Judging by Nintendo’s lackluster E3 presence this year and the fact that the Wii U only just surpassed the 10 million unit sales mark, the company has all but abandoned the console and are intently focused on their next hardware, currently code-named the NX. Since it seems unlikely that anything Nintendo does now will reverse the Wii U’s fortunes in any meaningful way, it is absolutely essential that the NX is a hit that can right the ship. Unfortunately, making the NX a success won’t be quite as simple of doing the exact opposite of whatever they did to land the Wii U in such a terrible position, but it’s clear that Nintendo needs to quit dragging its heels and make the NX a slamdunk out of the gate. While it’s impossible to know what Nintendo has planned considering they haven’t revealed anything besides the fact that it exists, here are some ways they can make it a success when it eventually hits the market.
This is probably a low priority feature overall but you can’t undervalue the impact that achievement points and trophies have had on Xbox and PlayStation consoles, respectively. While the act of attaining intangible, essentially useless rewards for in-game accomplishments may not seem like a very big deal, achievements and trophies have added an additional layer to the gaming experience for many players and some people actually turn their noses up at games that don’t offer these micro-rewards. Considering Steam even has achievement points now, Nintendo is the primary holdout in this category and simply has to include a similar feature in the NX. It would be a straightforward inclusion that would build back some much-needed goodwill for the struggling gaming company.
9. Keep the Peripherals To A Minimum
Nintendo has always been a bit too trigger-happy when it comes to releasing new peripherals for their consoles. Heck, it felt like every other Wii game had some new plastic device shoehorned in, only to collect dust after a few uses (Mario Kart steering wheel, anyone?). To be fair, the company should be given credit for allowing so many different controller options on the Wii U (there are around half a dozen different ones for Super Smash Bros. alone), but things have just gotten out of hand. There’s no reason to confuse your customers when it comes to what input device they’re even supposed to use with your machine; therefore, the NX would be better off keeping the peripherals to a minimum. We don’t need more plastic junk taking up valuable closet space.
8. Wii U Backwards Compatibility
As evidenced by the enthusiastic response to the announcement that the Xbox One will become backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games, being able to play older games we already own is still important to many gamers. One of the things Nintendo got right with the Wii U was putting in backwards compatibility with the Wii. Including this feature with the NX may be even more significant, as it will help ease the transition for Wii U owners who will likely not be very happy at the shorter-than-expected lifespan of their console. Ensuring that Wii U owners don’t feel completely abandoned will engender some much-needed goodwill. Plus, it will let anyone who (understandably) skipped out on the Wii U to enjoy the system’s admittedly excellent library.
7. New Franchises
Nintendo is the company you turn to when you’re feeling particularly nostalgic, but good luck seeing them release a game that doesn’t feature a character that’s over a decade old. Splatoon notwithstanding, Nintendo relies way too heavily on regurgitating the same franchises and characters over and over. A new Mario game used to be an event and now it feels like we get a new one every few months. While they’re busy (hopefully) reinventing themselves with the NX, it would make sense for Miyamoto and co. to dream up a few new intellectual properties. A more diverse catalog would go a long way in attracting lapsed Nintendo fans and newcomers alike to the Big N.
6. Be Open To VR
Like it or not, virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift are going to be a major part of the gaming industry going forward. Nintendo traditionally likes to carve out their own path and innovate seperately from their competitiors, but VR is one trend that they can’t afford to miss out on. The NX needs some form of VR integration if it wants to remain competitive in the gaming market. Whether that’s by being compatible with existing products like the Oculus Rift or developing their own proprietary solution remains to be seen, but Nintendo needs to make VR a significant component of the NX brand regardless.
5. Have Their Own Version of Xbox Live or PlayStation Network
Nintendo’s online gaming presence is currently laughably archaic, lacking many features considered standard in any respectable networking platform. Ever since Nintendo first implemented online capabilities into their consoles, starting with the Wii in 2006, they’ve treated it as a low priority feature when it really should have been near the top. Online gaming of any sort is pretty much a joke in all but a very select few games on the Wii U and Nintendo has essentially only used internet features to build an online marketplace (and Sony and Microsoft still dance circles around them in this regard). If Nintendo wants to stay relevant in the console space, they have to implement a network that’s at least as good as Xbox Live or PlayStation Network; to do any less at this point would be unacceptable and foolish.
4. Appeal To Every Gamer
While it’s unfair to write off Nintendo as a company that only makes games for kids, it’s hard to deny that they primarily make games that appeal to a younger crowd. Nobody’s saying Nintendo has to abandon this image in order to be successful — in fact, it’s part of the company’s charm — but the NX will be much more successful if it doesn’t just appeal to one particular niche. Nintendo needs to make every gamer feel like they have to have one and one of the best ways to do this is with a diverse lineup of games that cover a wide range of genres. Mascot platformers and racing games, as good as they are, simply aren’t enough to sustain a console anymore. Nintendo needs to have a wide-reaching library of games that has something for everyone in order to not be thought of as a secondary option next to a gaming PC, PS4, or Xbox One.
3. Make Third-Party Publishers Happy
Nintendo is a trainwreck when it comes to their relationships with third-party publishers and the Wii U has only made this trend worse. Ubisoft, one of the biggest publishers in the world, was initially a major third-party partner for Nintendo on the Wii U, but that relationship quickly soured once they realized that their games were going to bomb significantly on the console. Now, major software releases are few and far between on the Wii U, with only Nintendo themselves keeping it alive. One of the primary reasons the PS4 and Xbox One are doing so well in comparison is that Sony and Microsoft know the importance of appeasing third-parties. Nintendo has to renew their commitment to third-parties on the NX or else they’re just going to fall into the same trap of keeping the console on life support with the occasional Mario or Zelda title.
2. Unified Platform
We know next to nothing about the NX at this point, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate over what the system might look like. One of the most common theories is that Nintendo is going to unify their handheld and console platforms with the NX, allowing consumers to play games at home and on the go with little difference between the experiences. This is a a great idea that Nintendo would do well to explore. The 3DS continues to be a sales success, but traditional handheld gaming continues to lose more and more ground to iOS and Android devices. By pairing their handheld and console divisions together, Nintendo might actually save their handheld space while enhancing their home gaming experience at the same time.
1. Better Branding and Marketing
There no shortage of reasons behind the Wii U’s failure but one of the most significant simply comes down to Nintendo completely botching the console’s branding and marketing. The Wii was a phenomenal success and this made Nintendo cocky. Rather than giving their successor a sensible name like the Wii 2, Nintendo confused consumers by making them think that the Wii U was simply an upgrade to the original console rather than something completely new. In addition, Nintendo revamped the 3DS and confusingly called it the “New” 3DS (whoever names these things really needs to be fired). Nintendo has to get the NX’s branding and marketing right by advertising the console’s features and benefits in a way that’s easy to understand. Otherwise, this could be their last console and nobody truly wants things to come to that.