If there is one thing to be learned from the relative failure of the Wii U, it’s this: a gaming console needs more than great games to be a success.
That may seem like a crazy lesson, but we’ve been seeing it happening over and over again throughout history. A console needs something extra in order to snag the imagination and the wallets of their intended audience. You only have to look at the biggest-selling console of all time, the PlayStation 2, for an example of this. The PlayStation 2’s biggest selling point wasn’t its games (although that was a big factor), it was the fact that it had a built in DVD player at a time when those were expensive commodities.
With Nintendo’s new console, the NX, due to arrive early next year, it’s time for us to take a closer look at this mysterious new system. We are going to break down all of the known facts about the console (no rumours!) and lay out exactly what we want from the Nintendo NX.
5. The Release Date
One of the few concrete pieces of information we have about the Nintendo NX is its release date. It was revealed during Nintendo’s yearly financial results, that the next console released by the company would be coming in March of 2017, a little over six months from now.
The report stated that the NX would not appear at E3 (which was accurate) and would instead be unveiled later on during the year. As of writing, there have been no official presentations explaining anything about the NX.
Having knowledge of the release date before we actually know anything about the console is troubling. Most gaming companies spend well over a year hyping up their newest console and its features. Is six months really enough time for Nintendo to win people away from the PlayStation 4/Xbox One?
Back in 1995, Sega pulled a similar early reveal for the Sega Saturn, launching it a full four months before its announced release. A console needs to earn as much goodwill as possible through a lengthy promotion period at events. Is Nintendo really giving itself enough time to hype the NX?
4. It Will Be A Brand New Home Console & Won’t Be The Next 3DS/Wii U
If any fans were hoping that the NX would be the 4DS or the Wii 3, then they will be disappointed by an official statement made by Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima. He has officially been quoted as saying that the NX will “neither be the successor to the Wii U nor to the 3DS”.
The NX not being a follow up to the Wii U is not surprising, due to the relative failure of that console to sell units. Nintendo banked on the Wii branding, due to the massive success of the original Wii with casual gamers. This turned out to be a big mistake.
The DS and 3DS brands have been very strong – the 3DS is in fact still selling well, and Nintendo don’t seem to be in a rush to move on from that console’s massive player base. This has also been confirmed by a statement from Reggie Fils-Amie saying that Nintendo’s next system would be a “home console”.
3. The Very Small Confirmed Lineup Of Games
Despite knowledge of the console being kept under wraps, a few games have been officially announced as coming out for the NX.
The first two games officially announced were a port of Dragon Quest X and the brand new game Dragon Quest XI (which is also coming to PS4 and 3DS). Dragon Quest X is a popular MMO that is already out on the Wii, Wii U, PS4 and Windows. None of those versions left Japan, and there is a good chance the NX port won’t either.
Most of Nintendo’s E3 event was based around the upcoming game Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. One of the many pieces of information revealed during the event was that the game was coming to the NX as well as the Wii U.
It was announced during E3 2016 that the latest entry in the Just Dance series will be coming to the NX. Just Dance 2017 was officially announced as coming to the NX in 2017 by Ubisoft.
A new Sonic game tentatively titled Project Sonic was announced as coming to the NX (along with the PS4, Xbox One and Windows) during the holiday season of 2017.
2. Nintendo Are Looking Into VR.
It was revealed during Nintendo’s annual AGM meeting for shareholders that the company was investigating VR technology. Don’t get your hopes up too much though – Shigeru Miyamoto has shared his concerns over its viability and its price. While he is only man within a large company, he also managed to get the almost finished Star Fox 2 shelved with a single order. If Miyamoto doesn’t like something, then he can destroy it with the power of his influence within Nintendo.
Shigeru Miyamoto has said that he is concerned with the potential health issues that come with VR. Even ardent fans of VR will admit that lengthy play sessions are difficult due to feelings of nausea. There is also the concern of the high price of the technology. Nintendo may be slightly biased when it comes to VR technology, due to their past failures with the Virtual Boy.
1. It Is Being Kept Hidden For Fear Of Imitators
As you can tell from the sparse amount of information about the NX, Nintendo have been very effective at keeping things under wraps. While it seems like every other day, gaming sites are filled with rumours about some feature or specification of the NX . The fact is, we know very little outside of the hints and scraps of information we have been given.
With all of that being said, Shigeru Miyamoto has given an official reason as to why we haven’t seen the NX yet. According to a a talk he gave at a shareholders’ meeting, Nintendo would have shown the NX at E3, but they have a fear of imitators.
This seems to suggest that the NX has some sort of unique hardware gimmick that could be copied by Nintendo’s competitors. How they would be able to develop and release the gimmick in the six short months before the NX’s release (when everyone will see it anyway) remains to be seen.
So that is all we know about the NX. Now it’s time to talk about the things we want from the NX. Nintendo are entering this generation of consoles at a late stage; Sony and Microsoft have millions of consoles sold and massive player bases already established. If Nintendo wants to become a player, then they need to step up their game, and they can do this by…
10. Being Technically Impressive Again
The last Nintendo console to be on the same level hardware-wise as the competition was the Nintendo Gamecube. The Wii was barely stronger than the PlayStation 2, and the Wii U wasn’t far off from the PlayStation 3.
That’s not to say that graphics are everything. It’s more performance issues that they need to address. The Wii U struggled to run certain games (like Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, which has noticeable load screens every time you opened the menu), and even games from the previous generation like Batman: Arkham City had technical issues.
A few of the confirmed games being released for the NX suggest that the console will at least be on par with the PlayStation 4, as Dragon Quest XI, Just Dance 2017 and Project Sonic are also being released on that console. It will help Nintendo’s cause to have a console that can run modern games at an acceptable rate, and that can easily handle ports of titles from other systems, so as to have more games in their lineup.
9. Do More With The Current Amiibo Figures
There can be no doubt that the Amiibo line of toys have been a massive success for Nintendo. It was revealed during their last financial results briefing that Nintendo have sold almost 37 million figures worldwide (and almost 29 million Amiibo cards). Those are some very impressive numbers.
While the figures are of a high quality, the one problem with owning an Amiibo is that a lot of figures don’t really do much in-game. You will get more from your purchase depending on which character you buy. The Mario Amiibo has unique functions in many game, as does Link from Legend of Zelda. If you take a lesser known character, such as the Duck Hunt Duo Amiibo for example, then the figure will interact with fewer games.
One way in which Nintendo can overcome this is to follow Disney’s lead and release a series of Infinity style games. They should make high quality Amiibo-centric titles that will encourage people to buy the figures. There is a large audience of Amiibo owners just waiting for such a concept to be made.
8. Move On From The Wii U Branding And Forge A Distinct Identity From Sony & Microsoft
One of the reasons given for the Wii U’s failure to sell units was its name. It was established that the general gaming public, who do not follow any gaming news outside of commercials, were unaware that the Wii U was a new console. Most consumers thought that it was simply an add-on for the existing Wii.
The Wii was a massive success for Nintendo, it introduced a huge audience of casual fans into the world of gaming. With that being said, the casual gamer has now moved on to cheaply made games on cellphones, tablets and social media browsers. Nintendo wrongly assumed that the casual gaming audience would be willing to update their system in the same that the hardcore gaming crowd does.
It is time to leave the Wii branding behind. That being said, Nintendo needs to forge a new identity going forward. Both Sony and Microsoft have a huge lead in terms of sales and player base. The worst thing Nintendo can do is make a copy of the PS4 or Xbox One. There has to be some other reason for players to move away from the other consoles that they have already purchased alongside a library of games.
7. Embrace Streaming and Let’s Play
Love them or hate them, “Let’s Play”ers are a big source of free advertising for games. Would a title like Five Nights At Freddy’s have been such a huge success if it weren’t for all those people comically overreacting to its jump scares on YouTube? Some companies have embraced this new form of entertainment (Sony even put a button on the PlayStation 4 controller just to make streaming easier).
Nintendo, however, have been pretty ruthless towards streamers. This has included numerous content strikes, and demanding a percentage of the ad revenue generated by these videos. Nintendo have done their best to alienate the Let’s Players of the world and sent them straight into the welcoming arms of the competition.
If Nintendo want to take advantage of all of the free good will & advertising that is being offered to them, then they need to stop with the bad attitude. They need get every inexplicably popular man baby on the Internet to act like they just saw their family being murdered whilst falling down a pit in World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. and attract as wide an audience as possible to their product.
6. No More Controller Gimmicks – Get Back To Basics
It must be hard for Nintendo to not think of crazy new ways of playing games that don’t just involve pushing buttons. With the Wiimote + Wii Sports being a major factor in selling over a hundred million consoles, it must be tempting to try and make the same lightning strike twice.
As proven with the numerous issues relating to the Wii U Gamepad (chief of which was developers reluctance to make games that required its use), it’s time to stop with the controller gimmicks. One only has to look at the horrendous control scheme enforced upon players in Star Fox Zero to see that innovation doesn’t always equate to fun.
If Nintendo want to include a sensor bar with the NX so that players can have backwards compatibility with Wii games, then that’s fine. If they want to re-win the audience of gamers who were turned off by motion controls, then Nintendo need to develop a simple controller, with buttons that activate by being pushed – not by waving your arms in the air.
5. Stop Overexposing Mario…
Here is a list of all of the Wii U games starring Mario –
Mario & Sonic at the Rio Olympic Games, Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Mario Kart 8, Mario Party 10, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, Mario vs Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, Mini Mario & Friends: Amiibo Challenge, New Super Mario Bros U, Paper Mario: Color Splash, Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Maker.
That isn’t even counting games starring other Marioverse characters (like Luigi or Yoshi), or the Virtual Console, or games on the 3DS.
In short – Mario is overexposed. His presence in a game is no longer special, due to the sheer amount of times he pops up. Nintendo had a great deal of success this generation with Splatoon, a brand new property (which was also going to be a Mario game at one point during development), which proves that they don’t need to keep drawing water from the same well. Nintendo possess the most recognisable character in all of gaming, but are constantly devaluing him by throwing him into every game.
4. … And Bring Back Some Classic Properties
The fans have been very clear in their intentions towards Nintendo. For years now, fans have been asking for new games in the Metroid and F-Zero series. Nintendo seem to not be getting the message, however, as the past two Metroid games were the hated Metroid: Other M and Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Metroid: Other M was developed by Team Ninja (of Dead or Alive fame) and is often accused of turning Samus Aran from a badass hero into a weeping schoolgirl. Metroid Prime: Federation Force meanwhile is accused of not being a Metroid game at all, and is just a familiar licence slapped onto a slipshod game.
F-Zero fans have it even worse, as the last game in the series was F-Zero Climax on the Game Boy Advance, released over a decade ago.
Instead of repeatedly pimping out Mario and his Mushroom Kingdom buddies, maybe Nintendo should revive some of the other classic properties they own. Alongside Metroid and F-Zero, you have series like Punch Out, Ice Climbers, Kid Icarus, Duck Hunt, Balloon Fighter, The Legendary Starfy and Advance Wars that are all due new titles.
3. Embrace Online Gaming
It is fair to say that the download speed on the Wii U was, frankly, abysmal. It took forever to download a full retail game onto the hard drive. Some of the biggest games on the console also had frequent problems playing online, with the biggest offender being Super Smash Bros Wii U, which often has lag if you have 4 player matches with items. It is 2016, these kinds of issues shouldn’t happen anymore. The Internet is becoming an integral part of society, and Nintendo needs to get with the times, and fast.
These Internet problems are also coupled with the tiny hard drive built into the Wii U. Even the premium model only comes with a 32 GB hard drive, which isn’t nearly enough for retail digital games. Most cellphones have more storage than the Wii U. It was possible to use external hard drives, but only certain brands were confirmed to work properly. If the NX wants to embrace digital gaming, then 500 GB should be the absolute minimum going forward.
2. Be Prepared For VR
Nintendo have actually been playing it smart when it comes to VR. While other companies have been taking all of the expense and the risk, Nintendo have been sitting on the sidelines with a non-committal attitude towards this new technology.
Companies like Sony and Microsoft are helping VR through its first tentative steps into the console market, but there are some massive hurdles awaiting them. The technology is still prohibitively expensive to the general public and will stay so for a few years at least. There are numerous health & safety issues still being sorted out when it comes to lengthy play sessions. There is also the issue of waiting for some killer games to be released for VR, as all of the current line-up are very basic titles that are only impressive because they are on new technology.
1. Get Third Party Developers On Board & Keep Them There
This right here is the big one. If you can nail down the single most important problem with the Wii U, it is lack of third party support.
As a first party developer, Nintendo are unequalled in the quality of their games. Between Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Pokémon, Nintendo produce some of the best titles of every console generation.
But it’s not enough…
Even with these amazing games coming out a few times a year, you need other titles filling out the gaps in the schedule, in order to keep people interested in the product. Many third party developers abandoned the Wii U due to its poor technical abilities, it’s difficult to work with hardware, and eventually, its low sales.
If the NX is to be successful, then Nintendo needs to win these developers back. They have to create a system that companies want to work for, and that has a good shot of making a profit. Do any of the bigwigs at Nintendo have relatives that they can marry off to form Game of Thrones style alliances with Ubisoft, Activision and EA? They have to do whatever it takes!
Honorable Mention – Break Glass In Case Of An Emergency…
Desperate times call for desperate measures. If the NX truly wants to become a competitive system in the home console market, then maybe the time has come…
If Nintendo wants to sell NX’s, then they should make the one game that people have been clamouring for since 1998.
The Pokémon MMO.
How about a Pokémon game on a home console, with amazing graphics, customizable characters and the ability to play against millions of other players online? It’s what fans have wanted for almost twenty years now. Come on Nintendo, make it happen!