What Does the Wii U Need to Succeed?

You wouldn’t know it based on the total dearth of information out on Nintendo’s quasi (?) next gen system, but the Wii U is going to be coming out this year. So before we get the inevitable flood of information that puts all speculation at ease, I think it might be a good time to speculate on the Wii U and its future as Nintendo’s new console. It is without question that Nintendo is going to be facing some major challenges this cycle. Both Sony and Microsoft pretty much completely ignored Nintendo this generation, and Nintendo has yet to show the world why anyone should pay attention next generation. Nintendo is also launching mid cycle, which is a major gambit that could seriously pay off or backfire spectacularly. So today we are going to lean on the positive side and look at what Nintendo needs to do in order to make the Wii U a success long term.

You can have any colour as long as it’s black.

Let us not have any misunderstandings, the Wii U will be just fine even in the worst case scenario. Nintendo has shown us time and time again that its first party games are strong enough to float entire systems. Truthfully, every major gamer out there deserves to be able to play Mario and Zelda, among others, and the Wii U will sell very well based on that alone. So what happens if the casual crowd doesn’t bite, 3rd party developers abstain, and Nintendo offers nothing at all new? I’ll tell you what happens: nothing at all. Mario can float any system and I stick by that. If Nintendo can only rely on its first party games and it cannot bring anything new to the table, I would consider the system a failure, but let’s not go thinking that Nintendo is going to be in trouble here.

This is what Mario thinks of garnering third party support!
This better be good.

So, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, probably the biggest thing Nintendo needs to make the Wii U successful is to get third party support. The Gamecube and the especially the Wii were both heavily criticized for their lack of third party support. This generation of gaming changed everything. Multiplatform games are now extremely prolific and influential, whereas they were not nearly as common in the past. This means that if Nintendo wants to be competitive with Sony and Microsoft, they need to be able to port games on their system. Fortunately, Nintendo is aware of the problem and has been courting third party developers for a bit now. We are already set to see ports of old games such as Arkham City and Darksiders II as well as upcoming ones like Colonial Marines. If Nintendo can keep the faith of third party developers, it can have a chance of competing this time around instead of sitting it out like with the Wii.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Wii U is also one of the most critical: how powerful is the machine? Nothing I have seen yet has convinced me that it is significantly more powerful than current gen consoles. If this is true, it could be a serious problem. The other two will jump to next gen in the next year or two, and they, as well as all third party developers, will leave Nintendo far behind. Of course it doesn’t make sense that six years after the start of this generation, Nintendo wouldn’t be able to make a real next gen console, so maybe it is a true next gen system. The biggest problem right now is, if it does have the horsepower, why isn’t Nintendo showing it off? If it is weak, Nintendo is in trouble. If it isn’t and Nintendo doesn’t show it off, they are idiots.

Seriously, the blue Yoshi’s face cannot be unseen. 

Next let’s look at launch. The launching of a new console is a critical time, not so much for sales numbers, but for the kind of attention it gets. A launch full of criticism will leave the system in a bad place and will probably lead to more ridiculous “mobile gaming is the future articles” from hack analysts/writers. Nintendo needs two major things: a good price and good games. The price will likely be fine as many speculate between $250 and $350; however, the games are worrisome. At this point we don’t know anything, but it is likely that The New Super Mario Bros. U will be one of them. While I would normally salivate at a launch Mario title, The New Super Mario Bros 2 was quite uninspired and U looks like it could be more of the same. More troubling is that there is no way the game could push the hardware. Nintendo Land being bundled with the system would go a long way, but Nintendo really needs more than that. If they can get an impressive launch lineup, and are lucky enough to get good media buzz, Nintendo will be set for quite awhile. Hopefully, they will have learned their lesson after the launch of the 3DS.

Trust me, you want this.

Much of my advice have been to cater to the core crowd, which is something Nintendo has vowed that it would do. The reason for this is that the hardcore fans will keep the system alive, while casuals will quickly lose interest and move onto the next sensation (Why else do you think Kinect sold ANY units?). However, casuals can make a system into a sensation for the holiday system, so it would be wise for Nintendo to try to grab them. What Nintendo needs to push is that the Wii U is a different console than the Wii, which is something that is not immediately apparent based on its horrible, confusing name. It isn’t hard to convince casuals to buy a new toy for the holidays, but Nintendo really needs to start marketing soon.

Will the Wii U be a success? I have no idea. Launching mid cycle could give them a major lead on the competition, or Nintendo could fall miserably when Sony and Microsoft decide to flex their muscle. There is no question that Nintendo has suffered the past couple of generations due to lack of support. If they can reverse this trend and become competitive, they might be able to reverse their luck. Otherwise, expect to see the Wii 2.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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