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.