Allow me start off by saying that I am a huge fan of Nintendo: I have been since I was a young boy and I still am to this day. That being said, I am also well aware that Nintendo is not going to win the next console war. I am well aware that Nintendo is not even going to come close. Nintendo is not competing with Sony and Microsoft, it is destined for a third place finish, and everyone knows it: even the company itself. I won’t argue with that fact. I will, however, claim that the video game industry still has plenty of room for Nintendo and its tried and true style of delivering (mostly) unique experiences to its ecosystem, and I think the industry is healthy with Nintendo in it because of how it expands the amount of choice a consumer has to the type of game they want to play. What I want to outline in this article is what Nintendo needs to have happen for the Wii U to remain (or become) relevant and in the gaming world, to become an acceptable yin to Sony and Microsoft’s yang, and fit comfortably as the average gamer’s secondary console.
Make sure first-party titles are successful, enough to sell a sizable amount of consoles
To risk stating the obvious, when people seek to buy Nintendo hardware, they do so for the first-party games first and foremost. In the nearly one full year since the system has been released, the quality first-party titles from the company released on the system could be counted on one hand, which is probably the main reason why the console has sold so dismally. Now, however, there are some buzz-worthy Nintendo-developed Wii U titles coming out at a decent pace here at the end of 2013 and into next year, and these titles are left with the unenviable job of competing with what will be the next brand new next-generation consoles, potentially the most anticipated of gaming history. One would think that Nintendo would have been wise to release the Wii U somewhere in the middle of 2014, when both the buzz of the new consoles would have dissipated and when its games would have all been developed and ready to go, but alas here we are, with the Wii U’s potential to finally hit its stride coming at the worst possible time.
This is why the success of the first-party titles is so crucial for the Wii U to be able to stick around. Remember, everyone and their mother knows that the big N will not be repeating the success it had with the Wii. That being said, the systems still have to sell decently for there to even sort of be a market for Nintendo’s home console experience. And the easiest way for this to happen is if Nintendo’s first-party titles are sought after enough that people will buy this more affordable machine as either their number one console or secondary console. In 2013, The Wind Waker HD has come out and Super Mario 3D World is on its way coming out, and both will need to have some sort of sizable marketing to avoid being drowned out by their competitors. The Nintendo Direct conferences that the company puts on are all well and good, but those are likely only being seen by the hardcore fan-base, the ones who more than likely own or are close to owning the console. Nintendo’s unconventional marketing strategies are nice to see and it’s cool that the company is approaching promotion more progressively through the online realm, but its should still widen its scope by trying to bring in some of the more casual Nintendo players through a higher focus on more conventional advertising, like television, billboards, and the like. This more traditional promotion will need to be pushed into 2014 when games like Super Smash Brothers and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will be released. Any way you look at it, Nintendo needs to get people excited about the games its is developing and releasing for the Wii U, and it can only do that by having its voice heard loud and clear. With the 3DS as successful as it is, it’s not like the company is doing too bad financially, and putting some extra money into its marketing strategies certainly would not hurt its home console’s situation.
Oh, and speaking of the 3DS…
Fix the archaic account system and bridge the gap between 3DS and Wii U
As previously mentioned, the 3DS has been a great success in the past couple of years for Nintendo. According to vgchartz.com, the handheld has sold almost 35 million units world-wide in its two and a half years on the market. With such a lucrative market of Nintendo handheld gamers, one would think the company would be doing its best to bring that group of its fans over to its home console. One of the easiest ways to do this, I think, would be to finally make a unified account system across both the Wii U and the 3DS. As of right now, there is no sense of connection between the two consoles despite the potential success it could bring and how easy it would be to just make an account that would work across both of them. Ideally this would allow you to share money on your account across both systems, play retro downloadable titles bought on either system, and have a shared friends list with access to MiiVerse and more, all of which are not possible at the moment. While this fact likely would not convince anyone to buy a Wii U out of the blue, it would be an easy transition for 3DS owners who are still on the fence about whether or not they think buying the home console is worth it.
Indies, Indies, Indies
If the new console reveals and the subsequent promotion of upcoming games at various conventions this year has shown us anything, it is that indie video games will play a large part in the future of mainstream gaming. While Sony, and to a lesser extent Microsoft, have shown some good support for the scene, Nintendo has been less clear about its intentions to support independent titles in the future on the Wii U or 3DS. That being said, there has been some solid support of indie games on Nintendo platforms thus far, with games such as Cloudberry Kingdom, Runner 2, and Steamworld Dig all being popular and well received for the company and on each platform, just to name a few. If Nintendo wants to expand the reach of the Wii U further than its own games, making sure that it continues to support this burgeoning scene of gaming could be the best place for it to start, since the lower costs of independent titles means there is less risk for such developers to put their games on more struggling platforms, including Nintendo’s home console.
Third-party support in the form of unique experiences
As of right now, the Wii U has very little active support from third party game developers with a few exceptions such as Ubisoft and Platinum Games. Working towards getting more support from outside developers would go a long way in helping the console succeed into next year and beyond. Once the console has more in the way of first party titles, and has sold its fair share of units on the market, the Wii U should be a viable option for developers to put their games onto. However, I think it would be a mistake for these potential developers to merely scale-down and port any of their next-gen games onto the Wii U and expect it to succeed. Not many people are going to want to play a watered-down version of the next Grand Theft Auto or Fallout on a greatly inferior console in terms of power. Instead, they should focus on making unique exclusive games for the Wii U that fit the ecosystem and make use of its unique features: namely, the game pad. If the games are of a high enough quality, it will give potential buyers more reasons to buy a Wii U for its exclusive games aside from the already popular first party titles. If more developers open up to the idea of making games for the console exclusively like The Wonderful 101, which fits Nintendo’s polished and aesthetic style and makes good use of the game pad, then the Wii U may eventually have an attractive line-up of unique titles that sets it apart from its competitors and gives people a reason to invest their money into it.
These are the things that I believe need to happen, collectively or not, for the Wii U to succeed in its future. Some of these ideas may be more important than others, but when it comes down to it, Nintendo will certainly need its own big-hitters to sell well, it should adopt strategies from its competitors like promoting indie games and having its platforms be account-centric, and it must have outside developers understand and work with its console’s limitations and differences to make unique experiences that will work on the Wii U.