs of \’hardcore\’ gamers and listen to the needs of third party developers who supply those very gamers with their regular gaming addiction. But, believe you me- Nintendo has realized this. They know they have to change and they\’ve begun to look for ways to enact this change. The question is: are they doing a good job? Are there signs that this change is actually happening? Or is Nintendo completely clueless?

Whether Nintendo learns the ropes quickly enough before the arrival of the Wii U is impossible to predict. But at least we can begin to tune our ears into the present. To connect the dots and see the picture behind the subtleties. And I believe a miraculous transformation is taking place. Something the likes of Hiroshi Yamauchi would never have foreseen. What are the signs? Where are the indications that Nintendo has become a better \”listener\” and is more in-tune with the expectations of the industry?

– After the 3DS\’ lukewarm launch, the industry began to complain. Apologizing humbly, Nintendo lowered the price of their handheld only a few months in, and offered twenty free games to those who bought in at the higher price range.

– Third party developers began to complain about the 3DS\’ lack of dual analog sticks, posing a potential threat for Nintendo’s \’hardcore\’ aspirations. Nintendo swallowed their pride and quickly offered a second circle-pad extension, despite looking stupid. Capcom happily forgave them with a pardon named Monster Hunter 3G and Monster Hunter 4.

– The industry has begun to consider \”narrative\” in gaming a must. Some games, such as Uncharted 3, have even been called interactive Hollywood movies. Nintendo have always focused more on gameplay, with this being one of the tenets of Miyamoto’s design philosophies. However, recent trends have shown Nintendo focusing more on narrative and cinematics than in the past. In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Metroid: Other M, and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Nintendo have brought cinematics, character development, and narrative to new levels (for their own standards, at least.)

– At E3, Nintendo promised that the Wii U would have strong, HD graphics capabilities that could be seen both on the TV and on the controller screen. They demoed a gorgeous HD Zelda cinematic that rendered independently on TV and controller. Likewise, Nintendo showed off a beautiful Japanese Garden that offered a standard rendering on the TV and a personal view on the controller that rendered separately and could offer new angles and viewpoints.

– Nintendo launched a new third-party initiative for the Wii U and have, presumably, been holding talks with big publishers and developers to get their feedback. At E3, Nintendo proudly announced a new buddy-buddy relationship with EA and showed a demo reel of third-party games coming to the Wii U.

– In line with this way of thinking, Nintendo are making online structure a priority on the Wii U. Recent rumors claim EA and Valve are both making offers to be the cornerstone of Nintendo’s online service, with Origin and Steam, respectively.

– Nintendo tripled the size of their 3DS eShop team from the original DS team so as to create an aesthetically-pleasing, and more robust digital store.

– Nintendo recently have announced that demos will be coming to the eShop as well as offering a few free games so far. Both of these tactics have never been done before by Nintendo.

– Nintendo recently brought Nintendo Video and Netflix to the 3DS, despite being lukewarm about offering video services in the past. (No DVD-playback at all in the GCN era.)

– Recent industry reports claim that Nintendo have heard feedback from third-party developers and are trying hard to create the possibility of two Wii U tablets to work at once on the Wii U.

– Rumors say that Nintendo will free up 25% more power on the 3DS that was originally dedicated to the front-end of the system so developers can use the extra processing power for their games. This would obviously be an attempt to level the playing field with Vita.

– Nintendo has directed Monolith Soft, a company owned development team, to work on the recent trend of open-world games. They created Xenoblade, considered the best JRPG of this generation and possibly the way forward for JRPG’s in general.

– Nintendo partnered with Team Ninja for Metroid Other M. This partnership has paid off so far, as the DS received Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, the 3DS received Dead or Alive Dimensions, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is coming to the Wii U.

– Nintendo originally lost support from Squaresoft in the N64 era and Nintendo consoles became devoid of RPGs. More recently, Nintendo has put a lot of repair into this area and there have been a lot of positive signs. Square-Enix have become more and more comfortable with Nintendo systems, creating a dynasty on the DS, and even announcing Dragon Quest X exclusively for Wii and Wii U. Bravery Default and other promising RPGs are coming soon to the 3DS. It wouldn\’t be a stretch to assume a future Final Fantasy core game will appear on the Wii U. Nintendo have also secured new Monster Hunter games on the 3DS. Together with releases of Xenoblade, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower, the RPG market on Nintendo systems have become much more dense.

– Nintendo systems have been kind to the Resident Evil franchise and once again Capcom is bringing the stunning Resident Evil Revelations to the Nintendo 3DS. A newcomer to recent Nintendo waters, Hideo Kojima, has also decided the 3DS is a worthy \”vessel\” for receiving his precious Metal Gear Solid franchise. (The last time Kojima developed a Metal Gear game on a Nintendo platform was on the NES.) It’s likely Konami is using the port of MGS3: Snake Eater, MGS3D, to test the waters on the 3DS. If it sells well, expect to see more of Snake on the handheld.

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One blemish, a pock-mark on the face of a new Nintendo paints a rather dark picture of their willingness to listen. This sad story is the tale of a PR job gone wrong. If you\’ve been paying attention to the industry in recent months you are most probably aware of Operation Rainfall- the loyal Nintendo fanbase’s campaign for NA localization of Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower- and its rejection by Nintendo. How Nintendo’s utter disregard for its fans fit in to their new philosophy is a question that still remains unanswered. But, aside from that one \”foul ball\” Nintendo seems poised to hit a home-run with traditional gamers.

So, what do you think? Are there positive signs that Nintendo is learning the ropes or are they too far off course to go down the same road as Sony and Microsoft? Let us know your opinions below or in our forums.

[Stay Tuned for tomorrow’s feature article: What if the Zelda Series had Spinoffs?]

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