The Star Wars-ian timing is probably coincidental, but yes, the incredibly unlikely is about to become certifiably bankable: Minecraft is coming to the Nintendo Wii U eShop on Thursday, December 17 for $30.
I say unlikely because the word out of Minecraft-maker Mojang back in March 2013 was negatory on a Nintendo-fied iteration of the uber-popular block-builder. This was just after the game had been ported to Xbox 360 and Mojang was speculating about the possibility of PlayStation versions after Microsoft’s timed-exclusivity deal for the Xbox 360 ended.
But in an interview with iGamer (via Edge), the game’s lead designer Jens Bergensten said a Wii U version was “very unlikely.” At that point, Minecraft was still ramping up in both sales and social cachet, and the console versions–which would go on to dramatically surpass total PC version sales–were still sales unknowns.
Now that Minecraft has sold north of 70 million copies across virtually every platform on the planet, checking the Nintendo box seems like a no-brainer.
For all its sales troubles, the Wii U still commands an install base that’s roughly 11 million units strong. And mobile devices aside, it’s still considered the kid-friendliest of the devoted game systems. Putting Minecraft on Wii U in time for the holidays as an instantly downloadable purchase is a win-win decision, only upstaged by the question “Why didn’t they do it sooner?”
That’s to say nothing of the ostensible virtues of playing the game with the system’s hybrid Wii U GamePad (a traditional gamepad plus a 6.2-inch touchscreen). Nintendo confirms the game will support off-TV play, so you can keep playing on the Wii U GamePad if someone else needs to use the big screen. It’ll also support four-player split-screen (requires a high-definition TV), and up to eight players online. The port was handled by 4J Studios (in conjunction with Microsoft Studios), the same outfit that delivered the Xbox and PlayStation versions.
That $30 gets you the game plus the six most popular add-on packs (Battle & Beasts 1 & 2 Skin Packs, Natural Texture Pack, City Texture Pack, Fantasy Texture Pack and Festive Mash-up Pack). Nintendo will sell an additional 16 add-on packs at launch, including various Star Wars-themed ones. And Nintendo says it’s working with Mojang “on new content for Nintendo fans to be released at a future date.”
For Wii U? The forthcoming NX console? The Nintendo 3DS? All three? I have no idea, but it’s reassuring to see Mojang’s year-old owner, Microsoft, allowing the studio to make deals with rivals, to keep the franchise as ubiquitous as possible.