It's no secret by now that EA's support for the Wii U platform and the 3DS is practically non-existent going forward. That isn't to say they haven't released "any" games for the platforms, but it's well known they are keeping major franchises away from the systems previously and will continue to do so moving forward. Even games that were fully running and ready to go out to the production line, such as Crysis 3, were shelved due to Nintendo and EA essentially not getting along.
Lets set aside, for a moment, that EA has been making some questionable decisions in terms of how they are running their business. Let's also not place entirely all the blame on EA themselves. We will get into this in a moment, but Nintendo is responsible heavily for rifts with EA. However, the better question is, could we finally reach a point in the future where Nintendo and EA's relationship is just like what it is with Ubisoft? It always possible, and I have some sure fire steps that need to be taken on both fronts to make this a reality.
Why Nintendo and EA Don't Get Along
I could write an entire piece on why the two giants don't see eye to eye, but thankfully Not Enough Shaders did it for me just a couple days ago. I highly encourage you to check out their well informed article on the manner as you can see that blame clearly lies on both sides of the fence. However, we'll address just a few of these points now to help paint the picture.
For starters, Nintendo has never been that friendly to anyone outside of their own company. This dates back to the NES days when they had a 95% share of the entire console market. Because of this, Nintendo could set their own rules and by today's standards they are rather out there. Seriously, Nintendo controlled everything. What games costs, how much money they get per game sale (royalty fees that fluxuated).. and to give you an even better idea - Nintendo would have to approve of your game for it to even exist on their console - and they wouldn't approve it until after it was already complete.
Oh, lets also not forget that Nintendo told you how many copies of the game could exist. Forget supply and demand, it was all on Nintendo. That's what happens when one company has a monopoly. This naturally drove EA to team up with the Sega in the SNES era. Anyways, Nintendo did eventually get a bit more lax on the 3rd party requirements and continued to do so in each generation there after. EA attempted to support the various consoles at different points in time but they experienced sales that were well below expectations.
Eventually, they did see a nice boost with the Wii, but only had belief in their casual offerings. There was also some distaste among their development teams in having to continually make more casual offerings to begin with. Of course, this is all in the past and Nintendo keeps publicly stating they are trying to make life easier for publishers. Enter the Wii U.
Back during E3 2011, EA and Nintendo were working very close together on the online structure for the Wii U console. As 2012 got going an interesting rumor popped up about that particular relationship, one which neither side has commented on. The rumor essentially stated that EA wanted the Nintendo Network to be part of Origin and for Origin to be the online interface and net code for the system itself. Of course, Nintendo turned down the proposal and ever since that rumor broke out, EA's support (which seemed enthusiastic and looking great in 2011) suddenly dropped off a cliff.
Warning: This Video contains language that may be deemed offensive to some people.
Just tellin' it like it is.
Sure, we got Madden 2013, which EA themselves reported was in development for the Wii U for two years. Except, later a Wii U developer for the game stated it was actually tossed together in six months, which explains why it was essentially Madden 2012 with updated rosters. We got Mass Effect 3 still, but apparently that was always in the pipeline. The big deal that helped confirm this rumor was when Crytek recently stated they had Crysis 3 ready to go, but EA essentially pulled the plug at the last instance. Crytek would not have created a Wii U version if they weren't asked to do so, and likewise once finished, EA wouldn't just pull the plug after the fact if there wasn't some business side issues going on between Nintendo and EA.
Whatever the case may be, both parties are at fault for where things are today based on past transgressions. Again, be sure to check out the piece at Not Enough Shaders for more information.
How To Fix The Relationship: Step 1
We all know that a few times in the past EA has actually given Nintendo fans a decent, if not great, core to hardcore like experience. For the Wii, that game was Dead Space: Extraction. It was actually a rather good game, but it was a vast departure to the normal Dead Space games. Almost every time a game like this came about, or was ported, the sales numbers were poor. Because of failures like this, EA doesn't always see a purpose to pushing games on Nintendo's platforms regardless of any soar feelings.
So, the first step to help mend this is for EA to recognize their main issue with why these games aren't selling. Sure, Nintendo's crowd is use to a certain type of game thanks to the Wii era, and it's true EA should still give us those games (which they stopped doing.. then suddenly their stock tanked. Grant it, so did the entire industries, but the common trend is that they stopped making the games that got them there.)
Now, we all want Dead Space on the Wii U. We want the true version of Madden. We want the next great Bioware game. However, the reason Nintendo's games sell to Nintendo gamers more so than 3rd parties isn't just because they are great games, it's because Nintendo built up a following. EA (and other publishers) aren't necessarily doing what they can to build a following.
As an example, how can Madden build any momentum on Nintendo's consoles when you go from providing a passable product on the GCN to a casual product on the Wii? Then, every year after, drastically changing the casual approach to Madden until it essentially became a poor mans NFL Blitz. You fundamentally changed everything about the game with each game released hoping it would sell more because of it. Then on the Wii U, you give us a "true" Madden that is a previous years edition. Sure, it was always going to sell poorly regardless because it was out for a couple months already, but the fact is you switched it up again.
Tell me, consumers, does this seem to make logical sense in building up a following? The only way you are going to build a base for your games to sell on any platform is to create consistency in the releases. This means, as an example, if you ever planned to have Madden appear on the Wii U again... why would you not put the next game on the console? Especially when a sales growth is guaranteed. It is too, because all the things working against the 2012 version are gone. There is a larger install base of Wii U owners at the time of the next game's release and it would get released at the same time as the other versions. But, because you're skipping out, if you decide later to bring the series back the sales are going to dwindle. We're at the start of a new generation: No better time then now to start to build followings.
Ubisoft is getting it right in this regard. Did Assassin's Creed III sell well on the Wii U? Hardly. 130,000 units is not exactly anything to write home about. Madden 2013 obviously did a lot worse - only 30,000 units. Neither number is good, but still Ubisoft announced that Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag would be arriving to the Wii U. In addition, they surprised many when they said the all new big budget IP, Watch_Dogs, would also be coming to the Wii U. Heck even ZombiU only moved 380,000 copies. Why did they do this despite low sales?
It's simple: Because that's how you can build a base for future success. Assassin's Creed IV has a high chance of selling better than Assassin's Creed III did because overall, Wii U owners were satisfied with the product. So, likely, those owners are going to buy the next version - then you have the new Wii U owners since the last game came out to help boost it more, plus positive word of mouth gamers who are looking to maybe move into the next generation of consoles - of which the Wii U is in, despite EA's remarks otherwise. This sort of loyalty with a quality product is often rewarded. The next AC game after Black Flag will probably sell even better.
Similarly, I would venture to bet a second ZombiU title could sell even more, and so forth. So, how do you begin fixing the fence? Dedication to consistently releasing your products on a platform every year during a console transition.
Step 2: Put Origin on the Wii U, With a Caveat
Nintendo allowed U Play, the system that use to be DRM for Ubisoft games, be on the Wii U. However, on the Wii U it serves as an achievement hub, points hub, and obviously a little bit of in game action. It's also optional, doesn't come installed, and isn't required to experience DLC, Online play, or any single player stuff. EA can put Origin on the Wii U, but it needs to compromise. Their games need to remain in the Wii U eShop, but you could still use Origin for achievements, for unlockables, gamer scores, and all that stuff that Nintendo's system doesn't do.
If you are expecting to get full retail control digitally, you can forget it. Though, it is notable Nintendo lets publishers set the prices in the eShop, meaning steam like sales are totally possible, but it's on the publishers to figure it out. There needs to be some give and take. Nintendo may need to allow EA games to be sold in Origin and in the eShop as an example, but EA has to be willing to understand that Nintendo wants their own platform. They are not going to give up that basic right of control.
Step 3: Nintendo Should Offer To Publish A Few Games
EA may be having issues financially, but they are losing far more money than Nintendo. Nintendo is on track to turn a profit after two years of losses, while EA still is searching for how to best make money again (such as micro-transactions, etc). What Nintendo should do is offer publishing to Nintendo versions of some of their key games. This would come with a say, 50/50 share of the costs for the game to be moved to their platform. This then becomes enticing for EA because Nintendo doesn't own the product, but paid for it to be on their platform, which could only give EA more revenue with minimal financial risk.
This is certainly something that would need a lot of fleshing out business wise, but if Nintendo offers a hand and some cash, I'm not sure EA is in position to say no.
Step 4: Give Gamers What They Want
This step could really be a general statement for EA on the whole, but the truth is that if your going to give Wii U owners games, they need to be the best version of the game possible. It can't be a dated experience with a new name (ala Madden 2013, Fifa, etc). It needs to be the same quality everyone else gets. If your going to give us Dead Space, it can't be an off shoot that is nothing like the original series. It needs to be the full board game.
Cut out micro-transactions, and work towards proper DLC with DRM free single player. I know this goes way beyond Nintendo and EA's relationship, but simple moves like this will help ensure a healthy environment on the Wii U.
Step 5: Hug it the Hell Out
Nintendo seems to stepping off their high horse. They are letting indie developers release games from their parent's basement. They are letting everyone set their own prices, run as many sales as they want, release DLC, and whatever else. Truly, Nintendo is open for everything. Even if it has to go through a small Nintendo approval system, that's pretty standard. Someone has to keep track of everything going on. Nintendo seems more open now than they ever have been.
EA, on the other hand, seems more close minded. They have this distinct view of what needs to happen for success without any proven statistics that show success in that fashion. They ignore blatant consistently running issues in how they make choices and instead focus in on whatever they think will work. In this regard, Reggie simply needs to just take a trip over to EA, great their new CEO, and Hug it out like real men. For all the bad taste in the past and poor moves on both sides (Nintendo is at fault too, remember), just give each other big bear bugs and let bygones be bygones. This is a new tomorrow and more than anything: Everyone needs to be willing to work together if they want to survive.