Nintendo has been making a killing, especially in their home country, with the 3DS. Not only has the launch of the 3DS XL (or LL as it is known in Japan) sold like gang busters in its first week, the original 3DS saw a huge surge with the launch of New Super Mario Bros. 2.
While there are still a couple of solid titles ahead for the Nintendo Wii, the same sales trend cannot be said for the console. In the last year and a half, the Wii has been on a constant exponential decay mainly due to the lack of quality game releases on the console. There certainly have been great titles on the console, but lately they have been few and far between.
In comes Wii U. Nintendo has promised that with their new console they will reach out to the ‘hardcore’ gamers they lost in the Wii generation, but so far, they have a ways to go to achieve this goal. Here is my roadmap for Nintendo to win back that hardcore audience they so desperately need back.
Third Party Partners
Time and time again I have beat the drum of Nintendo needing win back the same amount of third party support that they so thoroughly enjoyed in the 8 and 16-bit eras. Nintendo certainly has managed to stay on their feet since, but there has been a definite lack of quality third party titles on Nintendo consoles from the N64 onward. That isn’t to say that there hasn’t been extremely satisfying third party experiences on Nintendo consoles, Eternal Darkness and Resident Evil 4 immediately come to mind, but the consoles have been extremely lacking in the multiplatform category that has been oh so important as of late. No one will ever be able to top the first party exclusives of Nintendo, but when it comes to outside sources of entertainment, the likes of Microsoft and Sony have Nintendo beat.
Imagine a world where the lead platform for Call of Duty and Madden were Wii U and 3DS. This is what Nintendo should strive for in the next-gen. It’s one thing for Nintendo to have the highest grossing titles come from Nintendo first party devs, but entirely another when Activision and EA are going out of their way to develop titles for Nintendo platforms.
Mass market price point
If Nintendo learned anything from the launch of 3DS, it should have been that an affordable, mass market price point is pivotal to the success of a video game console in today’s market place. While many an analyst may cry foul that the standalone handheld video game console is dead, and the apple ‘i’ generation will eventually take over the handheld space in the long run, I say that with affordable pricing and compelling content, Nintendo can once again display its dominance not only in the handheld, but he console space as well. One of the major factors in the success of the Wii was its sub $300 price point. At $250, the Wii was a bargain for $250 when it first launched in 2006. Now with a retail price of $150 including the excellent New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it’s a steal. If Wii U can launch under the $300 threshold and maybe even hit the magical $250 mark, Wii U will sell the masses. Imagine all the Walmart moms that know just enough about video games to know that Nintendo is a kid friendly platform. This is what Nintendo wants, and I’m willing to bet that that’s what they are banking on with Wii U.
Compelling non-game content
Video game consoles have been much more that game playing devices this generation, as detailed by the ongoing media partnerships that Microsoft and Sony have continued to develop for their respective Xbox and Playstation brands. Nintendo had softly leaped into the fray as well with their Netflix and 3D movie trailer partnerships, but there has been as far as additional content goes, there hasn’t been much. Nintendo should be embracing their strengths in the 3D and tablet space by offering partnerships with everybody they can get their hands on. Imagine if Nintendo were to provide the first stereoscopic 3D images of mars from the curiosity space shuttle? What about having a partnership with the NFL to provide live interactive gameplay on Wii U, with multiple camera angle replay on the Wii U GamePad? These are things that Nintendo should already have baking in the oven, because these days, video game consoles need to do more than just play games.
Real world ‘achievement system’
Achievements and trophies are great. They are like an ever present leaderboard for gamers to show off their in-game accomplishments. Nintendo has already confirmed that a sudo-achievement system would be in place for Wii U, but the company could do so much more. Imagine if the system was tied in to your club Nintendo account and the better you were at completing games, the more tangible real world rewards you could attain. I know I would be more compelled to by and complete a game if there were tangible rewards I could achieve by doing so. Right now, achievements and trophies are just a number or a percentage, Nintendo could take that to an entirely different level.
Worthwhile online experience
There is no question about the fact that Nintendo is decidingly in last place at the moment when it comes to the online space. Even with the excellent push that the 3DS has made in the area with the eShop, Nintendo could and should be doing so much more. Borrow, copy, steal…I don’t care what has to be done, but what is going on right now with the Nintendo WiFi service is not enough. The Nintendo Network promises to bring the goods, but if Nintendo doesn’t at least match what is going on with the Xbox Live, PSN, and Steam online services of the world, it just won’t be enough.
Lack of sales drought
Let’s take a look at the Wii release list for this week. I can count all of the games being released on a the fingers of a double hand amputee. Ever since the release of Skyward Sword this winter, there hasn’t been much to look forward to on the Wii since. It has been a barren wasteland. That’s not to say that other Nintendo consoles haven’t suffered the same fate. Remember the dog days of Gamecube? There was Resident Evil 4 that was a true showpiece for the console and then absolutely nothing to follow. The console was essentially dead in the water. Nintendo needs to make sure to partner with enough third parties, and spread their first party efforts out enough that there is never a dead period for games. Look at Microsoft with the Xbox 360. This is a seven year old console we are talking about, and it has arguably the best game schedule for the remainder of the year. Nintendo needs to foster these partnerships with third parties, and make sure there is a compelling reason to develop games for Wii U.
Wii U to 3DS connectivity
The connectivity promised from GBA to Gamecube back in 2002 was premature and underutilized. Now that the technology has advanced that it doesn’t take four proprietary cables to connect console to console, Nintendo should really be taking advantage of the popularity of their console. 3DS is cemented itself as the market leader when it comes to the handheld market, and if Nintendo is smart about the way they market their devices, 3DS to Wii U connectivity could be a big deal. Imagine a puzzle in the exclusive 3D dungeon in the Wii U Zelda title that requires a 3DS. Not only would this help boost 3DS sales, but it would also teach gamers of the benefits of using a 3DS to connect to their home console. The possibilities of this connectivity are endless, and all it takes is a few great ideas on Nintendo’s part to foster these ideas.
An active online community
One of the most compelling reasons to own an Xbox 360 and pay for an Xbox Live subscription the fact that it is the absolute best online console experience, period. Not only are millions of people willing to pay $60+ a month to enjoy what is definitively the best community console experience around, but Microsoft is making untold amounts of money because of this service. Imagine an only community from Nintendo that charged $50-60 a year, but offered a free subscription to their back catalog of NES titles with online leaderboards? They could take a page from Sony’s book and offer give away many of their weekly offerings as long as you are subscribing to their service. The advantage that Nintendo has is that they could offer their back catalog of NES, SNES, and even N64 games as an incentive to purchase the subscription. I know that I for one would be a paying subscriber at that point.