Nintendo. Oh, Nintendo. I can’t say the name without bringing a massive smile to my face.
Nintendo. It’s changed my life since the first moment I picked up an NES controller. It introduced me to a series of wonderful characters who I’d consider digital friends for the rest of my life. It gave me a common ground to talk with other fans, and gave us mutual heroic stories to bestow on the school grounds. The games inspired me to write, to play, to dream. It brought my family together, specifically the relationships involving my brother, father, and me. I have so many memories plowing through Bases Loaded, Contra, Super Mario Bros. 3, Punch-Out!!, and tons more.
It gave me the initial start to love this industry, and to follow it and to dedicate my life to making it better.
Fast forward to 2013. The Nintendo/SEGA war is an echo of the past. Cartridges have been replaced by disks. Characters have voices. A lot has changed. Nintendo isn’t the end-all-be-all of the industry. Gaming has changed.
The Nintendo Wii came out in 2006 to a confused – but intrigued – gaming audience. What was Nintendo doing with their oddly named, pure-white system? With their controller that you held in one hand? That launched with a bunch of seemingly tech demos? With advertisements featuring grannies and grandads playing videogames?!
“Nintendo. What are you doing, Nintendo?” we gamers asked, as we shivered in our Link hats and Mario mustaches.
And then between 2006 and 2007, Nintendo’s little white box sold more than 10 million units to gamers, kids, and moms everywhere.
“Oh,” said millions who grew up with Nintendo as they tried to figure out the Wii-mote.
Nintendo was again on top, making absurd amounts of profit and selling a whopping 99 million units since the console’s debut. Time marched on, the Wii played its course, and the evolution of the industry forced Nintendo to move into the future. And on April 25th, 2011, the Wii U was announced. It appeared, on the surface, what traditional gamers were clamoring for from Nintendo: HD graphics, a promise of better online play, and dedicated third-party support.
And then it came. The successor to one of the most successful consoles ever was released. A recipe for instant billions, right?
Unfortunately for Nintendo, no, it wasn’t. The Wii U sold nearly 3 million units during the holidays 2012, and then the sales dropped by nearly 87% compared to the sales of the Wii in the initial six months. It’s been so bad that The Big N cut its sales expectations from 5.5 million to 4 million for the fiscal year 2013.
So what happened? Was the success of the Wii just a chance of right time, right place? Did the lack of bundled software hurt Wii U sales?
I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know what Nintendo can do to save the drowning Wii U. As a constant gamer from as early as ’87, to an owner of every major Nintendo console (even a Wii) and genuine lover of gaming, this is what I want to see Nintendo do:
Acknowledge Its Past, and Realize That It’s Passed
I love Zelda and Mario, but Nintendo’s using the big two as crutches. Nintendo should treat releasing first-party games like eating: Instead of a giant meal once a day, you should eat smaller snacks that keep you full throughout the day. In the next year or so, there are three original Nintendo-published games coming out, including Game&Wario, The Wonderful 101, and Pikmin 3 versus the seven that Sony is pushing out this year for the PlayStation 3. Nintendo has a plethora of classic franchises that it could release as smaller games to keep us satisfied until the Zeldas, Marios, and Smash Bros. make their appearances.
Star Fox, F-Zero, and Metroid are titles that would benefit from small, downloadable releases on the Wii U. I could get behind a new, two-dimensional Metroid done in the vein of recent 2D indie games like Limbo, The Cave, or Trine 2. This will keep traditional gamers happy while introducing their old franchises to an entirely new audience.
We can’t continue to cling to the warmth of our copy of Darksiders II replaying it for the 17th time as we slowly die from hypothermia in this freezing Wii U winter of non-releases.
Bring Third-Party Sexiness Back
The Wonderful 101, developed by Platinum Games’ legendary Hideki Kamiya, is an amazing example of Nintendo taking initiative from a great developer to deliver a completely unique game that can only be done on the Wii U with the help of the GamePad. Speaking of Platinum Games, the studio’s developing a sequel to one of the best action games of all time, Bayonetta, exclusively for the Wii U. But we need games until then! Marketing is also key: No More Heroes and MadWorld were both great, original titles for the Wii which sold poorly.
Basically. Games, games, games. Quality games. Nintendo doesn’t need another system flooded with shovelware.
Tap The Indie Scene
Nintendo has a rich tapestry of games from the past. My Wii is filled to the brim with classic NES and SNES games that I love reliving, but the virtual console won’t keep Nintendo afloat. Enticing smaller developers onto the Wii U and eShop is key to embracing the future. AAA titles have become increasingly expensive to produce, and thus have smaller profit margins. Giving indie developers a chance to thrive on the Wii U will serve as an extra revenue stream, and a way to bring even more gaming experiences to the struggling system Wii U.
Entice Consumers to Buy a Wii U via Pack-in Games
One reason the Wii sold well is because Wii Sports, as tech demo-y as it felt, was super fun and gave gamers a distinct reason to pick it up. Wii U doesn’t gave a title of that caliber yet. While the Zombii U bundle was good for traditional gamers, Nintendo needs a more family-friendly package, and Nintendoland isn’t going to cut it. How about a Rayman Legends package or New Super Mario Bros U bundle? They would interest both old consumers and new ones looking to get into Nintendo gaming.
The Wii U has the potential to capture both traditional gamers and the casual gaming market that blew up the original Wii. Nintendo just needs to step it up with basic offerings that every good system needs: games, advertising, and a right market strategy.
Nintendo practically single-handedly saved this industry once, and that’s something we will never forget. The Big N needs to look to the future instead of the past if they’re going to continue to be the leading force in gaming.
- Wii sold a ton, the Wii U didn’t
- Ninty needs to focus on games, the indie scene and better packages
- The dog from Duck Hunt needs to be used in more photoshops. Let’s try: