For the entire generation of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, downloadable content has been a major focus for most developers and publishers. For nearly every large title that’s released, it’s a sure bet that within a few months you can expect some type of premium DLC package. Whether it’s continuing the story, adding new modes or maps, or even selling armor for your horse, publishers have devised a way to earn money outside of retail long after a title has been released.
Nintendo, the company that’s proverbially “late to the party”, has just recently entered the DLC field. While the Wii launched around the same time as the Xbox 360 and PS3, Nintendo never really had a strong online component that could compete with its rivals. Outside of the Wii Virtual Console, Nintendo had almost no important online existence at all. Most games didn’t feature an online aspect, and if they did they were typically less than spectacular (I’m looking at you Super Smash Bros. Brawl). Frankly, it was embarrassing how far behind this industry pioneer was to its competition.
With the arrival of the 3DS and now the Wii U, Nintendo has been making steady advancements in regard to its online offerings. Many of their first-party games are beginning to offer online multiplayer. Mario Kart 7 was fantastic and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon looks very promising. Also of note is that many of Nintendo’s recent 3DS titles have been available to the online masses the same date they’re being released via retail. This in itself is a huge technological leap for the company. Additionally, Nintendo is beginning to make their eShop host to an array of exclusives. Upcoming titles like Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger and Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move are intriguing downloadable games. Virtual Console games are starting to get into gear on the Wii U too. You can transfer previously purchased titles free of charge from your dusty Wii to its shinier sibling (through a somewhat difficult process), or pay a small fee to upgrade the game to its Wii U version. You then will be able to utilize save states and play the title via the GamePad’s screen.
What Nintendo appears to be doing with additional gaming content impresses perhaps the most. New Super Mario Bros. 2 released back in August for the Nintendo 3DS. The title didn’t blow anyone away with its difficulty level. Sure, gathering the three star coins and finding all the alternate exits presented a challenge, but getting from the beginning of the game to the final Bowser battle didn’t involve many tough hurdles. Nintendo is a company that focuses on the ability to have an entire family play a title. Making a Mario game too difficult for little Timmy to complete isn’t in their best interest. That’s where their DLC strategy comes into play.
In New Super Mario Bros. 2, player can download level packs for the game of various difficulties. Nintendo released nine (and a special bonus tenth) Coin Rush levels to be download at $2.50 a piece. The latest was released on December 21, 2012 and was entitled the “Impossible Pack”. Nintendo labels each pack with a difficulty marker ranging out of five stars. This one features five out of five and warns players that the difficulty level is “DANGER!”. Almost all of the DLC for the game is above the skill which was required during the retail product, and the Impossible Pack is at a level even the most hardened gamers would have difficulty with. That’s the way it should be though. If Mario is made for everyone (which is a good thing), I see nothing wrong with slapping down five dollars and playing two different level packs that ask me to take my platforming skills to the next level. And with the included leaderboards, I have every reason to keep revisiting the packs to take down friends and tackle high-scores. Nintendo has been criticized for making Mario too easy. This is their answer and it’s a perfect fit. I’m sure they will incorporate this type of DLC for many of their future first-party titles.
Finally, Nintendo unveiled something quite different during the Nintendo Direct – New Super Luigi U. Using New Super Mario Bros. U as its basis, Nintendo is in the middle of developing DLC that takes Mario’s brother and throws him into a Wii U game of his own. Using the existing overworld map, the developers are creating entirely new levels, at least eighty of them, and are asking players to guide Luigi through a whole new adventure. Much like the Second Question in the original The Legend of Zelda, this new DLC will allow gamers who’ve milked the new Mario adventure for all it’s worth to hop back into the title and experience something that is entirely fresh. New levels, new challenges and an increased difficulty await the taller plumber. It’s a title I’m already eagerly anticipating seeing as how I’m a junkie for the plumber featuring platformers.
President Iwata has said that 2013 is “the year of Luigi”, so we can expect it sometime in the next nine months, but that doesn’t really narrow it down for us. I’m hoping Nintendo shows off some of the new levels at E3 this year. They seem to be showing almost everything these days in their Nintendo Directs, so maybe since we’ve only got a glimpse of this new content a full reveal will be made to the public in June. Particularly the pricing for this monstrous DLC is an important detail we are missing. Let’s hope Nintendo doesn’t intend to gouge its loyal fans that’ll download it regardless (*cough* me *cough*).
I don’t want to misconstrue our audience and have it seem I’m proclaiming Nintendo the new king of DLC. Far from it, the company has a lot of work to do in that department. But what I wanted to draw attention to is that Nintendo, with its limited time in the downloadable content market, is doing DLC the way it should be done. Don’t milk your consumers with petty add-ons or even content that should have been available at the start. Still frequently these days are games that contain content locked away on the disc that only becomes available when the customer pays an additional fee to gain access to it. This method is frustrating to say the least. New Super Luigi U looks to buck traditional DLC and delivers something substantial and impressive. When it lands we’ll know for sure whether Nintendo is really ready to make some noise with DLC, or whether they just want to follow the pack. For all things Nintendo, keep checking back with OnlySP.com.