The other day I was thinking about what the Wii-U launch lineup might look like so I began searching for everything I could find. As I began to compile all the games that have been confirmed by developers as well as titles heavily alluded to by developers and the gaming press, I had to stop myself and make sure I wasn't being overly optimistic. In my opinion, this lineup was looking really good. Then I stopped dreaming for a moment and said "no way, console launches are always mediocre." But then, it was as if a bearded angel from Minnesota spoke to me in Gamer Informer #229 and told me that I had a good reason to be optimistic.

Buried in the GI magazine section: "GI Staff And Reader Interests, Dislikes, And Favorite Games: Issue #229,"  Executive Editor of GI, Mr. Andrew Reiner's interests included the Wii-U, because: 

"Getting A Good Read From Third Parties, E3 Reveals Should Be Interesting"

That statement followed an earlier declaration from another highly placed gaming journalist. Shane Shatterfield, Editor-in-Chief of Gametrailers said : 

“One thing that I can say without getting in any trouble is that the launch line-up for the Wii U is going to surprise people. It’s going to be pretty damn good.”  

As I started to write this blog, I realized that graphics really help drive a point home. So, I decided to borrow a mock up of Wii-U box art I found on the web and insert some 3rd party box art to visually show my friends in the GI community how amazing this launch up could be if one were to look at the boxes all lined-up side by side on a store shelf. Some I made on my own so be kind.

The Confirmed (and the all buts...)

1. Aliens Colonial Marines - Confirmed at E3 2011 and promoted by Gearbox as "the best looking version" of the multiplatform game. The motion sensing radar from the movie is a perfect fit for the Wii-U controller and if this mechanic is executed right, the Wii-U could boast the not only the best looking version of Aliens Colonial Marines, but also the most immersive gameplay experience.

2. Assassins Creed III - Getting the next chapter of one of the most popular franchises of this generation is obviously a big win for the Wii-U and I will be getting this version upon release. The touchscreen could sport a hotbar, making switching between weapons, using inventory items, and looking at a map almost seamless. The only worry I have is that it Ubisoft could overdo it and make the gameplay more clunky than it needs to be for the sake of shoe-horning in some of the controllers other bells and whistles.

3. Batman Arkham City - One of the best games ever will be making an appearance on the system. I've already played through it twice on my 360, so I skipping this one, as will probably most people. Regardless, the controllers built in cameras could make detective vision an interesting experience for new comers.

4. Call of Duty: Black-Ops 2 -  Not officially confirmed, but it might as well be. Last week a representative of Activision heavily alluded to a Wii-U version. It shouldn't surprise anyone as both Black-Ops and Modern Warfare 3 made it to the Wii, albeit in a grizzly pixelated form. The new Over Watch mode would be a natural fit for the controller as would many other of COD's legacy game mechanics such as guided missiles and on-rails shooting sequences.

5. The Darkness 2 - Confirmed long ago and also released long ago on PS3/360/PC, so I don't see many flocking to pick this one up unless the Wii-U's version offers a significantly different experience that would draw in gamers who haven't already picked it up.

6. Darksiders 2 - Confirmed at last year's E3. The first Darksiders was basically Zelda on steroids and I adored it. The sequel is touted to offer more RPG elements such as extensive skill trees and weapon crafting as well as "tons" more loot. My experience from Darksiders one leads me to believe that the Wii-U version will be worth waiting for while the 360 version sits on the store shelf.

7. DiRT - Yet another one confirmed last year. The DiRT series has a long history as one of the best reviewed racers on the market. The Wii-U version will likely be DiRT 3: Complete Edition not DiRT: Showdown being released later this month. Beyond moving HUD items to the touchscreen I don't know what Codemasters has planned for their racer on Nintendo's new system.

8. FIFA 13 - The world's most popular sports game hasn't been officially confirmed but EA has hinted that it will be bringing it to the system and it won't surprise anyone when it is confirmed as the series has made a stop even on the Wii for the past few years.

9. Ghost Recon Online - Ubisoft had a rough build of the game at last years E3 and offered some enticing gameplay mechanics for shooters with many gadgets. To me, what is most interesting about Ghost Recon Online is that its PC counterpart is a Free to Play title and last week Ubisoft suggested that the Wii-U installment may also use this business model. A F2P Ghost Recon could be a big move by big N, suggesting that it is indeed offering a "free and open" online space for developers where microtransactions and patching are a sinch instead of a terrible slog of approval processes that have developers hating the online environments of 360 and PS3. A console that embraces free to play gaming would be a great way for Nintendo to lower the cost of entry for casual gamers and core gamers alike. Ghost Recon could be the first step in Nintendo offering a console platform with truly unique online offerings in that respect.

10. Killer Freaks From Outer Space - Nintendo seemingly has no greater 3rd party partner than Ubisoft and the proof is the exclusive FPS that will be ready at launch. The demo I saw at an E3 developers showcase showed some really interesting gameplay. The most interesting was a combination tower defense/FPS experience where 2 players battled against each other. One player, with the touchscreen controller, had an overhead view of the map and could spawn enemies anywhere on the map with a touch of the screen while the other player used a normal dual analog controller to battle against his opponents spawn in a traditional FPS mode. It was brimming with potential fun but I will wait for reviews to see if Killer Freaks turns out.

11. LEGO City Stories - Confirmed at last years E3. While Nintendo has said the Wii-U will put "core" gamers first, LEGO City Stories suggests it still wants the kids on its system. In saying that, an HD, open world LEGO game could be one of those that both the kids and adults can enjoy. Being an exclusive title will allow TellTale Games to fully embrace their platform and the results could be an under-the-radar hit for 2012.

12. Madden 13 - All but confirmed by EA, Football has some inherent gameplay that would be a great fit for a personal screen and local, two player gaming. Taking the play calling off the screen sounds perfect. The problem is that a few things with the Wii-U tech must fall into place first, the most important being support for two touchscreen controllers. If that isn't brought to the table, I fear Madden on the Wii-U won't offer much different that its 360/PS3 counterparts beyond cleaning up the screen a bit.

13. Need for Speed (Hot Pursuit 2?) - A Need for Speed game of some sort was confirmed for the Wii-U last year and the series itself has become an annual multiplatform release. There have been rumors that a sequel to 2010's critical success, NFS: Hot Pursuit, was in the works but so far there isn't much in the rumor mill.

14. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge - Confirmed at last years E3 to much applause. Released in March for 360/PS3 to much dismay. If you feel like seeing a once great series reduced to an incomprehensible mess, by all means pick up this atrocity which will doubtlessly be one of the worst Wii-U launch games, with a metacritic score in the same neighborhood as the systems shovelware. 

15. Pikmin 3 - This could be the killer app that every console launch needs but rarely gets. The Wii-U controller seems like it was designed for a Pikmin. If the accessible yet challenging gameplay and adorable presentation of previous Pikmin games are there in glorious 1080p, Nintendo could have a system seller that appeals to both core gamers and the valuable casual crowd. Miyamoto and co having been working on this game for over 5 years so my expectations couldn't be higher.

16. The Sims - I will confess that I have little experience with the Sims. I don't see this title as a real system seller but hopefully it will sell enough copies to justify its inclusion among the Wii-U launch titles.

17. Super Mario Bros. 4 Mii - After the 3DS launch debacle, Nintendo will likely never make the mistake of launching system without the help of Mario. They recently confirmed that their E3 tech demo, Super Mario Bros Mii, was being developed into a fully fledged Mario game for the Wii-U. Nintendo also registered a trademark for Super Mario Bros. 4, a few weeks ago. The Super Mario Bros Mii tech demo heavily emphasized multiplayer gameplay combined with the rich tradition of Mario platforming we all love and this combination could produce something really special, even for a Mario platformer. People often ask me if I get tired of play Mario games. My answer is always the same: Nope.

18. Tekken - When I heard that Namco planned on a Tekken release for the Wii-U, the first thought was how would they use the controller to enhance a fighting game? What they presented at E3 didn't blow my hair back. I am sure Tekken will be a well designed fighting game but beyond that I don't see how the Wii-U tech can expand upon the gameplay but I suppose that is the reason I only play and write about video games instead of designing them.

19, 20, 21:  Wii-U Fit, Wii-U Play, Wii-U Sports: Say what you will about these casual wares. Nintendo's response would probably be this: Wii Fit  and Wii Fit Plus combined sold over 40 million units globally along with peripheral hardware at an extra cost. Wii Play sold approximately 27 million units globally. Wii Sports Resort sold almost 30 million units globally. More people played Wii Sports than any other console game, ever (yes even more than any COD title). I suppose Nintendo could skip developing these titles for its new system to show the "core" gamers that they are catering to them first. They could also set giant piles of money on fire, but Iwata doesn't resemble the Joker from the Dark Knight, at least in my opinion. Look at it this way. Nintendo making lots of money on casual games means more money being poured in HD Zelda, HD Metroid, HD Donkey Kong, HD Kart, HD Kirby, etc..etc..etc.. and hopefully some new IP (please.) 

Playing for both teams

These games have already been confirmed as multiplatform releases for this year including a Wii release. I would find it odd that a developer would bother creating a Wii version of the game while skipping a Wii-U port when HD assets being used for 360/PS3 are already developed. While I don't believe all these games will make it to the Wii-U, I think the majority will.

22. Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two - Amazingly, the Wii is the lead platform for Epic Mickey 2. The original garnered mixed reviews but was a success in terms of sales. The developers, like almost all other multiplatform developers suspected of making Wii-U ports, have not denied the existence of a Wii-U version, only responding with the vagueness and quickly changing the subject.

23. NBA2K13 - The king of the court has been on the Wii for the past few years. As I said before, I find it bizarre that they would release a down-scaled  Wii version and not use the HD assets from the 360 to bring their full vision to the Wii-U. Sports games typically do pretty well on Wii so I would expect that would continue on the Wii-U.

24. Pro-Evolution Soccer 2013 - The only rival to EA's dominance in the soccer arena has its fans and those fans are enough to justify the series landing on the Wii-U, as it has on the 3DS and the Wii for the past few years.

25. The Amazing Spiderman - Both previous Spiderman games made it to the Wii and the third in the series is no different. Licensed games based on big main stream franchises like Spiderman typically perform well on Nintendo's platforms so it would be surprising if a huge publisher like Activision didn't at the very least port over the 360 version to the Wii-U.

26. Skylanders Giants - Skylanders Spyro Adventure was a bit of a phenomena due to its unique use of toys interacting with a videogame. At the height of the holiday season, many retailers were reporting shortages of Skylanders figures and needless to say Activision made a mint, hence the sequel. So far, Giants is only confirmed for the Wii (not even 360/PS3) but it would surprise me if this game didn't come to the Wii-U and take advantage of the controller's Near Field Communication tech which would replace the need for a portal to place the figures on. The fit is just too good to pass up.

27. WWE 13 - THQ is another publisher (as long as they still exist) that is seemingly in full support of Nintendo platforms. Darksiders and Metro Last Light are already confirmed for the Wii-U and every WWE title of the past several years has come to Nintendo's platforms and again, it would only require Yukes to port it over from the 360. They might just stick to the Wii with this one, but I doubt it, especially considering the game will release right around the Wii-U launch.

Some Big Surprises from Big N

28. Eternal Darkness sequel - The original, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, was a critically acclaimed survival horror game exclusively on the Game Cube that, while not a total commercial success, gained a decent cult following. Silicon Knights head Denis Dyack has stated that his outfit were "returning to our roots" and in November 2011, Dyack stated that Silicon Knights wanted to focus on "one of their most requested titles for the next generation of consoles." This combined with the fact Nintendo has recently trademarked the title, makes rumors that another Eternal Darkness game will be on the way, all the more believable.

29. Pokemon - This would not surprise anyone actually, sorry for that. For those of you who don't know, the Wii-U controller features Near Field Communication technology which allows the touch screen to read objects placed near it or on it. Pokemon is a mega popular franchise the features literally dozens of characters and sells millions figures and playing cards. Nintendo saw the success of Skylanders and their figurines and portal system and probably had one collective corporate orgasm. It might not be ready for launch but I would bet my first, second, and third child that you will see a Pokemon game that uses NFC and requires parents to empty their wallets for Pokemon figures and curse Nintendo's name.

30. Star Fox - In a recent IGN poll, Star Fox was voted  the #1 readers choice for which Nintendo franchise they wanted most. The potential gameplay on the Wii-U for Star Fox could make for an amazing game, especially when the highly acclaimed developers of Donkey Kong Country Returns and the Metroid Prime series are on the case. It has been confirmed that Retro has been working on a Wii-U game for some time. Retro stated they are working on “a project everyone wants us to do.” Official Nintendo magazine did a profile on Retro a few months back and teased:

"While some suggest this new project is likely to be a return to the Metroid franchise, we’d love to see another Nintendo hero get the retro stamp of excellence. After all, having rolled out the barrels for Donkey Kong, perhaps it’s time Retro pulled off a barrel roll of a different kind.” 

With a little (surprising) help from my friends...

The Wii will forever be remembered by "core" gamers for its incredibly shallow 3rd party support. While the already confirmed 3rd party support is more robust than what the Wii garnered its entire life, I don't believe we've heard the last of what will be some surprising announcements at E3.

31. Battlfield Evolved - At last year's E3, the CEO of EA teased "imagine what Battlefield would be like on the Wii-U." Well a few months ago it was discovered that EA had notified retailers that it would be releasing a title called "Battlefield Evolved" for 2012. While it is by no means a lock that this is a Wii-U version of Battlefield 3, I think it is likely. The "Evolved" in the name would really fit in with a theme of potential gameplay enhancements offered in the Wii-U version. While I would expect the content of Evolved to be almost identical to Battlefield 3, I think the Wii-U controller could open possibilities for things like squad management and possibly different multiplayer game modes similar to tower defense/FPS combination found in Killer Freaks.

32. Hitman Absolution - I have no real evidence that this one will happen. The Hitman series did appear on the Game Cube and there have been rumors that Square Enix is going to make efforts to get its big games on the system. Other than that there are no juicy leads or corporate slip ups that would make one believe this would happen. The rumor mill points to a better than average chance but that doesn't mean much.  In my opinion, this is just one of those games that would be markedly improved with the touchscreen controller.

33. Mass Effect 3 - The monster hit of the first half of 2012 was overshadowed somewhat by its shabby ending and the subsequent ridiculous overreaction to said ending. Forgetting that for a moment, I am confident that this quality game will be on a the Wii-U due to the fact that EA’s official media extranet stated that Mass Effect 3 was developed for "Xbox, PS3, PC, plus “Next Gen” platforms." EA officially responded to this finding, commenting that "Next Gen" only meant PS3 and 360. If that were true one would have to ignore the redundancy of the extranet listing. Beyond that, nobody in the gaming industry refers to consoles launched in 2005/2006 as "Next Gen" in 2012, so I've confidently equated that response to "OOPS!" on EA's part. I've already played through it twice on the 360 so I won't be going after this one but the Wii-U controller could genuinely enhance this already amazing gaming experience for those  who passed on it in March.

34. Resident Evil 6 - Upon announcing an October 2nd release date, the creators of Resident Evil 6 said that their game "will not be available at this time on the Wii U." One can read that statement in many ways. One of those ways could be that RE6 isn't coming to Wii-U at all. Another could be that the Wii-U version won't be released on October 2nd, probably because the Wii-U won't be launched yet. I am going to look at all of the Resident Evil games that were released on the Wii and take into account Capcom's traditionally robust support for Nintendo platforms and be the optimist. While it obviously won't release along side the 360/PS3/PC versions, RE6 will probably be coming to the Wii-U somewhere down the line. If not at launch, probably sometime in first half of 2013.

The One to Rule Them All

I think E3 2012 will be one of the most important shows in the history of industry. One of godfathers of the console industry is going to put its best foot forward and try to show gamers why they should believe in Nintendo again in a climate where many are screeching that consoles are on death's door. They will show that the Wii-U's rumored 1 to1.5 GB of shared system RAM will keep the Wii-U relevant for years to come. They will hopefully show a robust and open online interface that supports all the things we are accustomed to on XBL and PSN and maybe more like support for Free to Play and MMO's. They will show a wide variety of 3rd Party Support resulting from what John Carmack described as "intelligent choices" on the Wii-U hardware design. I believe the cherry on top will be the announcement that the most anticipated game of the year will be heading to the Wii-U, hopefully at launch.

35. Grand Theft Auto V - Yes, I firmly believe that GTA V will be released this October. When a former Rockstar employees LinkedIn Profile and Resume features GTA V with an annotation for October 2012, that is the kind of honest mistake I take seriously when I am scrounging around the rumor mill. Several industry analyst have pointed to a Wii-U SKU for GTA V and while I tend to dismiss  "industry analysts" (these guys are investment advisors and never games journalists), when you start to hear the same thing repeated, it makes it pretty hard to dismiss. Getting GTA V on the system would send the message that Nintendo is out there lobbying 3rd parties and the most critically acclaimed developer of the last 12 years is on board. If I have to wait a month to play it I will because I think this game is made better with a touch screen interface to scan maps, plot way points, and switch weapons on with a touch of my finger tip. 

Back to Earth

I am a reasonable man. I know that I've listed 35 titles and that there is no chance that the Wii-U launch lineup will consist of that many games even after you add in half a dozen shovelware titles. I have indicated that at least some of these game will be released further down the line but a number of my predictions simply won't work out and some games I didn't even think of or find a single rumor about will be announced. That is what is fun about E3, especially when a new console is being dropped. What I can say is that when the Wii-U launches I can list half a dozen games I will certainly get with the system.

Pikmin 3, Super Mario Bros. 4, Darksiders 2, Assassins Creed 3, FIFA 13, and hopefully GTA V. If Star Fox, or whatever Retro is working on, is finished for launch you can count that one too. If the reviews come out strong for Aliens Colonial Marines, LEGO City Stories, and Killer Freaks, I would consider these games somewhere down the line as well.

I've been playing games on consoles since 1986 and I don't recall ever buying a system that had so many games that I wanted at launch. I suppose this one of Nintendo's advantages of coming into the middle of a hardware generation. Some factions of the hardcore crowd will dismiss Nintendo as a casual focused videogame company no matter what they do, but as a hardcore gamer myself, I reject that absolutist attitude, especially when this is the company that makes Zelda, Mario, and Metroid. When it comes down to it at E3, it will happen or it won't. Everything I am seeing, everything I am hearing from respected games journalists like Dr. Andrew Reiners beard, says that you should pay attention to Nintendo again.