First off, take this with a huge grain of salt because I own, as far as dedicated gaming devices are concerned, one Wii U and one Game Boy Micro. Here is also a list of all of the gaming consoles I have owned in my life:
- Nintendo Entertainment System
- Sega Genesis
- Nintendo 64
- Xbox 360
- Wii U
- Game Boy
- Game Boy Pocket
- Game Boy Advance
- Game Boy Advance SP
- Game Boy Micro
- Nintendo DS
- Nintendo DS Lite
So, yeah, that’s a lot of Nintendo consoles including every home console except for the Super Nintendo. I went through all of that to point out that I really, REALLY want Nintendo to continue to function as Nintendo. I don’t want Nintendo to create iOS games, I don’t want Nintendo to exit the hardware business.
What I want is for a thriving Nintendo to continue to create awesome hardware and games. The question then shifts to this:
How does Nintendo position itself to continue to be able to crate awesome hardware and games into the future?
That’s a better question.
So what is the answer? Is there an answer? Is Nintendo just completely, totally, and irreparably doomed?
Is Nintendo Completely, Totally, and Irreparably Doomed?
I don’t think so. In order for that to happen I think that Nintendo would probably need to star creating games for other platforms. At that point, Nintendo is done and they might as well sell off their franchises for as much money as possible and get out because the Nintendo of the past is dead and they might as well choose a different name.
However, even though they are not doomed right now, there is still a ton of work to do to get the ship pointed in a better direction.
Is There an Answer?
An answer, as in one single answer to fix everything? Of course not. There are too many variables at play to focus on only a single answer to something as far-ranging as fixing Nintendo. That, again, is the wrong question. Here’s a better one:
What Can Nintendo Do?
Let’s start with the easy one: create really great games. I’m talking about shooting for the stars, multiple AAA, Ocarina of Time-esque, Mario Galaxy-caliper games for the Wii U and 3DS lines. I’m positive they are already doing this and we will see the fruits of this work in probably 2014 and beyond. That’s the easy one. If you create really excellent and compelling games the people will (probably) play them.
What are some smaller things they can do? Well, let’s break it down into areas of focus.
They don’t need an iOS App Store-like hit as far as online services go, but there are things they can do to make it all just a little bit better.
First, just shore up the speed of the online services. Make everything faster. When that is done, then you can start creating a unifying account around a single person and their games and purchases are tied to that single account … not the system or anything silly like that. Have a person’s Nintendo Account be their window into all of Nintendo’s properties. Their 2/3DS games, Wii U games, scores, progress … everything will be tied to this account. When you have that, make it fast. You can start selling more things than just games then (like soundtracks … please) and milk your franchises even more.
I can’t help but think that would make some more money.
Relaxing some of the restrictions on indie game makers might bring a few more indie games to the platform and give the Nintendo eShop some more for people to buy.
This doesn’t need to be Xbox Live, but Nintendo has some work to do for certain.
I, for one, like the move they’ve made with the 2DS. Cheaper, no hinge, plays DS and 3DS games. I’ve always had a fondness for Nintendo’s fixed-screen handhelds (Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Micro), and the price definitely makes it more likely to be purchased by me.
Sadly, the Wii U seems to be DOA in many ways … probably ending up being a GameCube-like system for Nintendo. In some ways I hope that is true because the GameCube had some amazing games.
However, this also means that they should be back at the drawing board looking to accelerate the development of the next NIntendo home console. First, the Wii U hardware is actually pretty nice. It looks good, it is a big step up from the Wii, it brings HD gaming to Nintendo franchises, and the GamePad is a huge, untapped resource for many games.
Here is where I think they need to go:
- Keep the same architecture, but “turn it up to 11″. There is something extremely elegant about the Wii/Wii U architecture so bump it up. More RAM, faster processor, more storage, etc. This one is a no-brainer. It doesn’t need to blow away or even beat the Xbox One/PS4 … but it needs to push the Wii much closer.
- Go with a single SKU. I know that the entire industry has definitely moved into that camp, but go back to a single SKU and make it the best SKU you can possibly make it.
- Continue with discs. I love those things (especially the rounded edges on the Wii U discs … so nice).
- Multiple-GamePad gaming needs to come out and the more you can hook up, the better.
- Focus ont he fluidity of the console GUI. Things should be instantaneous, menus should render quickly, eliminate all wait times, etc.
I don’t feel like they need to add anything else, really. The Wii added motion controls, the Wii U adds the GamePad … take a breather and use that hardware knowledge to refine what you have.
Keep making awesome games. Beef up the software development houses and encourage them to create the best games they can. This is probably the easiest one.
Looking back, the real detriment that Nintendo has right now really doesn’t even revolve around their hardware but around their online services and some of the intangibles (the GUI interface is still slow). The software is going to come, but they need to focus better next time on getting a huge AAA title ready for the launch day.
Nintendo could ride out the Wii U for the next two years and then release a Wii U 2 (oh geez …), but they need to shore up some other things first. They are far from dead, but they also have a lot of work to do.