Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The State of Nintendo

Nintendo posted an annual operating loss of $457 million for the past year. They sold only 2.72 million Wii U consoles, missing their expectation of 2.9 million (which itself was lowered from 9). 3DS continued to basically keep the company afloat, selling 12.24 million units. Most people reading this will likely know how much I love my Wii U, but I know Nintendo can do better and I really think they've been their own worst enemy the past few years, making weird decisions and ignoring fans for the most part. They've stated that going forward they have a lot of work to do (duh) and they want to focus on titles that showcase how the Gamepad is different that anything else on the market, and also to make use of things like NFC (near field communications), which is built in to the Gamepad and is the same technology Skylanders use to make the figures communicate with the base stations. I actually ranted last year about how Nintendo is ignoring NFC and came up with a couple of very simple but cool uses I think could show juts how different the system is. If you'd like to read that to catch up, click here

I think Nintendo is shooting itself in the foot in a couple of other key ways as well, and of course, I'm going to list them here and I'd love to hear what you think as well.

So, aside from the ignoring NFC problem, one of the main things that bugs me about my Wii U is the lack of Virtual Console support. Didn't they solve this with the Wii (sort of)? I could write an entire post about the VC and how I've always wanted to see more titles with steadier releases, dating right back to the Wii, but even ignoring that I still don't understand how nearly 2 years after launching the Wii U, I can't just move my entire existing VC library over to the new console. There have been a few NES and SNES titles released, but where are the N64 and Sega titles? I love playing Mega Man X, Super Mario World, Zelda and the other handful of games on my Gamepad while watching TV. Having to switch in to Wii mode and play the other VC games that way is a pain and a nuisance, and instead of porting over GBA games (which are awesome, don't get me wrong) I think Nintendo should be focusing all of its porting power on getting N64 games running on their current machine. Retro gaming is huge, just look to the success of games like NES Remix and you'll see Nintendo is at least vaguely aware that it's past library is still as popular as ever. Stop porting over crappy NES games, bring your SNES and N64 libraries up, and get Sega in on the mix. I'm not even going to complain about the Wii U upgrade fee, because I don't care, just let me play the games.

The Virtual Console is the main focus of my next point as well. I think Nintendo needs to bite the bullet and stop double-dipping. If they sold 12.24 million 3DS units this year, giving them a total of a little over 43 million sold altogether, they're sitting on a HUGE potential audience that can be at least a little more tempted to buy a Wii U if their damn purchases were transferable! I'm not talking about every eShop game being able to port to and from both systems, despite that working for a lot of titles, I'm sure, since there are effectively two screens on both. Just allow people to buy Super Mario Bros 3 ONCE and have it on both systems, and I'm sure there will be at least a few of those 43 million people that say "ok, might as well get a Wii U if it lets me play my retro titles at home". It would be awesome to do save and/or freeze state transfers like I can do between my iPhone and iPad on certain titles, but I really don't think they have to go that far. If I'm paying $5 for a game that's 25 years old, put it on both of my systems, shut up, and take my money. As it stands now, aside from a couple of games that I'll buy pretty much any time they're released (I'm looking at you Super Mario Bros), I am really really picky when I have to decide if I want something on my 3DS or Wii U. I'm not spending the money twice regardless, but if I had it for free on both, I'd tell my friends about it.

The last thing I'll mention are the games. I know, I know, everyone says Nintendo needs more games, and I agree. The problem is Nintendo can only make a few games at a time, and good games take time. I really think Nintendo needs to dip in to its MASSIVE cash stocks and start paying developers to do exclusives. Seriously, Nintendo could have flop systems for the next 20 years and still not run out of money. Use that cash. Start paying developers to make games for your system. Sponsor indies. Do whatever it takes to make your platform attractive. Pimp out your characters, even if it's just as simple as being able to wear something resembling a Link costume in an Assassin's Creed game, having Mushroom coloured gun skins in Call of Duty, WHATEVER. Look back to the Gamecube, which wasn't Nintendo's best selling console, but games like Soul Caliber did fantastically well on that system, in a large part because Link was a playable fighter. Have I bought a SC game since? Hell no, but I was there to grab that game day one, and I would again.

There are many more things I could mention that Nintendo could do, like going back in time and changing the name from Wii U to literally anything else. Seriously at this point I think the Nintendo Game-a-tron would be a better name. However, I'll stop with those three things and ask what, if anything, you think Nintendo can do to make the Wii U more appealing to people.

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