Seriously, Nintendo, WAKE UP.
The hot topic in the gaming industry seems to be the ill fortunes of one of the industry’s once upon a time heaviest hitters and its seemingly geriatric-orientated solutions to drum up revenue that would do a better job of putting gamers to sleep than sleepy time tea.
There isn’t a happy memory in my childhood that doesn’t surround the adventures I had alongside Yoshi and Mario or even ripping some dude’s heart out on Mortal Kombat. I remember working hard to pump out the homework assignments to earn my ticket to an evening chockfull of the horrors and suspenseful jumps that awaited in Resident Evil (because yes, I was the GOOD kid that took the time to actually DO my homework first vice blowing it off).
Over the years I’ve still maintained my affair with Nintendo. Xboxes come and PS2/3/4s go. But Nintendo seems to always be there…good ol’ reliable Nintendo.
Maybe that’s the problem. Where technology and advances in gaming both in terms of visual aesthetics and interactivity are evident in the current generation of console gaming, Nintendo games haven’t seemed to change. I’d like to think that’s a good thing. When I play Mario, I’m more concerned about the challenge of the puzzles I’m forced to solve to wade through the end of a level into a castle where a fungus-y friend awaits to tell me the damn princess is in another castle; this over the cinematic one-upmanship that dominates the titles swimming in the libraries of both PlayStation and Xbox.
But in console wars of late, Nintendo has been lagging to the detriment of its bottom line. It took FOREVER for people to pick up on 3DS handhelds and even longer to embrace Wii U.
Let’s take a look at some of the past issues and future challenges that Nintendo must come to terms with if its to survive and continue giving future generations the same joy I had growing up when I finally finished that last annoying essay or pre-cal problem blocking my path to sheer 8 or 16-bit bliss.
Is it or Isn’t it a new system
As decades-old Nintendo customer, even I scratched my head at the Wii U when it first came out. I honestly couldn’t make sense of it. I set up the Wii U right next to the previous Wii console I had and turned my head feeling kind of duped. The only thing I had to show for the fact that I had bought a new system was the touchscreen GamePad that came with the U, and a controller similar to the generation of Wii controllers that had preceded it. So similar in fact you could use the exact same controllers from your old Wii and use them on the Wii U adding to the confusion.
But apparently I wasn’t the only person to have the same conflicting feelings about the two systems.
I’m just going to say flat out: the name choice was AWFUL.
I mean, would Wii 2 have been so bad? Wii Touch? Something that when first reading the name would have clued people in that this is indeed an entirely new system.
Take one last moment to really consider why this was a problem.
Imagine a society where we are used to electronics being upgraded every so often where the naming of said device or system is so vital that any non-distinction could be met with downturn sales or an apathetic response from consumers. iPhone 5 users weren’t exactly rushing to the stores to get the newer 5s because they knew it wasn’t an entirely new phone from what they had. However they did know and feel the difference between an iPhone 4 and a 5. The naming distinction is subtle, yes, but so pronounced that people could assess the difference between 4 and 5. The same could be said between Kindle and Kindle Fire, Xbox and Xbox 360, PS2 and PS3. But it wasn’t just the difference in names, the hardware itself is distinctive.
Again, as an owner of both Wiis, it’s annoying that the only thing really different between the systems is the touch screen controller, as previously mentioned.
Ok, this horse is officially beaten and dead – the poor guy.
For awhile Nintendo seemed to slowly but surely be recovering from the launch confusion with some really great titles like the well received Super Mario World 3D. But the problem with resting on your laurels (especially ones that have existed since the 1980s) is that the cushion on said laurel loses its elasticity and the butt print from the 800-lb gorilla becomes permanent. Thus the current troubles Nintendo finds itself in.
This town needs an enema!
What Wii U needs is an image makeover, one where it severs itself from its previous iteration (much like its controller design) and fully embraces the entirety of the Nintendo family.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned with venturing out and exploring the corporate world is that you have to start with what you know.
We know that there are Wii owners and 3DS owners. Two completely different systems that make complete and total sense to bring together. Mistake the first for Wii U was that Nintendo did NOT bring these two groups of consumers together. In fact, Nintendo wasted money on developing a touchscreen GamePad that would act as the main controller for Wii U. WHY? 3DS would have made more sense. Current owners of the 3DS would find the easiest transition to upgrading or buying into the Wii U so then the remaining challenge would be to get current Wii owners to become owners of BOTH the 3DS and the Wii U.
Thankfully stores like Gamestop work with Nintendo to offer bundle set-ups that would have brought the pricing down for both. But the marketing emphasis would focus on the fact that one could get a Wii U AND an accompanying 3DS for STILL less the price of a single PS4 or Xbox One.
The sad part of this suggestion is this is where people THOUGHT Nintendo was going and when it was evident that wasn’t the case, competitors swooped in and took advantage: PS4 owners who also own a Vita can enjoy the very marriage of systems Nintendo shirked when it decided to make a new touchscreen controller vice incorporating the 3DS.
Once everyone is brought up to speed and in the happy world of dual Wii U-3DS ownership, the next step would be to create an atmosphere conducive to the interconnectivity between the handheld system and the main system. Thankfully Nintendo already has said system in place.
As Scott Stein on CNET points out, the Virtual Console service can serve as the link between worlds (pun intended). As Stein suggests:
Nintendo should also open up tons of those old Virtual Console games — and more — to a subscription-based monthly gaming service. It doesn’t need the latest hits, or even the last few consoles. Just put the really back-catalog stuff on there. You know, like Netflix. Or, more to the point, like Sony is doing with PlayStation Plus. That service — which costs $50 a year, or about $4 per month — is quickly becoming one of the best values in gaming.
By “Netflixing” their catalogs, customers can enjoy the amazing offerings from the history of Nintendo on both systems using the 3DS as the controller for the Wii U and still be able to take the 3DS and enjoy the games while on travel.
And moving beyond that just imagine what would happen when Wii U games become 3DS games and vice versa. The current catalog increases to such an amazing number that the minds of title-hungry gamers would figuratively explode.
And with the mobility of 3DS think of another market that can take advantage of the Virtual Console. That market in which Nintendo up to this point has forsaken: mobile. In the way that iPhone and Apple TV can interact, so too can apps be created on iOS and Android systems that enable people to achieve the same effect with Wii U. I’m not saying give full mobile control over the Wii U system in the same way I’m suggesting they do it with the 3DS, but hey, increasing customer numbers at this point couldn’t hurt Nintendo. Besides, I’ve always thought Nintendo to be a tad closed minded to shirk its nose at the mobile market. And I want to play Mortal Kombat on my iPhone and iPad dagummit!
Gamification of the Mii-verse
Of course what is the melding of systems and differing consumer markets without the gamification of such ownership for all users. Under the umbrella of the Mii-verse, Nintendo can create a truly innovative social system that rewards social interactions as well as gameplay on the home system as well as on the go. Continue to imagine that 3DS accepting StreetPass invites taking those invites home to the Wii U and now StreetPassers on the 3DS system become friends on the Wii U. If Nintendo games are best enjoyed with multiple players then lets make it easier to add people to the friend lists when not at home accessing the home system.
StreetPassers already enjoy rewards for their social interactions and so too do Mii-verse users on the Wii systems. Again, combining the worlds to create one big one will only encourage Nintendo customers to buy into multiple systems vice just one or the other. I mean if Google can shove G+ down our throats with all of its services, no reason to think Nintendo can’t be successful doing the same thing – and people actually LIKE Nintendo, I don’t think unifying the social system between gaming consoles would change that.
And lastly, this would be yet another opportunity to connect system owners with the mobile market, as pointed out by Wired’s Chris Cohler. The gateway entrance would be characterized by a dual-purpose social and storefront experience that allows people to shop, share and communicate about things Nintendo.
Whatever Nintendo decides to do at this point it has to realize that the only reason its still afloat is because people LOVE Nintendo, but we don’t love the direction its taking to compartmentalizing all its offerings. The current trend in gaming is to create an EXPERIENCE. And sometimes that experience is away from home.
The old school way of doing business is, well…old. So I repeat: WAKE UP Nintendo! Put some caffeine in an IV bag, each a power mushroom and hold the B button while moving forward. Seriously, get some energy.