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— Nintendo will once again be relying on its iconic characters this holiday season as the video game company hopes to gain ground on competitors' PlayStation and XBox.

"Almost anyone can recognize us for our memorable characters. Nowhere else can you play a 'Mario' title or a 'Yoshi' title or a 'Legends of Zelda' title," said Gil Ruta, a Nintendo rep.

"The experiences you'll get playing on Nintendo platforms, you'll never be able to play anywhere else."

Ruta visited Dearborn last month during a cross-country tour in a tricked-out Airstream trailer showcasing Nintendo's current and up-and-coming holiday offerings, including "Super Smash Brothers" for Wii U.

The vastly popular Nintendo DS game has been redesigned and refreshed for the gaming console and will be released Nov. 21.

"We've been busting our butts to get it ready," said Ruta.

"Being a 'Smash Brothers' game, it's got a ton of content."

In one major upgrade, it is now possible to play with eight players at the same time instead of four.

The company will also get back into the toy business with Amiibo characters, little figurines that hold gaming data for players and can be synced to any Wii U system with a tap on the console.

The first 12 Amiibo characers, modeled after some of the company's most iconic figures like Mario, Peach, Donkey Kong and Luigi, are available Nov. 21, coinciding with the release of "Super Smash Brothers."

Another wave of character Amiibos will be released in December.

"We're expecting this first wave to disappear really quickly," said Ruta. "We're encouraging people to pre-order theirs or be the first in line."

Nintendo — like PlayStation, XBox and other entertainment companies — faces the challenge of creating compelling content, raising awareness of their content and convincing consumers that they need to buy it, says Liam Callahan, games industry analyst for NPD Group.

"Video games companies have the additional challenge of understanding what platforms consumers are using," said Callahan.

"For example, they need to understand if consumers are transitioning to the new eighth-generation consoles or how their use of mobile devices plays into other device use."

According to the Entertainment Software Association, the gaming industry accounted for $21 billion last year worldwide.

The move to gaming on mobile phones has provided a new avenue for video game companies, and Nintendo has gone back and forth on whether it will offer content for mobile devices.

Instead, it has focused on diversifying the Nintendo DS line of mobile gaming products and building an online community called Nintendo Direct.

In terms of holiday offerings, "Fantasy Life," a life-simulator game; "Pokemon Art Academy" for the 3DS; and "Bayonetta 2," a rare Rated Mature action slash-and-hack game for Wii U, came out Oct. 24.

Two "Sonic Boom" games from Sega will come out Nov. 11, for both the 3DS and the Wii U. A new game, "Captain Toad Treasure Tracker," will come out for Wii U on Dec. 5.

"NES Remix" packs come out for 3DS and Wii U on Dec. 5. Pokemon's latest games, "Alpha Sapphire" and "Omega Ruby," debut Nov. 21.

lrazzaq@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2127

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