June 02, 2016

Opinion - What Nintendo Need To Do For NX To Succeed?

Nintendo are a company with a long and storied history, while most people consider them as video game makers, today that is true, they did not start out that way, even in the 1960’s and 1970’s they were making toys. Many people of course know about Nintendo and their connection to love hotels and taxi services, among other enterprises they tried their hand at and of course, Hanafuda, which they still make today. Nintendo has been around since 1889 and this year will celebrate 127 years, which will baffle most people, but with Wii U failing to make any sort of impression and 3DS being challenged by mobile phones, Nintendo really need to step things up if they want to hit 130 years.

From the outset, the Wii U struggled to identify itself, leaving people confused as to what it actually was, with a lot of people believing it to be an add on for the Wii. When out of the gate, you are not able to clearly tell someone what your product is, you stumble and the time you take to recover will hurt you down the line. Microsoft experience this same fact not 12 months later when they debuted the Xbox One, with an event that talked about every feature of this video game console, except the video games and of course add to it a confusing name, people were worried about it. But before the machine launched, they managed to correct course somewhat and they are now doing well. Wii U however never managed that correction, launching with a pretty stupid name, Wii was fine, but they added the U to make it a more personal gaming experience, but they still had not cleared up the message that it was a new machine.

A great addition to Wii U but many years too late
Sony has created many holes for itself over the years and when they announced the PlayStation 4, they did so with a clear message, about what the machine was and the games coming to it. The sales of the PlayStation 4, since its launched have been incredible and while it won’t surpass the Wii, it is by far the most successful machine this console cycle and for good reason, they launched with a clear focus, this is the machine, these are the games, but it can do this as well. Nintendo need and I have to stress this NEED to launch the NX with the best possible launch they can muster, the Wii U launched without too many games, Netflix was there day one, but it was competing against the very confusing and somewhat pointless Nintendo TV, a service that did nothing for Nintendo in the long run. When the console goes on sale in March of 2017, it needs to have a strong line up of games, as well as a dedicated message as to what the machine is.

Of course, all that is based on the fact that Nintendo will actually turn around and tell people what the machine is soon, as with typical Nintendo fashion, they refuse to tell anyone anything. Over the past 12 months, we have had rumours that extend from quite possible, to no way in the world, about just what the NX is, does it have a controller with a screen in it? Does the power of the console rival that of the now rumoured PS4 Neo? Will developers be able to bring their games to it, thanks to architecture that matches the others? With all these rumours floating about, people are starting to get confused already and the NX is still only a code name, for all we know it could be something grander than we thought possible, or a frightening thought, back to the old habits Nintendo has.

The home consoles of Nintendo, ever shrinking..

We are now 10 months away from the release and without a single thing to go on, people are getting worried, well perhaps worried is not the right word, concerned is a better way of thinking. Nintendo have been saying about how NX is going to be different to Wii U, it is going to be better that Wii U was, but without anything to back that up, people are thinking it could all just be in their heads. Over the past 12 months, we have heard a lot about My Nintendo, a new rewards system for people playing Nintendo games and already, this is proving to be a good addition, thanks in part to being able to exchange their coins for discounts they want. But My Nintendo has one very significant hurdle that it must clear for people to take it seriously, making all digital purchases link to My Nintendo and not the machine.

Over the years, I have bought a number of titles digitally through Nintendo’s Virtual Console service, some I buy because it’s great to have the game again, as the psychical versions are so expensive, other times it is a convenience, having them all there. But during the Wii era, my machine needed to be fixed and I lost my purchases, so even on my new console, after signing into the eShop with the same account, I had to buy them again. Even today, if you own one model 3DS and go to a different one, you are not able to just download the products you own, you need to transfer them, which takes a lot of time. Allowing people who have already purchased a Virtual Console version of Super Mario Bros. from the Nintendo Entertainment System, to just download it onto their NX day one, would be a big win, but of course, that is only for the people who already own it, or more to the point, for the dedicated Nintendo fan, what about those people who are not gamers?

The first confirmed NX game is a Wii U port

Nintendo managed to convince people that the Wii was something they needed to have, this was because the machine offered up a very simple concept, you played Wii Sports and you got it, all of a sudden video games were popular for the masses. With Wii U, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, that desire to keep playing disappeared, transferred to mobile phones and other activities, so how can you get them back with NX, simple, or at least I think so, get the games people want, as close to launch as possible. Super Smash Bros for Wii U is a great game, it is the first one in the series I ever bought, but it is not a game for the masses, fighting games never are, Mario Kart however is a game that people know of and enjoy. If you look back at the last three consoles from Nintendo, Wii U, Wii and Gamecube, Super Smash Bros has sold about 4.8 million, 12.77 million and 7.09 million on each respectively. Mario Kart on the other hand has sold about, 7.5 million, 36.38 million and 7 million, which is impressive to be sure, but proves that over all people care about Mario Kart more than Smash Bros.

But Mario Kart alone cannot sustain a console launch, no matter how good it is, they need more games and by the sounds of things, it looks like they are aware of that. By launching in March, rather than before Christmas this year, they are giving their own internal teams and second, third and indie developers more time to get games ready as well. But are games all it needs, there are people that will tell you that you need Netflix, Hulu, BBC and insert other media streaming app here, at launch as well, to help draw in the non-gamers, however even with all of that, the NX needs to have a third pillar that works for them, the name of the machine. PlayStation have stuck with their names on the home console at least and it works, if you say PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 1, people know what you mean, whereas Xbox have determined that being all over the place is their strategy, Xbox, Xbox 360 and now Xbox One, the amount of confusion amongst dedicated gamers to the names at the start was odd, so you can imagine how bad it was for the parents forced to go shopping for a console.

Ask many non-gamers who these people are and see how many you get
Nintendo has had a pretty simple naming process in the past, Nintendo Entertainment System, then Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, but that is where they changed things, Gamecube kind of made sense, it was a cube shape and it played games, Wii was the name, which was meant to be inclusive and Wii U just confused people. Sticking with the Wii name is not a good idea, people connect Wii to Nintendo in the same way that if you say hamburger, you are likely thinking McDonalds, it really does not matter if you mean another place, the connection in your mind is to that one place, so if they were to name this Wii 3, it would just add more unnecessary confusion. Whatever name they decide, needs to firmly establish the machine, but it does not need to describe its features, we don’t need Nintendo Video Games and Netflix Box with additional options, it just needs to be simple.

So looking back at everything here, Nintendo need to clearly describe the machine and what it can do, provide games at launch that appeal to more than just the day one buyers, but also keep the momentum happening in the week and months past launch and finally. They absolutely give whatever NX is a name that people can respond too, without confusion and one that allows for it to become part of common vernacular, like Wii did. Of course, all this means naught until Nintendo themselves decide that they are ready to talk about it and reveal whatever the machine is, until that day, we will just wait and hope they have learnt from the past.

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