While most people are talking about the fate of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, I think it's a good idea to switch gears and explore the idea of a whole new frontier. Hideo Kojima is no longer shackled to pumping out MGS games, where does he go now?
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.