While Nintendo have had a lot of success with the 3DS, they are struggling to sell the Wii U, even with the release of a top notch Super Mario game. So where did it all go so wrong, and what can they do to help turn things around?
After the success of the Wii, Nintendo have banked a lot of cash, but then just sat on it like a grumpy old miser. If I were in charge of Nintendo I’d start off by splashing some of these cash reserves on some top notch developers. Platinum have been mentioned before as a good fit for Nintendo, and I’d like to see them buying them, as their creativity is a good match. Third party support is quite sparse on the Wii U, so I’d like to see them trying to buy EA, Rockstar, Konami or even Sega (unlikely I know!), if possible as well, to bolster third party titles. Although only a couple of these companies would be attainable. They should also try and attract indie developers, who are the next generation of Miyamotos. Sony have done a fantastic job with Media Molecule, who started with a handful of staff; but Sony nurtured them and you only need to look at LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway to see how they have evolved as a developer.
New IPs are badly needed to help bolster the Wii U lineup. They need a decent exclusive first person game that is different to all the modern warfare style shooters that are out there at the moment. Perhaps it’s time to return Metroid to the FPS genre once again, or something like Portal or Mirror’s Edge would be ideal, as the focus is on puzzle solving and freerunning rather than shooting, which is far more interesting. While Call of Duty has made the move to Wii U, the chances are that your mates have already got the PS3 or 360 version, or the superior next gen edition. So unless you only have a Wii U as your home console, there is no reason to buy the Wii U version. This is only going to get worse as the next gen takes off, and the technical differences between the consoles is more pronounced.
There is also a perception amongst gamers that Nintendo only make games for kids. While this is true to a certain extent, the Super Mario and Zelda franchises have a lot of depth and are challenging for adults as well as children. While the Mario games are full of creativity and are unrivalled fun experiences. I’d like to see Nintendo create a new experience that is aimed at adults, but has the creativity and fun factor that Nintendo are known for.
There has been talk of Nintendo getting into smart device development, and I think this would be a great way to introduce Mario and co to the younger generation who have access to smart devices. I wouldn’t want them to develop a fully fledged Mario game, but a cheap sidescroller like Rayman Jungle Run would complement the main Mario games brilliantly, and this would be a great way to grab smartphone gamers’ attention, and make extra money from the App Store. They wouldn’t even need to develop it themselves, as they could farm it out to a decent developer, and just take up an advisory role on the project.
Nintendo also need to invest more in the online side of their business. Xbox Live and PSN are streets ahead of them in that regard. Miiverse is great and they need to try and expand into the social media space more. It’s time they embraced online, as they’ve been quite reserved when it comes to online play, and it was made less attractive to gamers when they used numbered codes to find friends, which was a complete farce. Even Super Mario 3D World has shunned an online co-op multiplayer setup, which was disappointing. At the moment their online play setup is more of an afterthought, and they really need to make it a core part of their strategy going forward.
The extra power of Sony and Microsoft’s next gen consoles gives developers the extra leg room they need to create the games they want, and maybe it’s time Nintendo went out and spoke to the developers, like Sony have successfully done during the development of the PS4. With the ever-rising costs of development, Nintendo decided to go for the lower costs of developing for a less powerful console. While this worked spectacularly with the Wii, the Wii U doesn’t have the novelty and simplicity of motion controls to sell it to non-gamers. Nintendo also released lifestyle apps like Brain Training and Wii Fit, which while not everyone’s cup of tea, did introduce new people to the delights of gaming. I think they need to broaden their horizons again, and not just rely on their usual tried and tested titles. Like Sony, Nintendo need to listen to developers and gamers, and create a platform that is easy to develop for, with a wide portfolio of genres; but which also has a hook for non players that distinguishes it from the other two console manufacturers. Perhaps they need to look at VR headsets, which have a lot of buzz about them at the moment with Oculus Rift getting a lot of hype.
The 3DS has been hugely popular for Nintendo, and I think the industry will eventually be led by mobile technology that beams the game to your TV. I would get Nintendo to develop a mobile device that syncs with a small console under the TV which is a central hub to store your downloaded games and entertainment. You can play your games while you’re out and about and get the big screen experience when you’re at home, which would be basically like being able to take your Wii U gamepad away with you to continue playing. Sony are already doing something similar with Remote Play. I think this convergence is inevitable, as mobile tech is already almost on par with the PS3 and 360, and I think it’s only a matter of time before Apple or Google make the same move.
Whatever Nintendo decide to do, I really hope they survive as a developer and innovator, as the gaming world would be a lot less interesting without them in it. They have kept the core concept of fun alive in gaming, while a lot of developers have gone the cinematic story route, and while games like The Last of Us are fantastic, there is nothing that puts a smile on your face like entering the inspiring worlds of Mario and Zelda.