Back From the Grave: How Nintendo could utilize ‘Fatal Frame’

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Fatal Frame Wii U/Project Zero
Koei Tecmo
Koei Tecmo/Nintendo
Wii U

The tides are finally turning for the Wii U with the roaring engines of Mario Kart 8, igniting console sales which reached 510,000 units from April to the end of June.  Total Wii U unit sales have now reached 6.68 million while software sales have reached 36.67 million, supported by Mario Kart 8‘s 2.82 million unit sales in a month’s time, according to Nintendo’s first quarter earning’s release.  That’s a lot of numbers to say that things are looking up for Nintendo.

With the support of a very successful E3, a promising line up of games due out before the end of the year including Hyrule WarriorsBayonetta 2Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and Super Smash Bros., as well as the continued release of indie and digital titles. Coupled with the continued success of the 3DS and its upcoming lineup (including Smash Bros. and Pokemon), Nintendo stands to revive its sales and perhaps some of its credibility as a major player in the gaming industry.  Throw in some third party titles to support sales, and you have a winning formula to maintain this ascent.

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While the likes of Disney Infinity 2.0LEGO Batman 3, and Sonic Boom are liable to be hot third party sellers on Nintendo’s latest home console, I doubt they will equate console sales, especially from those who remain skeptical of the Wii U.  Where Nintendo succeeds is in its first party titles, which are often enjoyed by a broad audience, as Mario Kart 8 is and Super Smash Bros. are sure to be.  Where the company still struggles is in how they are perceived by the so called “hardcore” crowd in the gaming community.  Too often Nintendo is written off as kiddie stuff, and third party support of this caliber isn’t likely to help that image.  What Nintendo needs to succeed in the global region with the most skeptics, the U.S., is unique third party titles with mature content that appeal to this “core” category of gamers.

Enter Fatal Frame Wii U.  About a month ago developer Koei Tecmo and Nintendo took to popular Japanese video site Niconico to reveal footage from the long awaited fifth installment in the Fatal Frame series (Zero in Japan, and Project Zero in Europe), slated for release in Japan much sooner than many anticipated on September 27.  For those unfamiliar with the series, Fatal Frame is an exceedingly well received survival horror franchise distinguished by its unique combat mechanic where players capture spirits with a camera in eerie haunted locales.  The original Fatal Frame first materialized in 2001 and titles have appeared on a wealth of consoles since, including the PS2 and Xbox, until, with the release of the fourth title, Nintendo gained sole publishing rights.  Since then, the second title has been rereleased on the Wii with several added features and a spin-off has appeared on the 3DS in the form of Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir.

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The upcoming entry is the perfect opportunity for Nintendo to not only seize some sales and perhaps some future third party support, but to offer another exclusive title that appeals to a different audience.  Admittedly, this plan isn’t without snags.  Tragically, the fourth installment of the franchise, as well as the remake of the second, wasn’t offered in the U.S., leaving a narrative hole.  Secondly, the first three titles are now a generation old, which might prove ostracizing to newcomers of the series and those without the means to play these titles (though, as a side note, they are available for download via the Playstation Network).  The seemingly easy solution: release an HD remake of the first four games.  Think about it.  As the new sole publisher of the franchise, it only makes sense that all games be available on a Nintendo console.  This would allow all players to familiarize themselves with the series, as well as perhaps pacify those who felt slighted by the lack of a Stateside release for the fourth game and the remake of the second.  Finally, this would not only boost software sales in general, but likely bolster sales and generate excitement for the new entry.

Obviously, sales are important to Nintendo’s success.  However, now is a very vital time in the Wii U’s lifespan.  It is gaining footing in terms of reputation, sales, and value with the expansion of its library and it would be a shame to see it slip up when things are finally improving.  A steady flow of games and sales will only help.  The Western localization of Fatal Frame Wii U could be an exceptional asset in terms of monetary gain as well as demonstrating the appeal of the Wii U to a wider audience.  With more success will come more support; consequently, Nintendo has nothing to lose and everything to gain by not only releasing more titles, but by targeting new audiences, such as survival horror fans.  If I were NOA (Nintendo of America), the choice would seem easy.  Hopefully, with time we will hear release dates for Fatal Frame Wii U for both North America and Europe.  Perhaps we’ll even see the previous entries revived.  Until then, here’s to hoping Nintendo ceases to look like a ghost of itself and more like the gaming colossus it used to be.

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