Originally I sat down to write about why Nintendo can’t seem to make the Wii U happen, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that not only is Nintendo struggling to make the Wii U happen, Nintendo is struggling to make Nintendo happen.
Why? Why is the powerhouse that dominated console gaming for almost three hardware generations now posting sales losses of hundreds of millions of dollars? In my opinion, it basically comes down to Nintendo being almost willfully out of touch with the current console-gaming market.
The reason Microsoft and Sony are actively demolishing the house that Mario built in sales is because they’re in a race to deliver the experiences that most gamers want, regardless of age. From Skylanders to Assassin’s Creed, they’re throwing out content for everyone on systems that at least compete with your average PC in terms of graphics, complete with a robust and easy-to-use online network. Nintendo isn’t just in third place in those terms, they’re opting out of participating in that particular race entirely.
I know what you’re thinking. There’s nothing wrong with doing things your own way. In fact, most console gamers I know have owned an Xbox or a Playstation for two or three generations now, as well as a Nintendo console. But that Nintendo console is a secondary device reserved specifically for Nintendo exclusives. Mario. Donkey Kong. Smash Bros. The occasional third-party exclusive like Eternal Darkness or ZombiU. In my experience it’s very rarely a primary system for anyone save families with children. So while Microsoft and Sony are primarily targeting hardcore gamers, Nintendo seems to be delivering a more family-focused, exclusive-based console at a slightly more reasonable price-point. And what’s so wrong with that? It at least worked with the Wii, didn’t it? So why did that system do so well, while the Wii U is struggling?
Well, let’s look at why the Wii was so successful. Primarily, it was because almost everyone, from kids, to parents, to grandparents, just loved those motion controls. They were new and interesting and often encouraged people get off the couch while playing a video game for once. Graphically it wasn’t as impressive as its fellow consoles of the day, but the control novelty and the very reasonable price point were enough to make it a huge success.
The Wii U, on the other hand, simply hasn’t had that novelty going for it. The touch-screen control-pad is very cool, but doesn’t have the “gotta try that” flair that the Wiimote had. On top of that, Nintendo didn’t do a great job of selling it as a proper successor to the Wii. From the day of its announcement forward, the Wii U was largely seen as an extension of the Wii, a PR setback that could have been averted by something as simple being dubbed the Wii 2.
So no, while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Nintendo doing their own thing, the Wii U is currently underperforming the Dreamcast, which could (worst-case scenario) mean we’re watching them take the slow train to Segatown.
Now. Imagine this. Nintendo announces a new console. It’s just called The Nintendo because that’s the only name that matters. It’s in the $400 to $500 range, BUT it meets or beats the PS4 in terms of graphics. It comes with a standard controller, you know, like the ones they used to make and that other consoles have been improving on since the Super Nintendo. Third-parties are 100% onboard. Online support comparable to PS+ and Live. No friend codes. Oh, and get this… A new Zelda at launch. Link versus Ganon in a ring of fire, with sound and visuals like never-before-seen on a console. Hell, maybe even throw in some limited online features like those in the Dark Souls series. They make it a true next-gen experience, with all of the bells and whistles of the wildly popular PS4 and Xbox One and the added benefit of all of the Nintendo franchises we’ve intensely loved for the past thirty years.
That’s not just a successful console launch, that’s a phoenix rising from the ashes. That’s a former King fighting to take back the crown. That’s how Nintendo makes Nintendo happen again.