Normally, I write about video game series in these “Building a Better” pieces, but in light of Nintendo’s latest sales woes, I thought it might be appropriate to analyze Nintendo itself. As ever, critics and fans alike are quick to start nailing the coffin lid shut on Nintendo’s time as a hardware manufacturer, but let’s face it; this is nothing new. Let’s take a peak behind the curtain and see how Nintendo can fix things and remain viable now and moving (hopefully) into the future.
Fix the Online Experience
Xbox Live needs to be the model for every single console manufacturer in the industry. The architecture of Microsoft’s online service is so sound that it’s boggling why any company, Nintendo included, wouldn’t embrace the core tenets of its design. I’ve said this before and will repeat it until I’m blue in the face, but certain standards always have to be recognized. The basics of online interaction as defined by XBox Live are so ingrained in players’ minds that it’s foolish to ignore them.
I applaud Miiverse and think that it’s the shining jewel of what Nintendo has accomplished on Wii U, but it’s not enough. Wii U’s online needs to be XBox Live plus Miiverse. Making friends, forming parties, and cross-game chat should be seamless and easy to do. People coming to Wii U from Live and even PSN are greeted with an alien experience that feels underdeveloped. Pro Controllers should have headphone jacks. Players should be able to report problematic Nintendo Network users. At this point, being different isn’t good enough; Nintendo needs to be on the same level as its competitors on top of offering unique features like Miiverse.
True Unified Accounts
I was happy to unify my Nintendo Network account across Wii U and 3DS, but it was a merger by name, only. Nintendo’s version of having an “individual” account is a bit of a farce, at this point. One ID for one Wii U and one 3DS; that’s it. For customers who buy multiple Nintendo consoles, there is still no reprieve from being forced to re-buy games and DLC multiple times.
As with XBox Live, the precedent for how to do individual accounts right was set many years ago by Sony’s PlayStation Network. I have multiple PS3s, PSPs, and a Vita, and Sony recognizes this, allowing me to spread my account across a host of consoles. Nintendo might have their reasons for being so stingy, but for a player who has invested in multiple systems, it’s more sensible to accommodate than restrict.
There’s simply no benefit to not being able to spread my collection across a handful of Nintendo devices. I have a 3DS I take out on the road with me and an XL that I keep at home. If Nintendo were reasonable like Sony, I’d be able to share my huge collection of games on both systems, but instead, my XL sits mostly dormant of downloaded titles because I don’t want to pay twice for a game. It’s a waste and it’s discourteous to consumers.
Diversify and Increase Development of Wii U Software
A common assertion that fans (and even I) have made about Wii U is that its fortunes will improve if it starts getting more and better software the way 3DS has. Here’s the problem with that line of thought; Nintendo’s handhelds have always gotten a wider variety and greater amount of games than its home consoles. Wii U certainly had much better titles in 2013 than in 2012, but just look at the difference in volume between it and 3DS.
Dream Team, A Link Between Worlds, New Leaf, Awakening, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, and many more games graced Nintendo’s handheld, while Wii U had to make due with a fraction of that amount. If Nintendo does want to use software to push Wii Us, it needs to bring to the table the wealth of titles that have appeared on its handhelds for years. Some games, like the Mario & Luigi series, have never ventured beyond handhelds; perhaps by embracing series like these and bringing them to Wii U, Nintendo can truly turn the tide.
Considering the interfaces of Wii U and 3DS aren’t all that different, Nintendo should stop focusing so much of its creativity on 3DS and turn some of that ambitions towards its struggling home console. Don’t abandon 3DS, obviously, but allow the Wii U to benefit from some of the ambition that Nintendo invests into gaming on the go. The lineup for Wii U is too safe and predictable; shake things up!
Hurry it Up With Virtual Console
Iwata himself touched on this previously, but Nintendo has to start pumping out the Virtual Console games faster. The company’s back catalogue is huge and invaluable, and there are a lot of players out there waiting to play classic games on the GamePad. The Nintendo 64 games are obviously waiting in the wings, and Game Boy Advance titles have been promised, but beyond those two systems, GameCube needs to become part of the picture. It’s yet another wonderful collection of games that players love, and it’s outright foolish not to be offering them for download.
Resuscitate Old Franchises
At this point, nothing and no one in Nintendo’s pantheon of games and characters should be dormant. Not every series is a system seller, but just about every single Nintendo franchise has a ravenous fan base. As Pikmin 3 demonstrated, even the more low key series can inspire new fans if done well, and that can easily be the case with F-Zero, Star Fox, Metroid, and a ton of others. Other companies would kill just to have one of Nintendo’s franchises, so there’s no reason to be underutilizing anything.
There are a lot of other things Nintendo can do to draw in more players, but these are some of the more glaring problems, in my opinion. 3DS is doing well, so Nintendo should really make Wii U its priority for the next year or two. One thing is for certain; Nintendo is far from dead, and far from done.