The Wonderful Surprise Hiding In The Wii U Launch Line-Up

Some facts hide in plain sight. You don't notice them until you move them around a bit. Then suddenly, like some unscrambled Scrabble letters, there's clarity.

Un-jumble the launch line-up for the Wii U and here's the fact that emerges: the Wii U is actually going to be a good console for... downloadable indie games.

This is weird, folks. We're in Nintendo-Does-What-Nintendon't territory.

Take a look:

Chasing Aurora This game has made the rounds at the Penny Arcade Expo where, back in 2011, we saw it on PS3. It's from Austrian studio Broken Rules, which previously made indie hit And Yet It Moves. Chasing Aurora's creators describe it as "a game about the dream of flight." It looks lovely. Out for the Wii U in November (presumably downloadable). []

Cloudberry Kingdom This game is made by some Americans who call themselves Pwnee Studios, but don't hold that against them. Back in May, they were scrounging for money on Kickstarter to make this thing. They pitched it as "the hardest platformer ever" and made their $US20,000 funding goal. Now they're a Wii U launch game. See the trailer here? Think Super Mario World but wayyyyyyy harder. Out for the Wii U in November (presumably downloadable).

Little Inferno Take the friends who were involved in making cult favourite DS game Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure and the beloved multi-platform World of Goo and let them make a new game. It's also coming to computers, but that's not the point here. Downloadable on the Wii U in November.

Mighty Switch Force HD This is the console version of the 3DS game of the same name (sans the "HD"). It's a side-scroller/puzzle-platformer from the American studio WayForward Technologies. These folks mostly make licensed games, including the recent, good DS games based on the Thor and Aliens franchises. They occasionally turn out an original old-school game like this one. The trailer here is for the 3DS version. Downloadable on the Wii U in November.

Nano Assault Neo This is a twin-stick shooter from the small German studio Shin'En. Is it the Wii U's Geometry Wars? Downloadable on the Wii U in November.

Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien This sequel to BIT.TRIP. Runner is coming to a bunch of platforms, but given American development studio Gaijin Games' push for the series on the original Wii, it's fitting that the new one is also coming to the new Wii. Out for the Wii U in January (presumably downloadable).

Toki Tori 2 The tiny Dutch development studio TwoTribes put out the first Toki Tori on the Game Boy colour in 2001. Finally, a sequel in 2012! It's a puzzle-platformer requiring the smart command of several animals. Downloadable on the Wii U in November.

Trine 2: Director's Cut This is an extended version of a gorgeous side-scroller created by the small Finnish development team Frozenbyte. This new version contains the original game, the recently-released Goblin Menace expansion and a new exclusive level called Dwarven Caverns. It has online and local co-op. Downloadable on Wii U in November.

This is not your ordinary line-up of (mostly) first-month releases for a major new gaming console. Launch day games like Nintendo Land, ZombiU and New Super Mario Bros. U are more typical. These are games with big names or are experimental new starts. They're on discs. They're from big companies. But a wave of indies? This has never happened before, not on a Nintendo console or any of the other majors.

A few things to keep in mind about this:

  • These indies are presumably all downloadable, which means that the vaunted 50-game launch window for the Wii U consists of a good number of non-disc games. That's not a scandal, but it also might not be what people are inferring when they hear about the system's 50-game launch line-up. It's a sign of how vital an appreciation of downloadable games are to the appreciation of new gaming hardware.
  • The biggest oddity here is that Nintendo is positioning itself, early, as a supporter of downloadable indie games. Nintendo executives might tell you they always did and could point to the presence of games by most of the above developers that were sold on the 3DS or Wii's download shops. Technically, that's true, but the more accurate reality is that Nintendo has traditionally and primarily given heavy support to non-Western indies (read: Japanese indies whose games Nintendo has swooped in to publish). Nintendo has routinely failed to embrace the excellent innovations of young Western developers and allowed the release of indie games from American and European creators in only drips and drabs. For the first time, with this line-up, we're getting an actual wave — from the West. Shades of Microsoft and Sony's support for indies on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.
  • Several of these games support so-called Off-TV gameplay, which means you can play the likes of Toki Tori 2 and Nano Assault on a TV or on the Wii U GamePad's own screen. That's neat.
  • A lot of attention has been paid on the Wii U's support for major third-parties. We've played into that at Kotaku, emphasising how unusual it is that the Wii U will launch with an Assassin's Creed and Arkham game and eventually have a Mass Effect. Nintendo will tell you that that's a sign of extended big-game support from major third-parties. It's not clear if the system really has the power and appeal to court such games long-term. But the unreported and perhaps even more important twist here is this surprise support for indies. Getting more big-name, big-company games on the Wii U might make Nintendo's console a little more like an Xbox or PlayStation. But to win over the indies? If Nintendo actually loosens up and courts that crowd? Then they'd have a shot at being just a little more like Steam or the iPad. Given the flourishing of indies (see, oh… Minecraft!) this would be a good thing for Nintendo and for gamers.
  • The creators of And Yet It Moves and World of Goo are making launch games for the Wii U? Hell yes.

The release of Nintendo Land is still the main event in the Wii U's launch circus this November. That game is positioned to be the Wii U's Wii Sports. It's a showcase for the system's new controller, after all. But pay attention to another ring: the one with all the indies in it. It could be the most exciting part of Nintendo's big Wii U show.


    never before have i had less interest in a nintendo console... the only bragging right seems to be that they now have a small collection of games that have already been available to people with pcs and xbox or playstation consoles for a very long time... mario and zelda have stopped even pretending to iterate... why would a gamer buy one of these?

    I agree whole-heartedly. Mass Effect 3 has been out for years, along with Arkham and Darksiders. And Assassin's Creed? That's goddamn last generation, Nintendo. Skyward sword is pretty much a dumbed-down version of Majora's Mask, which was a horrible game in itself, and these Indie titles? well, we shouldn't even be talking about them.

    Goddamnit nintendo. goddamn it.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't all of these games available on steam, with operating system requirements that laptop 2005 could meet?

      Doubt it. My 2005 laptop can't even play the first Bit.Trip Runner.

      Hell, a rock could play these. Trine's on steam, and even if it'a extended cut it's not that great, Toki Doki is a sequel but eff that anyway, Runner 2's a sequel but eff that anyway, Mighty Switch Force is just a port from the 3DS, and uh chasing aurora is new but eff that anyway, cloudberry kingdom is a new game but eff that anyway, and I can't even bother with the other two.


      Probably but the point is that NINTENDO are letting INDIE developers distribute on their system. Read up on the history of Nintendo and the famous Official Seal of Approval. Look at the history of their obsessive control over their platforms. Licensing!!! This - that Nintendo are letting the little boys play ( with unity) - as the article points out - is the point of the article.

      Same argument can be made for plenty of xbla releases eg. Minecraft.

      It's a question of choice of medium. Plenty of people haven't set up their PC on their TV and they don't want to sit at a monitor to play games. Not to mention in-room mutliplayer is a gigantic pain in the ass to try to run on a PC.

      There's a lot of complaining about the WiiU lineup and I really think that most of its not warranted. They have 50 games during launch of their console. FIFTY. Where do you guys think 50 games are going to appear from, if they haven't made an appearance earlier than the launch? At least most of them have made some updates by adding some levels or mechanics to the game. PS3 had 24 and 360 had 18 launch titles. Not a single one of these titles were big blockbusters and there were plenty that were actually available on other systems before.

    Anyone focusing on just "the Marios and Zeldas" or just "The Mass Effects and Batmans" is inherently doing it wrong. That's like flying to Europe, saying "Oh yeah, I saw Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Meh, looked just like they do in the pictures, such a waste of time." You're totally missing the point of the trip in the first place. Yeah there's those big-title showpieces that everyone should see at some point, but it's the smaller, lesser-known or expected parts that really define the experience.

    Not sure if that gets the point across properly (or even is the one my head struggles to put into words), but it just gets so frustrating seeing people getting hung up on nothing but these big-name titles.

      I'm hung up on the small name titles: i.e. the ones that are available on every other platform...

        Exactly. Well, even though most of these are actually not available right now and not really on every other platform but they will and that's what will drag the Wii U down.

          So you're saying that because these will eventually be on other platforms (even though some almost certainly won't), that will drag down the Wii U... which must mean that on the flipside, the fact that other titles that were formerly on PS3/360 are now coming to Wii U means those other platforms are being dragged down?

            Yes. The fact is, most people who buy these games will buy them on Steam. This has been borne out repeatedly with XBLA - game flops on XBLA, they release on steam, record sales.

            These games have to be unique. It just won't work otherwise.

              Exactly. It is quite obvious that every single title in this article will transfer to another system and therefore merit no purchase. It is 100% the console the system is on that defines the game and not the game istelf.

              Thank you, Thom.

                Firstly , no. No Shin'En nor WayForward games have been transferred to another systems, it's incredibly doubtful these ones will.

                Second, why is this a problem exclusive to Wii U? Where were you guys calling the 360 and PS3 worthless, since half their games are on PC or the opposing system too?

        Like the Little Kings Stories and the Ghost Tricks that come out of nowhere and are awesome? But then nobody buys...

    Are we 100% sure Trine 2 is coming to Aus? It was meant to come to us on XBLA but it never did and no reason was ever given.

      Didn't know it didn't make XBLA, but it's been on Steam for ages.

        Yeah but I wanted to play it co-op with the gf. Was really disappointed when it didn't appear and the game developer didn't even realise that it hadn't come out here.

    I have to say that I'm impressed, but not so much to pick up a console. You look at the launch line up, and there are ports from other consoles, rehashed games, and a couple of tarted up indies which will be better on PC. I'm liking the look of ZombiU and.... well, not much else. Rayman Legends and Lego City Undercover look like a lot of fun, but Im pretty sure they'll get ported, so what we're left with is piecemeal, bits and pieces that aren't particularly original or have a been there, done that vibe.

    For every family who currently owns a Wii, this is going to be the next logical step if they haven't already upgraded. The Wii, assuming they bought it out when they're kids were young, is just old enough that those same kids now want something a little more... adult, in their experience.

    Nintendo is banking on the idea that those same kids, the ones who play Wii Bowling on the sports titles or Mario Kart with their controllers turned sideways will now want to switch to the new system for their more adult needs.

    A dangerous prospect, considering nintendo has positioned themselves as the "family friendly" system for half a decade now, which means that people looking for more "gamer" games are just going to buy a PS3 or 360.

    Honestly though if i had the expendable income, which i do not, i would probably buy this system - there will be a few titles like Pikmen and ZombieU that will be worth owning and the backwards compatibility means i won't lose those Wii games... unless you still want to play Game Cube games... then you're screwed ^_^

    I'm actually really hyped for these downloadable titles. Particularly trine 2, toki tori 2, little inferno, and mighty switch force hd and now chasing aurora. Along with ac3, maybe blackops2, fifa13, nsmbu and zombiu . I'm glad I have 6 weeks off over Xmas. I don't get the hate of the wii u. No one has even seen the other two new consoles yet publicly which points to at least two years til they come out. Not to mention the price of the ps3 in Australia was ridiculous at launch with no good games til mgs4 came out. 429 seems more than fair. I can't see what the other new consoles will do. Tvs max out at 1080p. Native resolution of the wii u. Remember Modern warfare 2 or 3 was only 640 p on both 360 and ps 3iirc.4k tvs? Be a good 5 years before games are programmed in 4k for tvs. Just in time for the next Nintendo.

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