Some of us will admit that we were left scratching our heads once Nintendo's E3 2011 presentation was underway and the only thing we actually saw was a tablet-shaped gadget promising to be an innovative controller... another innovative controller. In all actuality, the press wasn't all that surprised by the reveal given that leaks of this and leaks of that began to saturate the channels months before the show. But what was surprising during Wii U's coming-out-of-the-closet extravaganza was EA's total support for the upcoming console.
"We were really blown away by the unique innovation that Nintendo brings with the Wii U controller on a high performance machine," said EA's Frank Gibeau in an interview. "The ability to do HD graphics and access game experiences in a completely novel way and a way that's never been seen before, it really struck our fancy"
"We were excited by what Nintendo presented to us, we thought about it and it fits well with what we're trying to do with our franchises like FIFA and Madden and Battlefield," he added. "There's great horsepower there, great innovation and Nintendo's got fantastic branding. We're platform agnostic as a company so if we find something we believe will have success commercially and critically, and has a business model that works for us, we're in."
Unsurprisingly, the company has been working with the new console for quite some time. "Getting in early is partly about being a successful transition company and figuring out where the hardware is going to go," he said. "With the Wii U it's important for us to get there on day one so we can get in and build as big an audience as possible."
For the Wii U, Nintendo said that it wants to not only reach out to hardcore gamers once again, but to provide better support for third party companies. Of course, these are mere promises for the moment, but EA seems highly enthusiastic over the new console nonetheless, a definite change in tune from EA's stance with the previous Wii console and Nintendo focus on its own 1st-party titles.
"I can come up with a dozen titles in the last decade, but it's really tough to come up with a dozen great titles that have been platform-defining for [Nintendo] that weren't their own," said EA CEO John Riccitiello late last year. "I don't care whether it's Mario or Twilight Princess or GoldenEye, it was their own content. I'm going back to [Nintendo 64], and I can go back to SNES if you want, but they've never really been a heavy third-party supporting system. It's not lack of trying – they start the morning thinking what's best for their own intellectual property."
Last year during an earnings conference call, Riccitiello indicated that third-party multi-platform games on the Nintendo Wii just weren't performing as well as EA had anticipated. He said that in order for the Wii to reach Nintendo's own expectations, it needed to help push third-party titles for the platform. After all, EA was cranking out high-quality titles for the platform, but Nintendo needed to do more.
Let's see if Nintendo lives up to its word and does a better job at supporting EA's titles on the Wii U next year.