I apologize for the lack of updates. Work related training threw my schedule out of whack and it’s been a bear trying to get it straightened out.
In the meantime, Nintendo recently had a press conference with their investors giving them a bit of a sneak peak of what to expect coming up soon at E3. Amoung the stats and shifting focus, they spoke of a new idea, NFP. NFP would feature Nintendo figures that could be used with the Wii U’s built in RF scanner to play not just a game with them, but multiple games. Much like Skylanders or Disney Infinity, players could use these figures to save and load data to the game. Unlike those, they suggested it would work differently for multiple titles, and possibly multiple platforms. In conjunction with this, the 3DS will be getting an accessory that would work as an RF scanner as well, and Nintendo will reveal an exclusive game that will use this technology at E3.
With technology like this, it makes sense that Nintendo would want to use this with as many properties as possible, so the most obvious conclusion is, they should add this to Smash Brothers. However, there are plenty of questions that come with that.
Why would this be related to Smash?
First, the Smash Brothers Direct mentioned that customizable character moveset options would be transferable between the 3DS and WiiU versions, but did not specify what that process entailed. Using the RF scanning technology already built into the WiiU (the same technology the Skylanders use), one could easily store that data to be used by the same game, even one on a different platform.
Second, it fits thematically to the Smash Brothers universe. Both Smash Brothers Melee and Smash Brothers Brawl used the concept of trophies coming to life and battling each other. This is incredibly similar to the concept Skylanders and Disney Infinity have been using, only they have been using actual figurines. Such a move doesn’t really feel unnatural to the Smash Brothers series; in fact, it feels more like the Smash Brothers’ theme fully realized.
Thirdly, this would also explain some of the changes being made to the game — in particular the removal of ‘transformations’ and making them separate characters. For instance, Shiek in Melee and Brawl had her own set of trophies in-game. These were separate from Zelda’s trophies, despite the two being technically the same character. In this scenario, it would be more resource efficient and less confusing to the consumer for Shiek to have her own figurine and not share one with Zelda. Thusly, these changes were made out of necessity of the platform.
Would this actually work for Nintendo / Smash Brothers?
Nintendo holds some of the most well-known and beloved franchises in the gaming world. A game that caters to gamers nostalgia and their wanton need to collect memorabilia of such seems like a pretty easy win. What’s more, Nintendo has been trying to explore new revenue paths, and something like this could be just what they need from a financial stand point.
As for working with Smash, it depends how much they emphasize the figures. If it’s just to store custom data for a few modes, it would work fine. I think many would be upset if if went as far as not being able to play the characters without the figurines — essentially forcing players to purchase characters separately or in bundles.
Much depends on how they sell them, too — in blind packs or see-through packaging. Blind packs will probably net Nintendo more money, but frustrate their fanbase more. That being said though, I think some characters would not sell very well in see-through packs (Wii Fit Trainer, Animal Crossing Villager, Olimar, etc). See-through packs could offer two, three, or four figure bundles however to make up for this.
What would this mean for the game?
To start with, we should expect a fairly conservative roster in this case. For reference, I looked up the first Skylander’s series, and not counting rare and legendary versions of characters, there were about 33 figures in the first run. Super Smash Brothers Brawl had 39 characters counting transformations. In this case, I would suspect that the new games would feature, at best, the same number as Brawl, but more likely less. There are currently 30 characters confirmed to appear in Smash for 3DS/WiiU, so there may not be too many left to reveal if this is true.
Aside from that, the only way this aspect would significantly impact the game is if they wall off content with the purchase of these figures. Restricting players from playing large swaths of the cast because they don’t have an entire collection would likely turn more players off than get them invested. For this reason, I think Nintendo would be wary of locking away content this way.
What does it mean for the Smash community?
This is a little easier to predict — I anticipate the community will be very divided on this subject. More casual fans of the series may go either way on the issue depending on how it is handled. Competitive fans will either be lukewarm to the idea or not like it at all. However, I think there will be a new third sect that would grow out of this who will get a thrill out of the idea of collecting these figures.
If allowed to do so, I think this could change the Smash Brothers community for the better though. Allowing people to take their figures they sought out to get their perfect custom setup installed on, and show it off to the world would be quite exhilarating. For those not interested in the custom setups, they could still play the characters as they were by default and showcase their skill. Those interested in adding to their rare collection of figures could meet more players who want to do the same.
If all this sounds familiar, it’s because there is already a Nintendo property that thrives on this: Pokemon!
While I realize this is all conjecture, I can see how Nintendo could use this to great effect in a Smash Brothers game. Much of the success of it would rely on Nintendo’s willingness to invest in the idea and the players surrounding it.
If I were a betting man, as I am prone to be, I would probably bet against this happening though. This seems like such an easy next step, that it likely isn’t going to be. I would expect this to be used in a Smash game much further down the line if the figurines idea goes well though.
We’ll have to see what happens at E3 though.