Like it or not, Nintendo’s latest home console Wii U has already won the “next generation” of video game hardware.
It’s no secret that the Wii U has had a rocky start. Fire up almost any video game website out there and you will come across hundreds of articles about how the console has “doomed” Nintendo forever, how the lack of video game releases is a bad omen, or how some developer has a problem with the hardware architecture.
But those issues are all but behind the biggest video game publisher in the world. The future looks bright for both Nintendo and Wii U, even with new consoles from Sony and Microsoft breathing down its neck.
Here’s why I feel Nintendo Wii U is not only out of the woods, but has cemented its spot as number one console for the next generation.
Learning the hard way
When Nintendo introduced Wii U in 2011, American branch President Reggie Fils-Aime said the “Wii U is about ‘You'”, meaning the customer.
Since launch, it’s clear Nintendo is taking that philosophy and putting it above all else.
There are arguments out there that Wii U was launched too early, citing hardware issues and lengthy updates as evidence. Yet no one seems to stop to wonder why Nintendo launched the console so “early”, if that is indeed the case.
The reason is obvious: Wii sales were in decline, and the customers wanted something new. So Nintendo delivered.
Since then, there are more clues as to how Wii U is the console for “You”. Complaints about Virtual Console games in Europe about being displayed in 50Hz was met with the publisher releasing 60Hz titles. Feedback from Miiverse has resulted in almost weekly tweaks and updates to the service. And all that complaining about load times has resulted in Nintendo doing something about it.
Likewise, the Nintendo produced Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate has received updates to allow players to play with others from different regions, something the fans asked for.
Sure, you could suggest that Nintendo should’ve gotten these things right from day one, but the fact that they have changed their usual stance of “our product is perfect in our eyes, deal with it” should be well respected for such a conservative company.
And here’s the good news: as Wii U ages, the teething problems and the tomes of feedback will dwindle away, and the people who use the system will be the ones who help craft the system. Miiverse is a powerful tool for Nintendo to gather feedback about their console and make real-time decisions to help deliver their customers the product they expect.
When Sony and Microsoft are busy dealing with their own launch issues, Nintendo’s will be far behind them and Wii U will look like a strong, stable console that’s worthwhile a purchase.
Games, Glorious Games!
I’ll admit that I envision a “Nintendo of the 80’s” for Wii U. A Nintendo that creates new characters, new worlds, new games. I can speculate and say that may be on the horizon, but for now, Nintendo have a very strong library of both ideas and franchises that are ready and rearing to move into high definition.
I don’t care what anyone says; a 3D-Action Super Mario title in HD will be amazing, and millions of people will pay money to experience that for themselves. We already know that game is coming, too, along with Mario Kart and Yarn Yoshi.
But there will be more. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD will hit Wii U this year, and Super Smash Bros. U is not too far off. Pikmin 3 hits in August, and we haven’t even heard about the inevitable Mario Tennis, Metroid and Starfox titles.
Pokemon alone could sell enough consoles for Nintendo to be comfortable for a very long time.
Despite what your thoughts are on sequels and franchise abuse, Nintendo have a proven formula with their characters. You buy them, I buy them — everyone and their dogs buy them. They’re good, and they are brands that we can trust with our hard earned cash. Investing in a Mario title is like buying an iPhone; you don’t have to think about it, because even if there is one or two annoying aspects, you’ll be pretty damn pleased with your purchase.
Nintendo characters are comfortable. Everyone has grown up with them and we all feel okay about buying more. Sure, something new and exciting that we haven’t seen before would be nice, as would Nintendo putting their clear development artisans to work developing other genres like FPS or RTS games, but it’s okay if they don’t. We all know their current crop of franchises are more than enough reason to own their consoles.
The Price is Right for Third Party Publishers
Are you happy with the current price you pay for video games? Would you pay $30 more for a game if it had prettier graphics?
Many of you answered “no”, which highlights the problem with graphics hardware that leaps too far ahead of the current generation.
To make the difference between an Xbox 360 and Xbox 3, you will need to enhance graphics to a huge level. You could give the console more RAM to allow for better cloth effects and more breakable objects, but unless you’re beefing up the graphics CPU to a high level, the average Joe on the street will not see a compelling difference.
And since making in-game clothing move realistically, or designing millions of particle effects and breakable objects takes a long time, you need to hire more developers to accomplish your shipping goals. And all that costs money.
I think third party publishers will be faced with the reality of ballooning development costs very early on after the launch of PlayStation 4 and Xbox 3. They will need to ask the question “are we really selling more games because the graphics are better?”.
There is, of course, a good yardstick for this. We have titles like Call of Duty releasing every year. If sales of those games fall once PlayStation 4 launches, publishers will have a problem. They will want to add new and exciting features in their games, but they will want to do it as the cheapest possible price.
This is why Nintendo’s strategy of selling conservative hardware is the wise choice. Developers today can put a game on this new console with brand new features not seen anywhere else and not pay a dime more than they paid to put that game on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
What might end up happening is that developers will make games for the current batch of consoles first, then wrap sharper graphics over the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 3 versions. While they will of course look better, the games will not take much advantage of those systems better hardware, so like-for-like the Wii U will be the better game. To put it another way, since the game is the same on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Xbox 3, customers will be hard to convince that there’s any merit in buying a more expensive console than the ones already on the market.
And we’re already seeing this before PlayStation 4 launches. Games like Battlefield 4 and Watch_Dogs use current generation hardware features and apply them to next generation consoles. This means that Battlefield 4 on PlayStation 4 will be the same game as the version on PlayStation 3, and will only feature slightly better graphics, throwing out any reason what-so-ever of having more computational power.
Seizing the Opportunities
Nintendo have a powerful product on the market already that can become a powerful tool to educate the mass market about Wii U.
It’s called the Nintendo 3DS.
Since launching in 2011, Nintendo 3DS has sold more than 32 Million units worldwide and with a huge raft of titles shipping for the console this year, that number is set to skyrocket.
Yet for its popularity, Nintendo have been pretty conservative when it comes to advertising on the system. Nintendo 3DS is capable of receiving messages from developers and Nintendo without the user doing anything other than connecting it to the internet.
These messages include text and video, the latter thanks to recently purchased video codec company MobiClip (now called Nintendo Europe Research & Development or “NERD”). MobiClip’s technology allows delivery of high quality video files that have been compressed into tiny file sizes, perfect for quick download and playback on Nintendo 3DS.
While we occasionally see some Wii U material pop up on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, Nintendo have a huge opportunity to convert over 30 million customers into Wii U owners by cleverly marketing the benefits of the console based off the players gaming habits.
This would have to be opt-in, of course, but most people love receiving updates, and if those updates include cool trailers for awesome new games, who would complain?
Having this huge army of people who like to play games with a console that is built for marketing can be a very powerful tool, should Nintendo wish to wield it.
As you can see, Wii U’s rocky few months is nothing compared to the next five or so years. Nintendo are in a strong position to lead the upcoming generation of video game consoles thanks to a market head start, a great game library, careful consideration to rising development costs and leveraging their millions of customers who are already on the Nintendo bandwagon.
Sony and Microsoft are not entering this generation with a free ride token, they’re going to to need to pull out all the stops to convince the industry and the market that their hardware offers something better than Wii U. Right now, they have a serious fight on their hands.
Do you think Nintendo Wii U is a generation-winner? Or will it be a footnote on video gaming history? Have your say below!