Falling out of love… what happened to EA and Nintendo?

Electronic Arts hasn’t really been active on a Nintendo console for quite some time. After all, Wii only saw a tonne of cheaply made EA Sports games and a few scraps of fairly unique games such as Boom Blox and Dead Space: Extraction.

After E3 2011 things were about to change for EA and Nintendo thanks to Wii U and its capabilities allowing it to put it on par with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Finally, we’d see some REAL games published by EA on a Nintendo system, at least, that’s what some of us thought.

Now it looks like EA has decided to pass on Wii U completely. Not even Madden NFL 14 is being released on the system… why?

Near the end of Nintendo’s E3 2011 conference, the conference that revealed Wii U to the public for the first time, Electronic Arts chief executive officer, John Riccitiello, took stage to announce EA’s “unprecedented partnership” with Nintendo and Wii U.

Just watch the E3 2011 Nintendo press conference and you’ll see him appear around the 1 hour, 3 minutes and 48 second mark.

In the conference John Riccitiello says:

“Over the years I’ve made E3 appearances with several console partners, but never before with Nintendo. What brings us together today is a breakthrough in our relationship based on a stunning breakthrough in game technology. What Nintendo’s new console delivers speaks directly to the players of EA Sports and EA games. Nintendo’s new console will produce brilliant high-definition graphics and new gameplay opportunities. We look forward to seeing great EA content on this platform.

Imagine playing football with an innovative new controller that takes all of that data, all of that play calling off the big screen, leaving you with a sharper, more personal, more immersive HD experience. Imagine a shooter like Battlefield with jaw-dropping graphics and smooth character animations of the Frostbite engine, brought to you on a Nintendo system with that breakthrough controller. Now imagine those games with an open online functionality that allows you to download new content, find matches, compete on leaderboards and participate on a global community. And finally, imagine these EA games on a console with content, gameplay and community that can be extended to mobile, social networks as well as the web.

Over the past months, we’ve been telling our employees and consumers that EA is undergoing a transformation. We’re changing games from a thing that you buy to a place that you go. Nintendo’s next console is truly transformational as well, a better platform than we’ve ever been offered by Nintendo. Deeper online capability, and all of it driven by an unprecedented partnership between Nintendo and Electronic Arts. Thank you, we can’t wait to see EA games on this system.”

It is, of course, a speech written by the public relations folks over at EA that is specifically highlighting the things EA thinks is important about their games on Wii U. It mentions their support of other console manufacturers and Nintendo finally capturing their attention for the first time in a long time with their new console. It’s a system that is capable of high-definition graphics, with an interesting new controller and more importantly, it has a lot of great online functionality that seems to have impressed EA enough to have John Riccitiello show up and pledge the companies support behind the system.

While EA had a showing with Nintendo during E3 2011, E3 2012 was a totally different story altogether. Aside from a small clip of the Mass Effect 3 port in a trailer reel during Nintendo’s press conference for that year, there really wasn’t anything being said about any EA game on the system at all.

This seemed odd considering the “there’s more to come” attitude we were left with in 2011. The next year showed nothing and the launch of Wii U had FIFA 13, Madden NFL 13 and Mass Effect 3: Special Edition coming from EA. Awesome, three EA ports for launch, great right? Well yeah, ports are great, but Ubisoft came out with ZombiU, a totally original game for the system at launch along with their usual ports.

Most recently in an interview with John Riccitiello, he seemed to have had a change of heart about Wii U and headlines ensued with “EA CEO says Wii U isn’t next-gen” in the title.

What do we have to look forward to from EA on Wii U in the months to come? Looking around, the only thing I can find seems to be a port of Need for Speed: Most Wanted which is said to be released in March 2013. Then there’s the recent announcement that Madden NFL 14 will not make an appearance on Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.

Rumours are flying around that this is all happening because of a supposed feud between Nintendo and EA relating to a mysterious partnership that seemed to relate to online functionality on Wii U. Some people claim that this all may stem from some kind of dispute Nintendo had with EA involving EA’s Origin service.

Right now, things are pretty dry for Nintendo in its list of upcoming third-party titles for Wii U. It may just be that whatever games that may be coming for Wii U in the future are being kept secret until their big reveal during E3 2013.

Microsoft and Sony are about to unveil their new generation of consoles later this year and there’s no doubt that they will both end up being powerhouses that far exceed the capabilities of Wii U, creating yet another technological gap the likes of what we saw with Wii being overshadowed by the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Even with this technological gap, historically EA has still released games for Wii despite the ports being downscaled, cheaper versions of the games that were made for other platforms. With the loss of Madden NFL 14 and the lack of games on the horizon for Wii U it looks as if EA has abandoned Wii U altogether.

I guess the only thing left to do now is to wait for E3 2013 to see where all the third-party games go… probably not on Wii U.

  • Jeff Moeller

    This sentence at the end, “Deeper online capability, and all of it driven by an unprecedented partnership between Nintendo and Electronic Arts,” definitely leads me to believe it had to do with some disagreement between what each party wanted for its online system. Either EA wanted more control, or maybe Nintendo promised EA more than they were willing to deliver.