So over Christmas, the Missus got me a Wii U (NNID: GuyCC75). I was actually pretty fine with this as a console choice as Xbox One and Playstation 4 just don’t have any games I really want at this time, and I really wanted to check out Super Mario 3D World. In playing it, I really like the ease of accessibility, the use of Miiverse, seeing Nintendo games in HD (which was long overdue), and I really like the new controller. The touchscreen is great, I’ve always liked the dual-screen aspects of the DS family as they kept the main game’s interface looking “clean”, and finally, I don’t have to “waggle” my fool head off to enjoy a game (though Nintendo mercifully lessened this in the final years).

Nintendo’s struggle with the Wii U has been documented long before it even released. People tried to figure out what it was before it came out: Was the new controller a new accessory for the existing Wii? It didn’t help matters that it looked exactly like a slightly streamlined version of the then current Wii, and had a name that was far too close to the previous product. Nintendo did a fairly mediocre job explaining what the product was, and I guess expected people to just shell out a few hundred dollars as the “Wii” name should have been enough justification to make the purchase. It wasn’t.

The Missus asked me what would I do if I could have a chance to turn the Wii U’s fortunes around, and the concept sounded lie a great article for me to write. Now that I have the system, I can go from “armchair analyst” to an actual owner, I’m going to make a few observations on how I think the Wii U could be made better. The funny thing is, I started writing this before Nintendo announced all of he changes it was going to make to its business plan.

Change the Name – I saw this being an issue years back, and I called this one correctly. Honestly, the damage has been caused, and I don’t think they could change it now even if they wanted to. On the market now is Wii, Wii Mini (the regular Wii with a top loading disc drive and no online), and Wii U. That’s three “Wii” systems on the store shelves right now. No wonder people are confused. Why Nintendo chose to get “cutesy” with the name, and not even consider the resulting consequences is beyond me, but “Wii 2”, “Super Wii”, an entirely different console name altogether would have been better choices. But what’s done is done, and they are stuck with it, lest they cause anymore confusion. That said, they need to do what Playstation 3 did: Drop the “Spider-Man movie” font, and go for a whole new branding style. People are going to remain confused, as the controller is the only true visual difference, and even that could have been mistaken for one of the original Wii’s countless plastic accessories.

Fix the eShop – Like the 3DS, the Wii U’s eShop is a cluttered mess. That’s one thing the original Wii had going for it: A very nice and organized online store. Games could be found by console and publisher, and very clearly defined by WiiWare, Virtual Console, and Channels. The 3DS eShop has no organization. I couldn’t find half the DSi games released if I wanted to, or if I didn’t specifically knew what I was looking for. Sections are broken into trendy, interchangeable topics that vary one week to the next, making it nearly impossible to find everything. The point is, I hoped the 3DS would get cleaned up, and this wouldn’t happen to the Wii U.

It happened.

The Wii U needs to broken down into categories: Simultaneous Retail/Download games, Virtual Console, Indie, Applications, and Videos. Alphabetize things. Break things down into permanent sections. Have recommended games, “Coming Soon”, and sales hit the front page. Just clean up the listings so that things are more easily found, or even simply found at all.

Bring Back the Franchises that People are Asking For – It’s important to listen to the fans… to an extent. Not every game series needs to become a first-person shooter set in the future, which would undoubtedly please some of the more vocal majority. To credit, Nintendo has brought back Punch-Out!!, Pilotwings, Luigi’s Mansion, Donkey Kong Country, Pikmin, and Kid Icarus just in the last five years. But where Mario gets an average of 1-2 games a year now, these are all titles that haven’t seen an update in at least 10-20 years. I think the risk of “oversaturating” with these titles is really, really low. But what about titles like StarTropics, or Starfox, or F-Zero, or Waverace? Nintendo focuses heavily on Mario and Pokemon and Zelda, which is all well and good, as they are great games, but it seems that they forget that they have 20 other franchises they could pull out and make the fans’ eyes glaze over like they did at E3 2009. Even a simple tease or announcement could get gamers sitting on the fence to finally give in and buy a system. I understand that development doesn’t happen overnight, but the promise of things to come goes a long way.

Bring Back Nintendo Sports – I am not a sports gaming fan. Never have been, and I never will be. That said, I well understand the appeal of sports games to that genre of gamer, and how loyal they can remain. Nintendo has lost EA development for the Wii U, which is a crushing blow as EA basically owns the video gaming sports market. That said, Nintendo owns the Seattle Mariners. Wii Sports and Wii Fit sold the original Wii on just those two games. And they do countless Mario Sports games. This is the company that made Pro Wrestling and Waverace. Rebrand the existing sports titles to fall under this new umbrella, and strike up deals with the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, PGA, and WWF. Use real teams and players. Use college teams. Like it or not, the system simply cannot survive without any sports games, and Nintendo is going to have to take the reins if no one else will do it for them.

Work out more Exclusives with 3rd Parties – Nintendo has maintained good relationships with Capcom, Konami, Namco, Tecmo, Square-Enix (sort of), Sega, Disney, and Warner Bros. Interactive over the years. Nintendo loves focusing on the past, especially the NES era. Perhaps it’s time to get these companies to think along the same lines. Get Capcom to bring out a new and exclusive Street Fighter and Mega Man. A new Castlevania title. A Rygar or Ninja Gaiden in the original adventure-style vein. Get Square-Enix to create an “old-style” Final Fantasy game of release Dragon Quest X. Work with Sega to mine more of their classic franchises past just Sonic. During the NES/SNES days, there were certain titles that gamers just associated with Nintendo outside “The House of Mario”, and they were only found on Nintendo systems. Nintendo needs to work out some exclusive deals and get some more of those one of a kind experiences.

Help out the 3rd Party Developers – Again, Nintendo needs to help their third-party developers understand how to best utilize their system. Everything from how to fully utilize the gamepad as part of gameplay, to perhaps helping to market and promote those above-mentioned exclusive titles, in addition to the “big” games of the year. Nintendo can get the most out of their system like no one else. Perhaps it’s time to share some of those secrets with a handful of other developers.

Fix Relationships with 3rd Party Developers – It is time to play “damage control” and mend relationships with companies like EA, Activision, and Ubisoft. Without EA, they are sunk without their multiple sports titles, and upcoming Star Wars games. That’s also taking into consideration Need for Speed and Dead Space. Activision is losing faith, and that’s a large number of Marvel Comics titles (for now), Skylanders, Call of Duty, and even two surprisingly good Transformers games. Ubisoft is Assassin’s Creed, Rayman, and Just Dance. That’s a small handful of the titles these three companies create, but EA has already backed out, Ubisoft and Activision support is starting to seem shaky, and with all the content Warner Bros. creates for the platform, if they walk, Nintendo will be irreversibly tapped out for the majority of external support. Outside of fixing sales (which ultimately boils down to the consumer gaining interest), Nintendo needs to make sure that they don’t lose any of these companies. For that matter, all the companies that they ARE still “good” with, Nintendo needs to make sure that they are kept happy, and don’t wander away to exclusively support only the other consoles, PC, or mobile.

Become “THE” system for indie gamingBack in 2011, Reggie Fils-Amie snubbed the “garage” gaming scene. Keep in mind that without these “garages”, Minecraft wouldn’t have happened. And old companies, such as Sierra On-Line, started out from Ken and Roberta Williams’ kitchen table. Not every company has to have an office to be able to produce a successful game. And granted, Nintendo has backpedaled some on that stance since. Besides, it’s not like the original Wii has room to boast after so much shovelware appeared on the system that it make the Atari 2600 look modest in comparison.

But Nintendo needs to make sure that they keep recognizing talent when it appears, whatever the source. They need to find another World of Goo type game. And they need to jump on as many as they can before Microsoft and Sony do. UnEpic is likable, and there is a nice selection of upcoming indie content coming throughout the year that will hopefully help to “legitimize” the Wii U as a good place for indie developers to reach a mainstream audience.

Tighter Quality Control on Games – Even with only a tiny handful of games actually ever gaining some sales, the original Wii did have some great games. But the ratio of “good” versus “crap” felt like 10 to 1 on the system. Going to a Gamestop or Best Buy yielded a staggering number of games that I never knew existed, from publishers that I’ve never heard of before or since. And the majority of these titles looked poorly made. I’m honestly surprised the glut of Wii Sports/Fit knock-offs and bizarrely licensed kart racing games didn’t trigger another crash. I also think that’s why quality games like A Boy and His Blob, Deadly Creatures, and Muramasa never got the attention they deserved: It became numbing to sift through the garbage to find on of these “gems”. The Wii U’s lineup is generally of better quality, but does have a significantly smaller library.

Release “Best Of” compilations from the PS3/Xbox 360 eraBioshock. Elder Scrolls. Grand Theft Auto. Tomb Raider. Kingdom Hearts. While now considered “old” games, bringing over ports of well-received game series that never saw release on the Wii could make the game droughts far more bearable, and introduce die-hard Nintendo fans to quality games they haven’t been able to experence before. If they do well enough in sales, then continue releasing these franchises to increase the diversity of the Wii U library.

Virtual Console – When the Virtual console debuted on the Wii in 2006, it was great. Every week, 3-4 titles were released, building up a library of classics that gave people either nostalgic revisitations, or a chance to check out a never before played title. And it was a great line-up: NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Master System, Genesis, Turbografx-16, Neo Geo, Commodore 64, and arcade. But four titles became three a week. Then two. Then one. Then one a month. Then one every 2-3 months, and so on.

The Virtual Console should have been a stop gap between droughts. And the Wii U is starting from scratch.Stop treating every release like a total mystery or they are doing us a “favor” when they release game. Earthbound fans were tortured for years of forming “conspiracy theories as to why the game was or could never be released before Nintendo finally dropped the game on Wii U (with a higher price tag than the other games, because they knew they could get away with it). They delayed games like Super Mario RPG and Zelda II for “100” milestones. Super Mario Bros. 3, as good as the title is, does not need to linger in “Coming Soon” status this long. Just release the games, because at this rate, the Wii U library isn’t going to even cover half the Wii’s library (which is still playable if you transfer your system memory over). This should have been done like iTunes. Release content, and let people pick through the catalog at their leisure. Could you imagine music downloads taking weeks or months to finally get the full album?

Treat Club Nintendo Accounts Like Steam Accounts – This should have been like Steam. Or iTunes. Or PSN. You download a game, it goes to all related devices. Gamers should not have to buy the same games over and over and over when so many other companies allow you full library access from multiple devices. PS3, PS4, and Vita can all share the same content. I bought Super Mario Bros. for Wii. I have it for 3DS. A discount for Wii U isn’t enough. Just link the systems. When Wii U 2 comes out in a few years, do all my downloaded Wii games get lost if I try to system transfer then?

Get Over the “Fear” of Online – The internet is not “new”. It is not “hype”, it is not a “novelty”, and it is not a “fad”. And Nintendo needs to stop treating a service that has so deeply integrated into our daily lives as something “untested” when it is almost inescapable in usage. Super Mario 3D World, for all its great gameplay would have equally have been as fun to play with Wii U owning friends in other states. I understand the appeal of local couch play, but it is not always possible as you grow older and friends move away. Both options should be available for multi-player play, and this is one feature that Nintendo can no longer ignore.

Stop Trying To Cater To “Grandma”This commercial signifies a lot of what is wrong with Wii U advertising. It starts out well with a lot of gameplay, and then switches to a girl in the commercial looking annoyed and confused that “Mom” is using a glove to play “Wii Sports”, and then later gets this weird frown after reading the “dis” from her “Grandmother”, who later chops carrots to promote YouTube. The girl looks unhappy in the commercial, and no gamer is going to care about veggie chopping, or how YouTube looks. For that matter, they need to drop the Wiimote from commercials, as while it is compatible, I can see the mixed message it sends that it’s still the same system. The gamepad is great, and they need to promote what the controller actually does, how easy it is to access menu functionality from the pad, as well as the added gameplay options it can provide. It’s essentially the second screen of a DS for TV usage, and the second screen has always expanded gameplay options.

Simply put: The “older” audience isn’t there. They have everything they need from the original Wii (if they even still play it at all), and aren’t going to invest in a new system that from a visual persepective, looks the same, uses the same controllers, and the only difference on the box is a “U”.

Buy Sega – Part wishlist option, but it makes sense. Nintendo and Sega have been increasingly “buddy buddy” with each other in the last few years, and having Sega under their wing would give Nintendo access to a slew of new franchises they could use, and Sega’s titles would get that extra layer of “TLC” Nintendo applies to their own games. That would mean Sonic, Streets of Rage, Shinobi, Golden Axe, Space Harrier, Outrun, Panzer Dragoon, Space Channel 5, Samba de Amigo, Shenmue, Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio, Super Monkey Ball, NiGHTS, Virtua Cop, Fantasy Zone, Alex Kidd, Ecco the Dolphin, Skies of Arcadia, Altered Beast, Seaman…. And what better game to launch a genuinely committed stance to online gaming than Phantasy Star Online?

A lot of this is simply pure thought, and an opinion piece, but to summarize the biggest issues:

* Fix and better maintain relationships with third-parties.
* Provide a unified NNID account for all systems that focuses on the previously downloaded library.
* Tap deeper into their extensive library of franchises past Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon. They need genre diversity. Especially sports titles.
* Release Virtual Console titles at a constant and steady pace to coincide with new sequels, and especially with droughts.
* Show a greater commitment to online gameplay.
* Advertise games more.
* Highlight the uniqueness of the gamepad, how it enhances gameplay and menu navigation, and regulate the Wii Remote to the far background.
* Stop trying to cater to the casual “1-2 game a console lifespan” audience that has clearly moved on at this point.

The Wii U is a much improved system, as it actually does correct a lot of the mistakes the Wii made during its lifecycle. While the “success” of the Wii has always been related to how many units it sold, the unsuccessful areas that held it back were always glossed over. I don’t know if mobile apps and “lifestyle consoles” are going to turn Nintendo’s fortunes around, but they do have their work cut out for them.

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