Lift-Off! The Fight for Best Launch Window

Is a big first-party presence the key to success? Michael compares the launch windows for Wii U and 3DS to find out.

By Michael Contino. Posted 10/12/2012 14:00 3 Comments     ShareThis

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, you’ll probably have noticed that the Big N has started using the term “launch window” to describe the release of 3DS and the upcoming Wii U. This is the period of time between the launch day of a brand new console and a few months down the line, in which a system’s first games are released. The North American 3DS launch window, for instance, consisted of 25 titles spread out between March 27th 2011 (launch day) and June 7th 2011 (day one of E3). By comparison, Wii U’s slated to have 52 launch window titles by the end of March 2013– launch day being November 18th 2012. Now, that may seem like Wii U is getting twice as many games as 3DS, but the more astute among you will have noticed that Wii U’s launch window is also twice as long as 3DS’s, making both windows roughly the same.

One noticeable difference, however, is Nintendo’s hand as a developer and/or publisher in the launch window space. Only three 3DS launch window games were developed and/or published by Nintendo: Nintendogs + Cats, Steel Diver and Pilotwings Resort. All three arrived on launch day, and all but Steel Diver achieved critical acclaim. Many third party developers chipped in with the 3DS launch window, including the likes of Capcom, Konami, Namco Bandai Games, Team Ninja, Traveller’s Tales, Ubisoft, and Visceral Games, and titles like Ridge Racer 3D, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, Dead or Alive: Dimensions, and a couple of Tom Clancy titles were available to whet gamers’ appetites until the portable’s big guns arrived shortly after E3 2011.

But while the 3DS launch window may not have reached our expectations for a spectacular beginning to a new handheld generation of games, Nintendo seems to have learned from past woes with Wii U. Nine launch window titles are being published by the Big N, two of which are both being developed by Nintendo and landing on day one– New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land. A slew of epic games from third parties are also landing on launch day, such as Assassin’s Creed III, Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition, Darksiders II, Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed and the Wii U exclusive, ZombiU. Another Wii U exclusive, Rayman Legends was recently delayed until the end of the launch window.

New Super Mario Bros. U Van Gogh
NSMBU’s the first Mario launch title since Super Mario 64 DS in 2004 and it’s looking phenomenal.

Quantity, however, isn’t always important, as the Nintendo 64 proved with its two launch games: Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64. It’s arguable that Super Mario 64 alone makes the N64 launch the strongest ever launch line-up in Nintendo history, but while the 3DS launch lacked a similar killer title, it also prioritised hardware over software, with all the first big first and third party exclusives coming shortly after the launch window. If we’d had Resident Evil: Revelations, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 earlier in the year, either during the launch window or shortly after, we would all have been much happier gamers.

Wii U’s launch window, meanwhile, seems to have definitely learned from 3DS’s past mistakes. It’s giving us Mario on day one, introducing us to fresh experiences like ZombiU right at the start, and it’s giving us a window of great titles between the end of November and March next year. Wii U has the home advantage this time round, and its steady flow of exciting software is something we here at Dojo Towers simply can’t wait to get our hands on. Wii U is coming in little over a month and it’s coming in hot.

3 Responses to “Lift-Off! The Fight for Best Launch Window”

  • 1244 points
    lukas85 says...

    I think that the n64 lauch with mario 64 is unbeatable, it’s a thing that only happens once.

    • 192 points
      Robin Wilde says...

      Funny you should say that – I think the N64 launch was fairly poor, since aside from Super Mario 64 (which while probably pretty impressive at the time, I don’t think is very good in hindsight and certainly not worth the £70 it cost at launch)there wasn’t really anything.

      The strongest console launch in my opinion was the GameCube. Luigi’s Mansion was short, but it showed off the graphical power of the console nicely, while Eternal Darkness, Star Wars: Rogue Leader and Super Monkey Ball all brought something new and varied to Nintendo’s table.

      There was also Sonic Adventure 2, which as a launch title was pretty damn cool.

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