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2014 Can Still Be the Year of the Wii U
The year 2013 wasn’t great for the Wii U. While I enjoy the console and have been engulfed in games like Pikmin, The Wonderful 101, Super Mario 3D World, and the sublime Windwaker HD even I who stands amongst the ranks for the hardest Nintendo fans has to admit that the console didn’t do that great in sales. While sales are slowly getting better, I would submit that maybe gamers in general should just wipe their mental slates clean and give Nintendo a second chance in 2014.
Not only gamers though, the Big N should refocus their attentions on the console and the new year is a perfect opportunity for the company to try something new and make the Wii U a success. Now I know that this article isn’t original since everyone and their mother has written some kind of Nintendo is doomed/what they should do piece. But the Wii U is a great system that has a great lineup of games present and future. The only question is how does Nintendo capitalize on that?
The main problem that the Wii U encountered this year was the fact that they couldn’t quite find an audience beyond the Nintendo faithful. To often people mistake the Wii U for it’s predecessor, in fact you still find parents confusing the two systems. Also Nintendo’s PR department has failed in appealing to both casual and core gamers and as a result the confusing messages were isolating the Wii U from the marketplace.
The good news is that sales have been rising due to releases of games like Super Mario 3D World but that doesn’t mean that the Wii U couldn’t do better in the new year. Nintendo must take the opportunity that 2014 gives them by refocusing their branding and by bringing their message back to 2011, they must tell the world that the Wii U is a console for everyone. Well not everyone, I mean that the console itself is for the gaming market and not just the casuals. And I understand that this message might be confusing because the reason why the Wii was so successful was because of the focus that Nintendo put on the casual gaming market. However I would argue that by focusing on the casual market, Nintendo was hurt in the long term. Yes, the Wii made a lot of money but remember it didn’t have that many games on it and by cutting support for it so early consumers responded by forgetting about the brand. Without the Wii being pushed, the consumer base beyond the Nintendo faithful weren’t there when the Wii U came to life.
Now of course the Wii had some great games, but it wasn’t the gamer console of choice and while the PS3 and Xbox 360 didn’t sell nearly as well they did create a strong foundation with the core gamer market giving their successors the base that they needed to be where they currently are. The PS4 and Xbox One owe their launches to the work that Sony and Microsoft put into the PS3 and Xbox 360.
So of course that means I’m rejecting the notion that somehow Nintendo must abandon the Wii U. That is not the answer and would in fact damage Nintendo in the long term. Instead, as I keep mentioning, Nintendo must do what it can to convince the core gaming market that the WIi U is for them in 2014. If you watch the Nintendo Direct videos that the company releases then you’ll know that 2014’s gaming lineup looks amazing and exactly the right choices for the console.
In fact I would argue that in order to be a success Nintendo must follow the same path that they did with the 3DS. They must continue to provide gamers with great games just like they do on the handheld. The common convention in the industry is that games sell consoles, and Nintendo must continue providing us with the games. If they do then the gamers will come and by focusing on the games Nintendo will finally create the branding message that they need to make the Wii U a success and build a platform for their future.
The key in making any product successful is it’s marketing and that’s where Nintendo failed. Sure things have been getting better in terms of more ads, but the ads themselves haven’t been helping Nintendo’s cause. If these ads are being made in house then company management, and I’m talking to you Reggie, needs to work hard to improve the quality because they are not enticing at all. Nintendo needs to work on getting it’s message out there and the ads need to be a key component in that. They shouldn’t be in the position of people asking what a Wii U is anymore.
All in all, I wouldn’t say that Nintendo is doomed because they aren’t. Even if the Wii U isn’t a smashing success the company as a whole will be fine. But 2014 is a chance for them to really change the tides for the console if their willing to put in the work. While some may remain negative, Nintendo must stay positive and take a page from Sony. Learn from your mistakes and improve, become better and show us why we fell for you in the first place.
Warning: Rant Incoming. But let's have a discussion here...
I think Nintendo needs a lot of changes right now, to the way they market things, and the way they think. And I'd hate for the Wii U to start picking up momentum just because... I dunno. Maybe Nintendo's counting on PS4, XBone or Steam Machine early adopters wanting their fix of Mario after owning their "primary" platforms for awhile? Nintendo needs to recalibrate a ton right now, and they're only STARTING to get the message.
They took at least a year to realize their super casual Wii audience has either died (a lot of old people liked Wii Bowling), or has moved onto smartphone gaming. They stopped majorly supporting the Wii back in 2010. After that, I think only 5 Nintendo-developed games came to the platform -- Fortune Street, Skyward Sword, Xenoblade, Last Story and Pandora's Tower. Games that their fans had to fight TOOTH AND NAIL to get, mostly. While putting nothing out on Wii, why didn't they recalibrate their internal development to learn how to produce HD games? Why is it that they still barely work with western developers? Kensuke Tanabe has done great work exec producing games like Luigi's Mansion 2 and Donkey Kong Country Returns, which were developed in North America -- why is he the only one who does that? Why is there only one Dan Adleman too, the reason why indie developers are bringing games to the eShop?
Until Nintendo finally wakes up a little, and stops being so.... maybe xenophobic is too strong a word, but they're "super Japanese" in their thinking, which is not how a WORLDWIDE company should be. They are 100% calibrated to the needs of their homeland, which is stupid in 2013. There's a TON that they could be doing better if they just stop thinking "We can do it all ourselves!" and "That's not important to enjoy our product!", but they think that way so fiercely, it's really harming them now. To the point where they can't implement basic online modes in their games, and have been using the excuse of "It's just better in the same room" to mask that fact. Which, duh, we all know - it doesn't change the fact that friends & family move away and it would be a welcome alternative... 'specially with the Gamepad's microphone and camera right there. And they don't exactly embrace Japanese Doujin developers on the eShop - it's retarded that games like Eryi's Action, Bunny Must Die! and Yatagarasu aren't being courted to the Wii U eShop IN JAPAN.
The Wii U too is still a problem in and of itself. They've sent a pretty significant message thus far that the Gamepad isn't necessary for 95% of games, to the point where I read an interview on Gameinformer today with Retro about DKC Tropical Freeze, and how they're not using it all besides off-screen play. Miyamoto has said it's mostly for menu navigation. And it's the reason they can't bring down the price of this thing and make a profit. If it's optional to their developers, it should be optional to the consumer, and they should find a way to patch in that functionality to all Wii U games if you choose to use a normal controller -- even the Vita TV found a way to emulate touch screen controls (or at least, I've seen a few games do it, like Senran Kagura). Personally, I think it's baffling that they didn't ship the thing with built-in 3DS emulation; just piggyback off of the success & momentum of their handheld right now. And also, they could make development more efficient. If you make one Fire Emblem, you can advertise it as a new Fire Emblem, period - people can just choose if they want to play it on-the-go or on the HDTV. We wouldn't need an HD console one, we'd just need the one game. The Super Game Boy was a success for them, the Game Boy Player was a success for them... when will they learn that people want that in their Nintendo home consoles right off the bat?
I cannot believe how many critics bend over backwards to try and make Super Mario 3D World sound like the most soul-shattering, mind-blowing, unbelievable, better-than-Jesus game ever made -- talk about hyperbole. It's a fun, unambitious game that plays exactly like you'd expect a Mario title -- especially the DIRECT SEQUEL to Super Mario 3D Land -- to play, that's all. If it's the first Mario game you ever laid a finger on, than fine, let it blow your mind. Everyone else, kindly tone that down. It's especially insulting when you have games like Skylanders & Disney Infinity out there this year too; super polished, gorgeous games that are far more innovative & magical to their key demographic of children than Mario is. And heck, Nintendo probably won't think to add online level creation & sharing to a Mario game for another 20 years. Will journalists drink the Kool-Aid and try to sell it like it's mind-blowing stuff then too, or will people keep their cool and kindly remind them that Disney did it back in 2013? They don't need to hear that - they've been living in an echo-chamber of "Nintendo's awesome!" for the past 30 years. For every Famicom-type success, it's also led to more than a few "Pac Man VS. is our huge announcement!" or Virtual Boy or Phillips CD-i type things.
I don't want them to just fall ass backwards into success. Companies should do badly when they're making consumers unhappy and doing a bad job, which Nintendo is. Until they show signs of recalibrating things internally, and stop fighting some progress, then they should keep seeing the disappointing returns they currently are. Not that I'm happy to see it - it's getting real old watching them continue to trip over their own feet. I don't hate Nintendo - no one hates Nintendo, which is why you always see user-generated content celebrating them. Take a tour of Minecraft and you'll see pixel-art monuments to Mario all around. Modnation Racers (and, I presume, Littlebigplanet Karting) replicated every Mario character and all tracks to all Mario Karts in the first week! 3D artists are constantly re-imagining or re-making assets & characters from their games in much higher quality than they do themselves now (http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2013/12/designer_creates_a_3d_model_of_onett_from_earthbound). And every other month, they have to shut down a Kickstarter project or two because someone is so passionate about their property, they want to do something with it that they themselves are not.
But listening to fanboys and sticking to the old, introverted Japanese way of doing things is hurting them. They can do better, and they should. That's what the current failure of the Wii U represents. I hope they see that. But when they go and bust out Zelda Dynasty Warriors as a big surprise -- a super-safe spinoff from their best buddies at Tecmo-Koei (remember Pokemon Conquest, Metroid Other M, and Murasama Castle Mode in Samurai Warriors 3?) -- I'm not sure they're hearing what they need to right now...
@Critical_Hit Dude ive played quite a few Mario games in my day and Super Mario 3D World is THE SHIZZLE! I had heard so much about it and thinking it's Mario. Mario games are known for thei quality. This Mario game is off the CHARTS! I ccouldn't putthe damn controller down which is rare for me. That's when a game speaks to you. SteamWorld Dig was the same way. Came from outta nowhere and I was hooked. If you think 3D World isn't special, I'm sorry but it is every bit as awesome as the people have been sayin.