Nintendo is a company that has seen its fair share of good times and bad times in the recent decade, but things look to be on the up. 3DS is selling well of late, Wii U is on the horizon, and with plenty of games to look forward to on the 3DS and even Wii (ok, so maybe just few for Wii), this year is looking very strong for Nintendo fans. With confirmations from Sony and Microsoft that there would be no new system announcements from either company at E3 2012, it looks like Wii U could steal the show. If Nintendo wants to once again dominate the console space, here is what they should do with Wii U.
Gain massive support from third-party publishers
As long as Nintendo keeps making Nintendo games (Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, etc.)the Nintendo faithful will buy the system. Having a strong lineup of AAA franchises is one of Nintendo’s biggest strengths, but on the other hand, being unable to convince many developers to continue to release quality games is perhaps its greatest weakness. If Nintendo wants this to change with Wii U, they must take steps to ensure the platform is attractive to publishers and developers alike.
Despite what Nintendo will tell you, WiiWare was not quite a smashing success. Part of the reason for that may have been that developers were hesitant to put games on the service, because of the huge barrier to entry on the service, one of them being that to even begin receiving money for games on the service, a game must meet a certain sales threshold.
Nintendo should be throwing dev kits at any developer that wants to get a hold of one. The more companies that want to develop for Wii U and its online store the better. Nintendo also has to show why its attractive to develop for their platform as opposed or in addition to any console from Microsoft, Sony, or even Apple. Cost to license a game should be on par, or better than what can be done on a Sony or Microsoft box, and if Nintendo wishes to compete with what Apple has done with their iOS devices, Nintendo needs to implement some sort of 99¢ model that is developer friendly, that will put more money if the devs pockets. Nintendo can still make their money, but the lion’s share should go to the developers.
Switch design from two circle pads to two thumb sticks
While the Circle pad is perfect and even perhaps preferred for the 3DS, on a console, thumb sticks have become the norm. I like my 3DS circle pad, but it is not quite as precise as a traditional thumb stick, and I think hardcore gamers will be turned off because of it. Sure, you could get used to it, but why should that be necessary?
Why it shouldn’t be too difficult, developers will have to custom tune control schemes just to accommodate for the circle pad. Games designed to work for consoles with sticks may be harder to bring over to Wii U because of this, and the lack of a click-in joystick button. While it certainly won’t be a deal breaker for developers, it may limit what they can do with the system.
As far as dual-stick controllers go, Gamecube has always been my favorite, despite the non-traditional button layout. Hey Nintendo, just slap in a few of the old Gamecube joystick parts you have laying around and call it a day. Better yet, add in one of those fancy joystick click-in buttons that all the cool kids are talking about.
Wii U tablet needs a multi-touch screen
Let’s face it, Apple with its iPhone changed the way the world views a touchscreen. When the DS arrived in 2004, the prospect of owning a device with a touchscreen was novel, and just the ability to touch stylus to screen and watch as a line was drawn to create a path for Kirby was mind blowing. Sure, there had been other stylus based devices on the market (the PalmPilot comes to mind), but never before had one been as affordable, or catered specifically for gaming.
Fast forward to 2007 when Apple unveils its iPhone, and everything is changed forever. Now, most everyone has some sort of touch screen device, and just about all of them are multi-touch. People will go into their first experience with Wii U expecting to pinch-to-zoom, to touch two on-screen buttons at once, to use swiping gestures learned on iOS and Android devices. If these things are suddenly not possible because of the limited tech on the Wii U tablet, I can imagine it would anger more than just a few consumers.
Mario needs to be a launch title
It has been a few consoles now that we have had to wait for a Mario title, because there wasn’t one available at launch. Looking back to the N64 and SNES, the two Mario titles were more or less the games that defined their respective consoles. Nintendo needs to show the world why they need a Wii U, and a Mario title is just the way to do it.
If there is one thing Nintendo has always done well, it has been to play to the strengths of their consoles. Nobody takes advantage to their hardware as they have been able to. With that in mind, Wii U is so unique that finding good usage for the features of the console may not be as apparent to other developers. If Nintendo can show what Wii U is all about by doing things that have never been done before in gaming through a Mario title, it will solidify the existence of the console to many gamers, and help create an instant install base of long time Nintendo fans that recognize Nintendo’s most iconic mascot.
Wii U should include a pack-in game
Or better yet, Nintendo could include it as a free Nintendo Network download, to help stimulate the systems online economy. No one for certain would know the exact numbers, perhaps outside of Nintendo, but I would wager that a huge percentage of people bought a Wii, and were content to just play Wii Sports. And that’s it. Nintendo need something like this again to sell systems, and get the system into households.
Lucky for Nintendo, they already have exactly that in the E3 2011 tech demos Battle Mii, Chase Mii, and Find Mii were all fantastic showpieces of what to expect with Wii U. Add in another game or two and you have a reason for millions of people to drop the money for the system. Each game was a great example of what the Wii U tablet was all about, and would be a fantastic tool to teach people how to use the system.
Much improved online infrastructure
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played Wii online, but I can bet you can count all the times in less than three digits. I don’t know the percentage of games purchased from online services such as Steam and Xbox Live that I have purchased from WiiWare, but I would guess less than 10%. Why exactly the Nintendo Wifi service was far inferior to other like services is a topic for another post, but Nintendo must improve to stay relevant.
The Nintendo Network is supposed to address many of these issues, but until the time when we can test it for ourselves, it will be unknown how the network compares to other services. The ability to download title updates, be it roster updates or balancing patches is also a must. I would certainly pay $50-$60 a year if it meant a more stable online client that was faster, and actually worked. Yeah, I’m looking at you Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
An achievement/trophy like system
They’re addicting. I never thought I would catch it, and didn’t at first, but I have the achievement hunting bug. I don’t know why, I don’t earn anything tangible in game, not even a discount on the online store, but once you see that number going up, it can be hard to stop trying to make it do so. This is something that should be relatively easy to implement, and is something Nintendo fans have been crying for.
It could be as simple as giving you and actual number, perhaps you could earn coins from each games accomplishments. Nintendo could also go the Sony route, and assign a different ‘trophy’ to each accomplishments difficulty level. Finished the first level of a platformer? Awesome, take a mushroom achievement. Beat Metroid on the highest difficulty? That one’s worth a triforce.
Get Nintendo’s best franchises into Nintendo’s best developers
What are the best games Nintendo has created in the last decade? Retro would probably get mention, for creating the Metroid Prime series. On the handheld front, Camelot has made a name for itself for curating the Golden Sun franchise across two different handhelds, and has also done will on the home consoles with the Mario Sports line. Fact is, Nintendo has more talent in their other dev houses than they do at Nintendo HQ in Japan.
Why not give some of them major franchises to work with? The Legend of Zelda: Wii U developed by Retro? I’ll take two. How about Star Fox: Finally Just Arwings created by Next Level Games? Mario will probably always be developed inside Nintendo, but who’s to say that some other capable developers shouldn’t be given the chance?
Adequate storage capacity out of the box
512MB isn’t going to cut it. We need to be talking at least 16GB, standard, if Wii U is going to compete. DLC and even gameplay patches are almost standard at 1GB each. Throw in game demos, save files, and the rumored downloadable apps, and you can see why it will be necessary to have adequate storage space.
Nintendo seems keen to allow consumers to purchase their own flash memory, in the form of SD cards, but they could go one step further and allow the use of a USB external hard drive. At that point, gamers could decide exactly how much space they need, while still not alienating customers who choose not to by providing the 16GB of space straight out of the box.
Change the name of Wii U to…Something
Super Wii, Ultra Nintendo, simply just Nintendo, any of those are better than Wii U. If you like the name, fine. I don’t, and think it will be confusing to parents at WalMart looking to buy a gift for Christmas.