Nintendo & EA: A broken relationship


It may be a distant memory now, but EA are responsible for some truly great games for Wii – Boom Blox, Dead Space: Extraction, and the MySims series to name but few. Yet as the console’s successor fails to find a foothold among consumers, the third-party publisher’s faith in Nintendo’s unfaltering direction seems diminished.

That isn’t to say that they’re alone in their apparent lack of commitment to the hardware, but there’s most certainly been a change of heart since they waxed lyrical about the console at Nintendo’s E3 2011 conference.

For it was at such event that Nintendo had visibly shown they understood the significance that having EA’s support would bring to Wii U, inviting former CEO John Riccitiello to take the stage to help close their unveiling – later citing an “unprecedented partnership” having been formed between the companies.

“Over the years I’ve made E3 appearances with several console partners, but never before with Nintendo,” Riccitiello began. “What brings us together today is a breakthrough in our relationship based on a stunning breakthrough in game technology.”

“What Nintendo’s new console delivers speaks directly to the players of EA Sports and EA Games. Nintendo’s new console will produce brilliant high definition graphics, and new gameplay opportunities.”

Riccitiello continued, “We look forward to seeing great EA content on this new platform. Imagine playing football with an innovative new controller that takes all that data, all that play calling off the big screen, leaving you with a sharper, more personal more immersive HD experience.

“Imagine a shooter like Battlefield with jaw-dropping graphics and the smooth character animations of the Frostbite engine brought to you on a Nintendo system with that breakthrough controller. Now imagine those games with an open online functionality that allows you to download new content, find matches, compete on leaderboards and participate in a global community.

“And finally, imagine these EA games on a console with content, gameplay and community that can be extended to mobile, social networks as well as the web.”

We can indeed be grateful for FIFA 13, Madden NFL 13 and Mass Effect 3: Special Edition being brought to the platform, yet it is only Need for Speed: Most Wanted U that has garnered perhaps the most attention from press – developer Criterion Games lavishing that it’s “by far the best-looking version” – yet we’re still within EA’s realms of imagination.

Wii U owners have already missed out on Dead Space 3 and Crysis 3, which, whilst the third instalments within their respective franchises, have more relevancy at retail than the ‘safer’ option to simply deliver dated ports. Fuse and Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel are also making their way to consoles over the coming months, but the Wii U once again finds itself alone in their absence.

“Over the past months we’ve been telling our employees and consumers that EA is undergoing a transformation. We’re changing games from the things you buy to a place you go,” Riccitiello closed.

“Nintendo’s next console is truly transformational as well. A better platform than we’ve ever been offered by Nintendo. Deeper online capability, and all of it driven by an unprecedented partnership between Nintendo and Electronic Arts. Thank you, we can’t wait to see EA games on this new system.”

Neither can we, John. And whilst we’ll never know what discussions happened behind closed doors it makes us fear for the future – especially with PlayStation 4 and new Xbox knocking at the door.

We can gleefully play through quality first-party releases, yet it is only with third-parties in tow that Nintendo will regain ground in the marketplace and ensure there’s longevity with Wii U. March has treated us well, LEGO City Undercover, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Need for Speed Most Wanted U providing greater incentive to own the console, yet the Rayman Legends debacle was ridiculous, and concerning.

Even retailers are worried, slashing prices across the United Kingdom simply to generate consumer interest. That panic spreads, and all eyes will be on Nintendo at E3 2013 to prove their latest system can remain viable alongside competitors.

Yet it isn’t Nintendo themselves that need to fill their conference alone with quality software, we need to see third-party partners step up and make compelling use of the hardware. EA included.

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