Is New Super Mario Bros. U a Wii U launch title or not?

Some people weren’t too pleased with Nintendo’s E3 2012 showing. Some people were downright angry. Whatever you say about Nintendo or its plans for the Wii U game console, you can’t deny that the company knows what people expect of it at this point. The saying since the GameCube released in 2001 has been that Nintendo needs to release a Super Mario Bros. game alongside new hardware. Forget the runaway success of the Nintendo DS and Wii! Mario needs to show up to the party or the machine is doomed. Nintendo made it a point at E3 2012 that New Super Mario Bros. U will make it in time for launch.

Or will it?

Nintendo PR manager Kit Ellis told IGN at the San Diego Comic-Con that the game may not be available day and date with the machine. After demoing the new platformer, Ellis said, “So that’s a look at New Super Mario Bros. U, coming out for Wii U not too long after launch.”

Troubling words. We followed up with Nintendo and a representative said, “There is no change to the launch timing that was communicated at E3 and previously.”

That’s all well and good, but Nintendo has a habit of letting games for new consoles slip into the “launch window.” Rather than being available on the same day, launch window games come out within a few months of a new machine. This happened with the Nintendo 3DS. Major first party games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D were labeled launch titles even though they came out months later. The most notorious offender was Kid Icarus: Uprising, a game initially pegged as a launch window title that was eventually released one year after the 3DS itself.

If New Super Mario Bros. U slips out of the Wii U’s day one release list, it may not irreparably damage Nintendo’s holiday season with the console, but it will crush the new machine’s chances in the press. Nintendoland has already been made a whipping post for illustrating Wii U’s weaknesses, the very opposite of a simple, charming title like Wii Sports, a game that single-handedly made the Wii’s launch a success.

Nintendo may not need the gaming press to like Wii U this fall, but it definitely needs that mainstream press. There needs to be a game that Today Show and Good Morning America viewers can look at on Wii U and think, “I need to get that for my family this Christmas.” Right now, the only game in Nintendo’s stable that fits that criteria is New Super Mario Bros. U. It cannot become a launch window game.

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