Remember that whole dealie last year at E3 where the heads of EA and Nintendo were all happy about the Wii U and the opportunities it would offer for a partnership between the two of them? What’s that? You don’t? Not surprising, as n0t much seems to be coming out of that supposed partnership since the announcement. EA currently has three games slated to appear on Nintendo’s new system: ports of Mass Effect 3, FIFA 13 and Madden NFL 13. Exciting stuff.
What were the specifics of the Nintendo-EA partnership anyway? Well, details are scarce, unless you’re in the habit of taking the word of random anonymous internet strangers at face value that is. If you’re into that kind of thing, there’s a whole inside scoop on their dealings waiting for you over there.
To summarize, during the development of the Wii U Nintendo started investigating ways to make their online services a little less terrible (I wrote a whole rant about why they’re terrible if you care to take a look). They started looking around for counseling from various developers and, noticing that EA’s games were known for fairly stable netcode, turned to them for advice. EA went above and beyond, sitting down with them on multiple occasions to discuss the inner workings of netcode, username account systems, social networking and so on. In return, Nintendo gave them access to Wii U dev kits before anyone else. Many developers that work under EA supposedly showed interest in developing for Wii U, Bioware in particular, who wanted to port the Mass Effect Trilogy and Dragon Age 3 to the system.
Eventually Nintendo came back to EA to show them the results of their counseling, and EA offered to help them go even further. Smartphone/tablet functionality, communities, Facebook and Twitter interactions and more. “Better netcode and something that would truly rival X-Box Live and PSN.”
There was only one catch: EA wanted the entire Nintendo Network for Wii U to be run through Origin, using their interface and netcode. Yeah, that’s one hell of a catch.
After some brief consideration, Nintendo declined the offer, fearing quality control issues that could arise from putting their entire network in the hands of another company. Perhaps rightfully so, as Origin has fallen under a lot of fire since launch for such things as security issues, privacy violations, poor customer support, violation of users’ legal rights and unwarranted user bans. Were EA to have control of Nintendo’s network they would have been free to do such things as set prices however they chose or provide special treatment to their games and services over their competitors, with Nintendo having few options to stop them.
In response to Nintendo’s rejection of their offer, EA supposedly decided to halt support for the Wii U unless the games it already had planned for the console exceed expectations. Rather than giving Nintendo any preferential treatment in the future, they will instead “throw Wii U bones” by occasionally releasing some low budget ports on it.
A dubious story to say the least. While Nintendo taking steps to modernize their online networks and taking advice from other industry giants would be great news, EA’s demand of complete control of the network seems bold even for them. Having such total control over an entire console’s infrastructure would no doubt be huge for EA, but the idea that Nintendo would ever accept such a ludicrous deal given their history of wanting total control over their hardware is laughable, making me highly doubt that EA would ever even make such an offer. It seems to me that either EA wanted to take a shot at suckering a weakened Nintendo into accepting their offer, or perhaps the whole story is bogus. What do you think?