So if you’re familiar with recent gaming news, you should probably know by now that Nintendo is kind of in some deep crap at the moment. After stating that they planned to sell about 9 million Wii Us this year, they later found themselves sadly having to reduce that number to 2.8 million consoles sold in a year. So yeah, finding even fewer people interested in the Wii U, Nintendo held an investor meeting a short while back to outline a battle plan. And the company widely criticized these days for focusing too much on gimmicks and not enough on games delivered a plan that was…mostly vague and basically focused too much on gimmicks and not enough on games.
Hoo boy. Methinks we might need an intervention of sorts here.
Look Nintendo, you’re basically turning into the gaming equivalent of DC Comics these days: A once-mighty champion of their medium that’s now seemingly content to just sort of dick around and hope that an act of said dickery will somehow stumble upon a ritual that summons a magic imp who can summon free money for you, probably in exchange for your first born child or something. And while we do enjoy mocking you quite a bit at times, we do still respect and love you enough to not let you destroy yourself. So while I don’t claim to be a master strategist in the area of business, and while just saying “MAKE MOAR F***ING GAMES” nine times in a row would probably be easier, let’s still take a look at some better plans you can use to get things going in your favor again…
9. Stay The Course With The 3DS
Let’s start things off by saying that this critique is basically going to mostly focus on the Wii U’s troubles, because the 3DS has had about as much trouble in the past year as Nicolas Cage has had sanity. Seeing as how the 3DS sold 11.5 million units in 2013 and was the year’s top-selling system overall, combined with the fact that I really can’t rag on the selection of games it has too much (though please ditch the “New” Super Mario Bros. series soon, mmmkay?), there’s not exactly much I can suggest to vastly improve it by this point. I mean, a friggin’ port of Mother 3 already would help, but aside from that, s’all good here.
8. Think About What You Want to Do With Smart Devices First
A big hunk of Nintendo’s recent meeting involved their plans to work with smart phones, even starting work on a team devoted to developing for them. But judging by how vague they were about everything, it seems more like the team is composed of chimps and the smart phone is the monolith. Nintendo is definitely interested in smart devices to the point where they seemingly practically want to make it a cornerstone of their empire, but for now their plans don’t seem to extend any further than “do Nintendo stuff on smart phones.” Not Nintendo games, mind you (or maybe, they’re sort of waffling on that idea), just Nintendo stuff. What kind of stuff? Exactly.
This seems to be a bit of an issue lately for Nintendo. They always seem to show an interest in new technologies like this, but actually committing to them is an entirely different beast. A beast that just sorts of vaguely bats around with a toy ball you give it for about five minutes before giving up entirely. Heck, take a look at their biggest game last year, Super Mario 3D World. While there’s no denying that it was an incredible game, several critics were quick to note that it rarely showcased any of the Wii U’s much-touted features.
In other words, don’t let this smart phone stuff just be another pointless gimmick, okay? Start planning what you want to do with them when it comes to the actual games, then maybe you can tackle the monolith.
7. Don’t Talk About New Console Ideas so Soon
…Guys, you do want me to buy a Wii U, right? Because I was honestly saving up for one, but now I’m hearing plans about a new platform for 2015 or 2016 (along with vague mentions of connecting the Wii U and 3DS in a manner that everyone seems to see as some sort of Brundlefly scenario), one that’s meant to be more tied into the themes of health and fitness. And while Nintendo has gone on the record that it isn’t going to focus on video games, but rather “quality of life” apps, just the mere thought of a new console is enough to make people question how much support The Big N plans to still give their current heavy hitter. We already have enough people confusing the Wii U for a Wii peripheral (somehow), and I doubt this is going to help things.
For that matter, given that some of the largest criticisms thrown on Nintendo involve their tendency to focus too much on gimmicks and not enough on games, I’d guess that moving towards what some would call a gimmick platform that doesn’t have any games might not be helping thinks. Really, the whole “quality of life” plan just feels a bit like a desperate attempt from Nintendo to return to the glory days of 2006, when the sounds of Sean Paul energized a nation and Nintendo was garnering mounds of acclaim from the mainstream press for Wii Sports and its ability to get gamers off their asses and moving again. Sorry guys, but lighting isn’t going to strike twice again that easily.
So basically, just don’t make it seem like you’re giving up on the Wii U so soon and moving on to something else. This isn’t another Virtual Boy scenario where you can just chain your obviously misshapen baby up in the basement and never speak of it again until it seeks vengeance on you all. You have potential here, so work on it before you move on to the next
6. More Character Licensing Is A Good Thing
In contrast to all of the vagueness from Nintendo’s presentation that caused me to facepalm more than a few times, one decision stood high amongst the rest as actually being a good idea (well, aside from the plans for flexible pricing and sales mechanisms that reward players, gotta applaud those a little)…namely, deciding to expand licensing beyond more than just the occasional merchandise. Considering we now live in an age where Mega Man is making waves in comic books more than games, Angry Birds has their sights set on conquering the cartoon world (alongside all of merchandising in general), Sony is launching their gaming franchises into cinemas, Namco is putting out webcomics up the wazoo for their old games, and Microsoft is going straight for TV, it just might indeed be time to join in.
And for proof as to why embracing this is the correct move, let’s take a look at those Namco webcomics again. In particular, Wonder Momo. A few years ago, Wonder Momo was an ’87 arcade game that barely any but the hardcore gamers knew about. But one comic from ShiftyLook later, and suddenly Momo’s making a bit of a comeback. And now we have news from just last week that there’s going to be a new Wonder Momo anime along with – lookee here – a new game courtesy of WayForward. From obscurity to headlines, all because of an official webcomic. Now imagine what, say, a Mario comic from Boom! or IDW reminiscent of the Super Mario Adventures comics from the glory days of Nintendo Power could do. Even your once-former rival is getting in on the current cartoon bandwagon again (in addition to twenty-plus years of convoluted but successful comic books), so make like this is the ’90s again, step up to the merchandising plate, and show them how it’s done…I mean, Sonic probably still won the merchandising wars between you two back in the ’90s, but…look, just give this licensing thing the best you can, okay?
5. Play Nicer With Third And Second Parties
So, to say by this point that the Wii U and third parties are like oil and water might be a bit of an understatement. From stories about companies such as EA deciding to just flat-out not support the console (though they did change their minds later on, assuming things improve) to high-profile games such as Watch Dogs and Arkham Origins being delayed and jumping ship, respectively, it hasn’t been the prettiest sight. And while many people will point out the initial problem in an instant – that the Gamepad and the Wii U as a whole are hard to develop around compared to the more conventional Xbone and PS4 – maybe this problem could be avoided a little more if Nintendo actually treated second and third-party games with more dignity.
The Wonderful 101 was a Wii U-exclusive game last year from Platinum Games. It was a family-friendly game praised by critics that made great use of the Wii U’s Gamepad. And if you’re only now remembering that this game existed, I can’t blame you, because any notable marketing for it was non-existent. And maybe if weren’t, maybe if Nintendo put forth the effort to show that games developed by other parties can thrive on the Wii U, then there just might be more than a couple of third-party developers lining up to take a shot at it.
“Learn by example” is the lesson here, one can say. And again, Nintendo’s own major Wii U games have taken a bit of criticism for seemingly including Gamepad features as more of an afterthought, while titles from non-Nintendo developers such as ZombiU and the aforementioned Wonderful 101 are the ones actually trying to make good use of the damn controller but getting a bit of the shaft in response. Nintendo, you can’t just brag about your awesome set of tools and then essentially ask others to demonstrate how they work for you. So show them how you can build an awesome game with said tools, because tricking others into painting your fence might have worked for Tom Sawyer, but I think it’s safe to say everyone’s wise to the story by now.
4. Nurture Indie Games More
I’ve emphasized the importance of indie games in today’s gaming scene in the past, and for damn good reason. They’re fun, creative, plentiful and reasonably-priced, which is why Sony and Microsoft have wholly embraced them. Sony not only dedicated an entire section of their store to indie games, but as seen at E3 last year, they made them a vital part of the PS4’s future library. And while Microsoft has been criticized for the way the ways they work with indie developers at times, they still have an eye for securing choice titles to highlight. But then you have indie titles on the Wii U, and this is where Nintendo breaks out the twelve-foot pole.
Yes, some of you will no doubt point to the Wii U’s eShop and rattle off some titles, but my point is this: How many Wii U indie games have you seen getting coverage from the press? When Sony or Microsoft debut a new indie title like Guacamelee! or Fez, people notice. In contrast, the Wii U’s indie lineup seems to just mainly consist of ports of already-talked about games, and nothing particularly special seems to stand out. For that matter, there are only about three or so exclusive indie games, & most of the titles there barely step out of the “family-friendly” mold Nintendo has been scarred with since ’93.
What especially makes this weird is that the 3DS doesn’t seem to have this problem at all. Notable indie games like Mighty Switch Force, SteamWorld Dig and Mutant Mudds have all debuted on it to much acclaim and attention. But on the Wii U, it’s just another case of Nintendo being interested enough to head to the indie singles mixer at the club but not interested enough to actually get on the floor or have a drink with somebody. Or alternatively, finding themselves hooking up with a potential indie supermodel yet bizarrely feeling ashamed to actually acknowledge any relationships or connections that might have developed. Dammit Nintendo, stop worrying about cheating on Mario or anything! He’ll forgive you in the morning! Besides…
3. Stop Relying on Your Big Guns
Given Nintendo’s thirty-plus-year history of various quality gaming franchises, it feels sad that the best stuff they could trot out for the Wii U last year was the usual Mario and Zelda (and not even new Zelda). They did give us Pikmin 3, mind you, but even with that the lineup still felt like the same ol’ same ol’. Nintendo just seems to keep putting all their eggs into same basket of franchises over and over, and while you can make the argument that the games produced are never bad and thus the basket never gets dropped, the real issue here is Nintendo never seems to consider that the person they’re delivering the eggs to might want something other than friggin’ eggs for once. Come on, where’s the damn bacon already?
And this isn’t even the same old case of complaining about Nintendo not making any new IPs (though that being said, Nintendo, make more new IPs already). This is the company that gave us such classic franchises as F-Zero, Star Fox, and Metroid, all of which have been heavily requested for the Wii U yet are suspiciously absent so far. And you don’t seem to have any problems putting games such as Pok?mon, Animal Crossing, and Fire Emblem on the 3DS, so why not work at getting them on the Wii U as well? A bunch of smaller cannons are just as powerful as a few large ones, you know, and they can cover more ground. So no, just having the same big guns will not blow as many people away as you wish, and as such it won’t knock out as many potential customers, thus letting them survive and okay the metaphor is starting to break down a bit. Let’s just say that variety is the spice of life, and as such it adds much-needed flavor to the bacon and eggs you want to serve up, so get cooking and whatnot.
2. The New Smash Bros. Game Will Not Solve Everything
IT. F***ING. WON’T.
Sorry, but I had to single this egg out. If there’s one thing I can’t stand from hardcore Nintendo fanboys (aside from the 143 or so other annoying things about them), it’s the current overdeitification of the Smash Bros. games. I fondly recall the Super Smash Bros. as simply being a really fun game. But as time went on, worship of the series seems to have reach the point where Smash Bros. no longer exists as a video game franchise, but rather as a messiah that descends from the heavens every few years to magically summon tit-shaped cheeseburgers that cure cancer for all the loyal fanboys while also single-handedly justifying their purchases of Nintendo consoles. Made even more annoying by the fact that while you can argue that other games like BioShock, Grand Theft Auto, or The Last of Us are overrated and can still find others who might agree with your point, criticizing Smash Bros. in way pretty much has the same effect as a button that instantly summons a lynch mob.
But thinking about it more, Smash Bros. isn’t the only one with the same issue here. Go to any article involving Nintendo’s potential troubles or a forecast of the Wii U’s near future, and there’s bound to be at least one guy and his buddies going “Don’t worry, it’ll all be fine once the new Smash Bros./Zelda/Mario/etc. comes out!” You see, Nintendo has quite a large surplus of fanboys that tend to act like the villagers in the story of the emperor’s new clothes. And when Emperor Iwata ends up strutting out naked at times, all they do is reassure him that everything will be a-okay despite him unknowingly walking about with his Master Sword out in the open for everyone to see, and anyone who calls him out his nudity shall be dragged behind a shed by them and introduced to their billy club.
I’m pretty sure I actually had a point here aside from verbally urinating over a chunk of Nintendo fanboys (can’t wait for some spirited discussions in the comments!)…oh, right. The point, Nintendo, is that you shouldn’t just always listen to your fans and make the few sequels that they’ve come to expect by now. You’re the innovators, dammit, you should be telling them what games you want to make and that they should be excited about. The reason they can say that the new Smash Bros. shall be the savior is because they have nothing but the utmost faith in your games, blind or not. But the people who haven’t purchased a Wii U yet aren’t the same kind of devotees, so you’re going to need to do more to win them over. Just having a new Nintendo console exist is one step that might work for most fanboys, but there’s still a huge question mark between that and profit you need to figure out to satisfy everyone else, so get to it.
1. Get out From Your Current Comfort Zone
Look, I know you’ve probably heard this more than a few times, but Nintendo, you need to get out of your damn comfort zone already. I know it’s warm in there with Mario, Zelda, and all of their subsequent followers, but as the old saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So if you actually want to gain anything with the Wii U, you have to leave your little pillow fortress of solitude, think more about a larger spread of games and new non-gimmick things you can try with them, and watch as all of the aforementioned followers join you with their wallets in tow.
And I know this will work because here’s the thing: You HAVE left your comfort zone. On the 3DS.
While working on this article, I was noticing a pattern starting to form. And not to borrow a tagline from a video game console that was a complete failure here, but do the math when it comes to the 3DS: A wide variety of quality games from third and second parties given proper attention + a nice spread of games with a wide range of beloved Nintendo franchises + support for a lot of indie games that are also given a good amount of coverage = THE BEST-SELLING SYSTEM OF THE YEAR. Despite some remaining naggy bits like the outdated friend codes and such, the 3DS truly has presented itself as an outstanding gaming platform over time, basically giving you another license to print money. But now this baffles me, because despite having the license, the materials for another printing press, and a way to rig it so that it shoots fireworks that wins over fans and critics alike while printing, you seem to have no desire to do any more printing on the Wii U. Why???
And don’t give a half-assed excuse like “but they’re different pieces of hardware”. The formula above there doesn’t apply to hardware, dammit, it applies to games. Because shockingly enough, despite all the hoopla made over new hardware specs and console innovations, it still comes down to having a mix of really good games. So yes, I suppose you could say that the solution is still “MAKE MOAR F***ING GAMES” in the end, but you can’t just crap out any old game and say that you’ve satisfied the wishes of the fans, even if you took a long time to crap out a solid gold brick.
Nintendo, you need to start playing with power again, like you expected your fans to do back in the glory days. And much like the glory days, it needs to be about a constant stream of fun games that can appeal to as many people as possible, not just the cringe-inducing “casual” gaming beasts that you created with your own Wii years ago. And you didn’t succeed back then by putting all your stats into the Game Boy while leaving the Super Nintendo with zero charisma and intelligence. So whip out the ol’ “Copy/Paste” function and use one of your major successes as the model to create another. It’s that easy. Of course, we might find out later today whether or not you’ve figured this out already…here’s hoping you bring out a selection of games that proves you’ve still got it (so the rest of you, stay tuned).
And if worst still comes to worst, I guess to can have Princess Peach turn tricks behind the club mentioned earlier if you’re really desperate and need some more money. Her cake is quite delicious, I hear.
Previously by Kyle LeClair: