At last, we can finally get off Sakurai’s wild ride. As of February 4th, the final two pieces of downloadable content for Super Smash Brothers for Wii U and 3DS have been released to much fanfare. Following a widely publicised poll in which the community could decide who they wished to see duke it out with Nintendo’s titans of gaming (a poll which was repeated highjacked by websites such as 4chan Reddit with hilarious results) and one final Nintendo Direct, the two final characters added to this iteration of Smash are Corrin, the protagonist in the upcoming Fire Emblem Fates, and the wicked witch Bayonetta from, well, Bayonetta (with the series itself a recent addition to Nintendo’s lineup with Bayonetta 2, which graced the Wii U with its presence in 2014).
Nintendo (a company which has been infamously backwards historically in regards to their online policy) has really hit out of the park with supporting their flagship titles with regular (and pretty substantial) updates. Splatoon has been receiving tons of free updates since its release in May; allowing what was seen as a radical departure for Nintendo as Splatoon was both a new property and a multiplayer-focused shooter to foster and maintain a large and devoted fanbase. Smash has been adding a huge amount of fan favourites to the roster, such as Lucas from Mother 3, Mewtwo from Pokémon, Ryu from Capcom’s Street Fighter and Cloud Strife from Square Enix’s beloved Final Fantasy VII (an especially intriguing and surprising choice considering Final Fantasy VII’s status as a Playstation exclusive on consoles).
It seems that Nintendo has learned from its previous mistakes and has seemingly embraced the idea of downloadable content with both arms. Nintendo’s policy of free, frequent updates delivered in piecemeal and more substantial paid updates with real effort put into their creation is, in my opinion, putting a lot of other developers to shame. With the increasingly common trends of withholding important parts of the game (be it multiplayer maps or story-vital missions) being locked away as pre-order incentives or behind a paywall, even though the content is there on the disc being eschewed by Nintendo in order to deliver downloadable content which provides real value.
Nintendo’s policy of free, frequent updates delivered in piecemeal and more substantial paid updates with real effort put into their creation is, in my opinion, putting a lot of other developers to shame.
The doubled down focus on downloadable content also helps Nintendo in what is possibly one of the most difficult and precarious positions they’ve found themselves in. With the Wii U entering an early retirement after a strained and (initially) lacklustre life, and the 3DS soon to follow, Nintendo seems to be gearing up for the release of their next piece of hardware (currently only known as the NX and steeped in rumours). This natural winding down was coupled with the very sad and untimely passing of then CEO Satoru Iwata, afterwards followed by a very turbulent period of restructuring and mourning. This focus on downloadable content not only allows them to support their games in a period of transition but also gives them valuable breathing and thinking room; something at the minute they desperately need.