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The Next Thing From Nintendo Should Be….

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I don’t write much about Nintendo because I haven’t cared much in a long time.

That’s just me though, maybe you’re a big fan. God knows the Nintendo fans are still very passionate. They will defend any Nintendo console ten times as rabidly as Microsoft fans during the Red Ring of Death fiasco or Sony fans during the Playstation Store hacking scandal.

If you are a fan I can’t imagine that deep down in your soul you are as satisfied as you tell people. The ‘net is filled with doom and gloom articles for Wii U. I didn’t want this to be one of them by the way, I’d rather we accept a few things and move on.

First, the trouble Nintendo is having with Wii U is legitimate. This is not like when everyone hated on the PS3 and assumed it would fail. The Wii U is the successor to a unique piece of hardware that captured the imagination of non-gamers around the world with it’s motion controls. That was what made Wii a hit; the continuation of flagship franchises like Mario, Metroid and Zelda solidified the life long fan base into something a little more solid than it was on Gamecube.

Since you’re here I assumed you’ve read about the difficulties for Wii U so I’ll be brief in repeating them. Wii U was expected to sell nearly 9 million units by now. It has sold less than 4. Nintendo stock is falling and the honchos have admitted they may need to implement a new business model. Sounds like a good idea. Make no mistake, the Wii was so successful Nintendo can sustain this damage. Plus their portable market is doing great. The rocky 3DS start probably isn’t going to be something we can compare to the Wii U’s start though. Wii U has specific challenges.

The big first party games just come too slowly for one. Where is Metroid? Zelda? Star Fox? The time between new entries is forever in today’s development cycle. I’m against annualizing a franchise, but it isn’t as if the games Nintendo puts out are massive leaps in technology. They need all franchises firing on all cylinders. This won’t save Wii U, but it will keep it on a respirator. Which leads me to the fact that you all must accept: Wii U is not going to be a big success. That doesn’t mean it’s going to just die like my beloved Dreamcast. Nintendo doesn’t need to cut it off, in fact that would make them look worse than it would to pay the cost to limp along for 4-6 more years. Many will say they need to drop the price on Wii U, and that’s probably correct, but at this point they would probably lose more money than needed. It would be better to just have more software and hope it adds up over time.

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Wii U is going to be okay, but it won’t be a success. Cant we all accept that? Good. Now, what the heck should Nintendo do next?

To get that software moving and releasing at a faster clip I’d actually invest in some new talent both Japanese and western. Beef up the studios and work up a realistic business model. The good news is they don’t need to come up with some big online networks to compete with Microsoft and Sony, it just isn’t necessary. What they have works, they just need some common sense reforms.

Speaking of software, the adults who are thrilled to buy Nintendo products are usually old fans who have kids now. I grew up on NES, I don’t have kids but it’s kind of surreal to see my brother’s kids playing the same franchises I did 20 years ago. The best way to get those people is to appeal to their sense of nostalgia by resurrecting old franchises that excite the memory with possibilities. That’s where I’d put the new studio talent. Right now Sony’s internal studios and indie partnerships are making the most artistic and experimental gaming experiences available. Nintendo needs to get on the same cutting edge, but in that commercialized kid-gamer way they have always been good at.

I know a lot of folks go to the extreme and say that Nintendo should just, or partly, because a 3rd party developer. In my heart I want them to. I wish I could still play the big games from Nintendo without having to buy a console that I don’t want. However, it wouldn’t make much sense for Nintendo to make this move yet. For now their exclusives are all they have going for them. That is all that’s shifting consoles. Wii U tried to do something that no piece of hardware has ever been able to do in history: repeat the success of a gimmick. As I see it the answer is to find a new way to appeal to consumers.

Just trying any new gimmick won’t work, as the Wii U has proved. You typically can’t invent a capability and then force people to like it. Whatever market you wish to enter you had better make sure it’s something people are in the mood for. Wii happened to coincide with casual interest in gaming. It has been supplanted with mobile gaming because swiping a finger on a phone is easier than waving a wand at a TV. Consumers needed time to figure that out, but now that they have there’s no getting them back to a console for the same purpose.

I wish I had an answer to give fans, or Nintendo (maybe they would pay me!) but it’s a complicated problem how to debut another console after one fails. They’ve done it before though. To some degree the Wii brought the active arcade experience home. Maybe there’s more to mine there. Arcades are still dead after all. Perhaps a hardware hub with a set of sophisticated plug and play peripherals, each with a fully supported lifespan of top-grade software could capture the public’s imagination. The base console could have a standard (good this time) controller and work with the main set of games. Old fans could buy this for all their Mario and Zelda needs. There could be a wheel for everything from Mario Kart to the latest open world racing shooter party game. A camera could be sold for dance games and the like, perhaps with a dance pad. There could also be traditional wand controllers, a touch screen device, and guns. They would all have to be top grade and have regular software support though; normal peripherals tend to just be good for a couple games and then die an early death. The Wii Fit balance board was a step in the right direction for the exercise genre.

Or if that doesn’t market test well, perhaps they could center the entire console around mobile capabilities. Wii U fans do enjoy the remote play feature on the tablet but it’s quite limited. I’ve played Killzone: Shadow Fall off my PS4 from my Vita flawlessly and it’s just infinitely more impressive. Folks do enjoy their 3DS’ and 2DS’ though. Maybe a new console could act as a home docking station for those, with unique network capabilities from the home wifi network. Such a console could be strong enough to support exclusive home software from the flagship titles.

Nintendo is just off the generational curve. Having the Wii U support 3rd party “hardcore” games turned out to be a mistake. The idea was to appeal to that crowd, but with the worst version of every multiplatform game due to being technologically behind the competition it has all come to naught. The solution? This is my favorite option. :) Just go balls-out and dive back into the hardcore scene full force. Microsoft is practically already on the ropes with Xbox One. They keep hanging themselves with business practices that anger gamers and so far it’s starting to look like the PS4 version of everything will be better than the Xbox One version. Sony also has the first party games to keep the lead. Since the “all-in-one” functions of the Xbox One are going to have trouble being useful outside of the United States there may be room for Nintendo to take their spot years down the line when the Xbox One is retired.

This would entail making a fully up to date console that is backward compatible with as much Nintendo gear as possible. It could serve as both the kids and the adults console. Mario would look just as good as Grand Theft Auto 7 and they would share the same space. Wouldn’t a return to direct competition from Nintendo be damn exciting?

 I don’t have the real answers, I’m just a writer. As a fan who grew up on, and was driven away by Nintendo I just know that their next approach to gaming is either going to have to be fill a new societal itch or go toe to toe with the big dogs.

What do you think they should do after Wii U?

 

David D. Nelson
David D. Nelson is a polymath with a BA in English working as an independent writing and editing professional. He enjoys gaming, literature, and a good hat.

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7 Comments

  1. What Nintendo really needs to do is show off the actual Wii U console, and show that it is not a Wii. Look at all the ads for the system, they always show the gamepad, while the Wii U itself is just in the background looking like the Wii. There are still so many people that think that the Wii is an add-on to the original Wii, which is why it really isn’t selling that well.

  2. The moment the author said that we have to accept that it “WON’T be a success”, I couldn’t take the article seriously.
    The system still has PLENTY of room for sales recovery, and it’s already got some REALLY GOOD GAMES on it, for those open-minded enough to give them all a go.
    It’s only into its second year of life and has not yet gotten its best games, and on top of that, more people than not are waiting for the right games to release before investing.
    Smash, Mario Kart, Zelda U, Metroid U, and plenty of other games are on gamer’s minds that they feel the Wii U MUST have at least one of before they’ll invest.
    Ditching the pad, dropping the console entirely, slashing the price again, and all of those similar suggestions are just bad moves that Nintendo should ignore if they want to succeed.

    The controller is fine, btw.
    It’s got a comfortable grip and all of the buttons any core gamer needs, on top of being a better solution to off-TV play than the vita, due to not missing any triggers for actions, not being so expensive and being packed-in with the console, and having a much larger screen so your eyes don’t suffer so badly.
    The only thing the Vita has going for it is better distance play, which still suffers latency issues if it goes too far, from most reports.[and in a fast-paced action game, too much input delay is fatal to the experience]

    Concerning indies, if you really think that Nintendo isn’t currently building support to match Sony experience for experience, you haven’t taken a good hard look at recent news and the E-shop itself.
    They’re doing way better on the Indie front than people think they are, and they’ve already got first party locked down as the best in the industry.

    No, what Nintendo needs is the following:

    Better advertisement.
    More teams for making more games at once.[they’ve started on this with Retro and Monolith, thank God]

    Packing in pro controllers with all Wii U bundles, ALONGSIDE the game pad, to enable options for people who are pad-whiners and to enable local multiplayer right out of the box, to increase the value of the bundles.
    Making better use of their older IP’s.[where’s the sequel to Kid Icarus Uprising on the Wii U, Nintendo? Or at least an upgrade port…]
    Less secret-keeping. They’ve got games being hidden from us and games that we know are coming but know so little about that we can’t get excited.
    We need more details on both to increase the drive to buy them, meaning more Nintendo Directs, more often.
    More exclusives from smaller third party studios, since most of the bigger ones cannot do games well on the Wii U, or out-right refuse to try due to the install base being too small.

    It’s got room for improvement, sure, but it’s still VERY far away from being guaranteed to NEVER succeed.

    1. While I agree with your comment in some aspects, I do think the Wii U is going to have a very very hard upward struggle now that the next-gen consoles have releases. I mean, the people that played games like Donkey Kong, Mario etc have grown up. The kids that are just now growing up and getting into video games aren’t looking at the Wii U as a console of choice simply because the Xbox One and PS4 are geared toward mainstream entertainment.

      Nintendo needs to evolve with the industry or fall even farther behind. Am I saying get rid of the Mario and Donkey Kong games? No, that’d be silly. But, their focus is on family oriented games and as a Wii owner myself, I haven’t seen a good reason to need to switch from the Wii to the Wii U for anything. Again, not saying the games are bad cause they’re not, but as I said, the gamers who played those games, unless their hardcore followers have grown up.

      1. You don’t sound like you’ve done much investigation into the system’s games, since you’re still under the belief that it’s catered mostly towards family…
        Not bashing, just saying; it’s got way more core-oriented titles than the Wii did during its first year out.

        1. Don’t forget that you said one of the things they need to work on is advertising. So, if that is my initial impression of the system without doing a whole lot of research on the system having a past experience with the Wii, that’s an issue.

          1. And I won’t deny that, but their lack of advertisement shouldn’t stop a person from looking into its games before making a comment on what it does and doesn’t have going for it in terms of said games.
            Especially if whatever interest they have in the system is legitimate and earnest instead of passing and/or dismissive, or based off of assumptions and stigmas from the previous generation of system…

            For the sake of emphasis, I repeat; it’s got enough games to appeal to core gamers at this point, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of looking to see it, either.
            A quick glance around the E-shop, a look on a display in Game Stop or Target or somewhere, it’s really quite easy to see a good amount of core games for anyone that isn’t purposefully ignoring the system…

  3. Not wishing to piss on your research, but the Wii U has actually sold 5.2 million, not 4million.

    Source: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/01/08/sony-and-microsofts-sales-data-shows-just-how-badl/

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