It wasn't exactly a crowded month, as Excitebots was the only Wii release from Nintendo in April, and there weren't any major third-party Wii games released either. This robust sequel to ExciteTruck (a game that sold quite well, being a Wii launch title) didn't even have to compete with one of Nintendo's GameCube remakes in terms of new releases.
We all know that Nintendo's catalog releases have been mega-blockbusters over many months and even years. "Evergreen" titles like Wii Fit and Mario Kart Wii deserve their success, and Nintendo is encouraging new Wii owners to pick up these games through continued marketing efforts. But as I ponder on the next episode of Radio Free Nintendo, could worthy new releases be suffering under the weight of these mega-hits?
As a relatively small company, Nintendo of America seems unable or unwilling to devote resources to all its games. It's no secret that the debut of Excitebots was, in game industry terms, a secret. Other than the standard press release, Nintendo offered no promotion at all for this game, despite fans and critics (including NWR) saying it's one of the best racing games on the system. Even Nintendo's own, insular promotion tools have so far been withheld for Excitebots. As of this writing, the official Nintendo home page has nary a mention of the game (see screenshot), while the website does push Penguin and Friends and DLC for Animal Crossing: City Folk. Excitebots hasn't exactly been showcased on the Nintendo Channel, either -- the lone trailer is currently on page 8 of 12, below videos for 2008's Super Smash Bros. Brawl and multiple spots for World of Goo, not to mention third-party tripe like Imagine Music Fest. Nintendo's other first-party game from April, Rhythm Heaven for DS, has an entire page of videos as well as a playable demo. While Excitebots has been on shelves less than a month, it's already disappearing from any official place where consumers might learn about it.
Not every game can get the star treatment, I realize that. Nintendo is clearly obsessed with Punch-Out right now, and that's fine. But Excitebots is worthy of more love than this, not only from the press (who have delivered) but from the game's own publisher and retail partners. It shouldn't be hard to sell this game. After all, it's basically Mario Kart with robots... and it even comes with the Wii Wheel (optional) that kids and grandparents seem to love so much. You could also present it to traditional gamers as an off-road Burnout, or to lapsed/nostalgic gamers as the modern sequel to Excitebike. But for now, most of these people don't even know the game exists.
We can only hope that when the game finally gets a release date in Europe, Australia, and Japan, Nintendo's branches in those regions will push it harder. It's not too late in America, either -- but if Nintendo doesn't step up efforts soon, this stellar arcade racer could fall into obscurity.