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Nintendo’s next console, codenamed the NX, is going to be huge. Potentially. But every company has stumbles. If Nintendo has another one, could it be The End?
The Wii U is fantastic. Really, really fantastic. Yet it hasn’t set the world on fire in terms of sales. That’s more than just a shame. Can its failures help improve the NX? What exactly can Nintendo do to satisfy fans and make serious gains in the gaming world?
Notable Launch Games
Consoles need to hit the ground running. A considerable argument can be made that a pretty huge factor in the Wii U’s financial failure is down to its launch – or more specifically, its launch games. Having a great system means nothing if the games you can play aren’t great.
The Wii U’s launch titles weren’t bad – they just weren’t particularly noteworthy.
You’d think they’d go with the Big Names. Certainly the biggest in the initial line-up (and to some extent remaining the biggest) was Super Mario Bros. U. The sad thing is, most of the further titles were really good, and garnered a fair amount of positive publicity (in particular, ZombiiU did something new in a well-worn genre). Mario Kart will always be one of the top franchises, but instead, we had Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed – good, but nonetheless a pale imitation to the Nintendo exclusive.
Big franchise titles were saved until later on, and yes, that includes Mario Kart 8. Just imagine if Mario Maker had been a launch title alongside Super Mario Bros. U…!
Games that instantly make you want that console could make a big difference to the NX, especially considering PlayStation and Xbox launch titles are often lacklustre (and samey) anyway. Nintendo needs to show exactly what it can do straight away. We don’t need a build-up: we need the excitement generated by Splatoon from the off.
Keep a lower price point! Sure, the Wii U has its failures, but its price isn’t one. There’s plenty to be learnt from its positives too. Compared to its peers, the Wii U is affordable, meaning it doesn’t exclude anyone. Generally, you shave off about £100 from the PS4 and Xbox One.
The NX needs to be a cheaper alternative to whatever Microsoft puts out. It’ll make sure any Nintendo fans, new or old, can jump aboard the new console.
Nintendo has proven it can make a great system affordable without cutting the quality. It can do that again.
Keep the Retro Games
Here’s another thing that’s great about the Wii U: its Virtual Console, letting you indulge in the games you grew up with. Whether it’s the N64 or even the PlayStation 1, we all like a healthy dose of nostalgia.
The system emulates all your old favourites from the GBA, SNES, and even NES, meaning you can play Super Mario Bros. 2, Pac-Man, and the original Mario Kart.
Nintendo knows that many of its fans have grown up with them and are introducing a younger audience to the company, but still want to relive bygone years. With underrated gems also available on the 3DS, it’s unlikely Nintendo would ditch the idea completely, but as with the Wii U, the titles on offer to start with might be a bit lacking. They need solid titles from the get-go.
Play DVDs and Blu-rays
An increasing number of gamers don’t see a console as solely a means of playing a game. Instead, they want all the extras.
That’s why the Wii U had access to video-on-demand services like Netflix. The NX needs to keep these, but also add the ability to play DVDs and Blu-rays, just like the PS4 and Xbox One. The late Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, said:
“[W]e feel that enough people already have devices that are capable of playing DVDs and Blu-ray, such that it didn’t warrant the cost involved to build that functionality into the Wii U console because of the patents related to those technologies.”
Does it matter? Not to hardcore Nintendo fans, no, but the key to ensuring the company’s future is a wider audience, one that already expects this capability from all consoles. It seems trivial but it would nonetheless add value.
Get Rid of the Region Lock
This really put a sour taste in the mouths of would-be Wii U buyers: the region lock stops you importing games from abroad, similar to how DVDs are defined by regions.
As of May this year, nothing had been decided, but it sounds as if Nintendo are listening to their audience and scrapping the lock for the NX (though not for already-released systems like the 3DS).
Now all we have to do is wait and see…
Keep Backwards Compatibility
Nintendo has a solid history of doing this, so I can’t see it ending with the NX. If their new console runs similar discs to their previous efforts (check out what determines the life cycle of these optical discs), they should play Wii U games at the very least. It would be even better if they also played Wii games (and dare I say it, Gamecube discs too?).
It’d mean that the Virtual Console isn’t the only way to indulge in nostalgia – particularly satisfying as ever tantalising games including LEGO Dimensions, Mario Maker, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker are still being released for the U. It’d be a terrible thing to miss them.
That might not particularly be an issue depending on the hardware. We still don’t know for sure if the Nintendo NX is a portable or home console.
It’s about time the 3DS had a successor, but Nintendo might want to limit the damage caused by the Wii U by replacing that system. The latter is quite likely as at least the 3DS has had tweaked designs released, like the New 3DS, the XL, and the 2DS.
The really interesting thing about the Wii U is, of course, the GamePad; essentially a controller with an extra screen. That means some games work similar to the DS, utilising that additional display with extra information and features; and it’s also possible to play a game via the family television while everyone else watches something different. This is big. But few fully engaged with the idea. And frankly, I don’t know why.
Nobody really talks about the PlayStation Vita, Sony’s handheld console. Yet this is what Nintendo are known for. If they can combine the clarity and satisfaction of a home console, with the convenience and accessibility of a portable device – just like they did on the U – but generate proper excitement about it, the company would surely be onto a winner.
Which brings us neatly to my final point: publicity. As far as I can see, Nintendo’s publicity machine has been having a bad few years. There’s a distinctly lacklustre approach, as if they can throw a console out without them having to get the adrenaline pumping.
As I say, the Wii U is a great system, but after a surprisingly short period of time, it’s like Nintendo has given up. Maybe they got disheartened, but when such a high turnover of money is involved, you can’t get bogged down.
I’m especially thinking of their laissez-faire technique at recent E3s. While I applauded what they did last year, so little came from 2015’s event. In fact, I can’t immediately recall anything.
Fans need to know that the company will really get behind the NX – for good. I seriously doubt anyone will be harping on about it in a decade’s time, but Nintendo shouldn’t let excitement peter out so swiftly. Showcase the system! Let us know about the ‘hidden’ features we’re missing out on! Engage us and keep our interest!
True, this is also affected by the games on offer. Development takes a while, I know, but gamers typically have to wait over a year to get their hands on whatever is leaked at E3. Star Fox Zero, for example, was teased two days before 2014’s E3, and yet it still hasn’t come out yet. Enthusiasm wears off. I was so stoked for Mario Maker last year, and while I’m still interested enough to buy it, that anticipation has lessened and I’ll probably pick it up a few months after its 11th September release.
What’s on Your Wishlist?
We really know very little about the Nintendo NX, so we can speculate all we want. You likely have a wishlist, just like I do. Whatever the final result, details will trickle out between now and its projected release date in 2016.
What’s your #1 must-have feature? What’s most important to you when buying a console? And will the NX save Nintendo?