Minecraft, one of the most popular games in the world, is finally coming to Nintendo five years after its first official release.
Mojang’s block-based build ‘em up has already been ported to Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Vita and mobile, but until now it’s never made its way to Nintendo consoles.
That all changes later this month, as according to a press release I got from Nintendo earlier today Minecraft: Wii U Edition is headed for the eShop on 17 December.
But how should you feel about this? Are you an automaton, a blank sheet crying out for someone to fill your head with thoughts to think and opinions to opine?
If so, your saviour is here, because I’m about to tell you both the positive and negative viewpoints I have regarding this news.
Rumours had been swirling over the weekend that Nintendo was going to make a big announcement today. When it broke that Minecraft was coming to Wii U, Twitter was full of people saying “really? THAT was your big announcement?”
Putting aside the fact that Nintendo had never even said it was making an announcement in the first place, yes. The news that one of the most massively successful gaming phenomenons of all time is on a Nintendo console is indeed a big announcement.
I’ll be honest: I’m not a Minecraft fan. I couldn’t care less about it. I’ve never even played it, in fact. But I’d be a maniac if I didn’t think a console would benefit from having it in its library.
One of the big criticisms about the Wii U is that the big so-called multi-platform games released by third-party publishers almost always ignore it. FIFA, Fallout, Battlefield, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed – all these series have either remained Nintendo-free throughout or, at the very least, have seen their latest instalments skip the Wii U.
Say all you like about it being old news, but it’s still an important string to add to the Wii U’s bow, especially for parents looking to buy a console for their kid. “I was thinking of getting wee Stevie a Wii U because it’s got Mario Kart on it, but his pals keep talking about Minecraft so I might have to get him an Xbox instead.”
The control system could be great
I should stress at this point that all I know about Minecraft: Wii U Edition is that it exists and is out on 17 December. I have no idea how the port is going to look, and I don’t know how it’ll use the Wii U controls.
What I do know, though, is that if it’s done properly it could be one of the best versions of the game in terms of interface. Using the GamePad’s screen as a tool menu is a no-brainer: at the very least you’d hope this is an option.
On top of that, it would be interesting to see if there was a gyro-based aiming system similar to that of Splatoon. Placing blocks this way could be far more accurate than using the dual-stick system on an Xbox or PlayStation, potentially bringing it as close to a mouse-and-keyboard set-up as you can get on a console.
Even better, if it gives us the option to play with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, that could be a bit of a secret weapon. And that’s before you take potential Miiverse integration into account.
It’ll bring together families
Look, just humour me for a minute here, because I’m going to give you the same patter you always get when people talk about the Wii U’s advantages.
It’s common knowledge that most Wii U games offer off-TV play, letting you switch from the TV to the GamePad screen if someone else wants to watch the telly.
Nintendo has confirmed in its press release that Minecraft: Wii U Edition will also offer this option. This means wee Stevie can continue making his recreation of Pearl Harbour on the GamePad when his parents boot him off the TV because Songs Of Praise is on (they watch it religiously, you see. Ahem).
Roll your eyes if you must but this is a feature I have genuinely made use of in the past with the likes of Smash Bros, and if it means families can stay together in each other’s company in the living room instead of the kids having to head to their bedroom to keep playing, that can only be a good thing.
Possible Nintendo tie-ins
At launch, Minecraft: Wii U Edition will come with six add-on content packs included, as well as another 16 optional DLC packs you’ll need to pay for.
These 16 packs are ones that were previously released on other systems – The Simpsons, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Mass Effect and the like – and even includes stuff like the Skyrim Pack, which is odd considering it was never released on Wii U either.
There’s one glaring omission there, and that’s Nintendo-related stuff. At launch there won’t be a single Mario skin or Hyrule texture to be found.
Worry ye not though, because as Nintendo states in its press release: “Nintendo and Mojang are also collaborating on new content for Nintendo fans to be released at a future date. More details about this content will be released at a later time.”
Given how in-depth the previous Skin Packs have been, this could be a brilliant addition that will give the Wii U version of Minecraft a crucial edge over the other console versions (if not the PC original).
And you never know, they may even include amiibo support too. In fact, let’s face it: if Nintendo has anything to do with it, they definitely will.
It’s a bit too late
As brilliant as the news is, it’s hard to ignore the fact that most people who want Minecraft will have it by now.
Granted, there will be die-hard Nintendo fans who have never owned another company’s system and for them this will be their first ever chance to get involved.
There will also be some who’ll have it on another system but be happy to buy it again if the Wii U version offers something different.
For the most part, though, these people will be in the minority and most will fall into the ‘I already have it and don’t feel the need to buy it again’ category.
It’s also too late in another sense: had this Wii U version been released just a month or two ago Nintendo would have had a dream bundle ready for Christmas. You’d imagine a Wii U / Mario Kart 8 / Minecraft package would have flown off the shelves.
How well will it run?
Given the modest power of Nintendo’s console you can probably expect Minecraft: Wii U Edition to run at a similar level to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game (if not slightly better).
For the most part this shouldn’t be an issue: the game’s graphics are simplistic enough that you should still be able to create massive worlds before it starts struggling to keep up.
Despite this, there’ll still be no denying that the Wii U version of Minecraft is the weakest on the current-gen systems.
At least, until Mojang decide to release an Ouya version.
The DLC’s still paid
Sometimes when a console gets a game late it’s usually rewarded with a Game Of The Year edition of some sort, with all the previously released DLC included as standard.
This isn’t the case with Minecraft: Wii U Edition. In fairness, the main game will include six DLC packs that were previously paid on other systems: Battle & Beasts Skin Pack 1 & 2, Natural Texture Pack, City Texture Pack, Fantasy Texture Pack and Festive Mash-Up Pack.
That still leaves 16 packs you’ll need to pay for, though, including all the cool ones people actually care about. Want the Star Wars pack? Pay up. Bit of Doctor Who? Show me the greenbacks.
In a sense, this isn’t a massive deal, and anyone who takes this beyond the “ah, that’s disappointing” level of outrage will be in real danger of sounding entitled. But it would have been nice to include them as standard, is all I’m saying.
More YouTube Minecraft videos
Because let’s face it, there are enough pricks doing them as it is.
It’s disgusting you have to pay for skins at all. A big part of PC Minecraft is designing your own skins. Would it kill 4J to include a Skin Editor mode akin to the Flash game “Skincraft”?