You may have heard about the alarming financial news coming from Nintendo at the end of July. In Game Tangents Podcast 43: JRPGS of The Generation, we discussed the troubling, anemic Wii U console and software sales numbers for the yearly quarter between April and June 2013. With only 160,000 Wii U consoles sold, along with about 1 million software units pushed through retail, Nintendo is almost certainly in panic mode, despite their outward appearance of confidence. With the immediate future outlook becoming grimmer every day, Nintendo must rethink their strategy leading into this holiday season and next year. The following are just a few suggestions for renewed strategies that Nintendo should consider if they wish to see a reversal of fortune for their fledgling console.
Lower the Price
This is undoubtedly the most obvious suggestion aimed at getting more Wii U consoles in people’s homes. Why hasn’t Nintendo picked up on this fact, yet? We are only a few months away from the beginning of the true next-generation of gaming with the impending releases of the PS4 and Xbox One. Does Nintendo really think that their $350 Wii U will look attractive sitting on the store shelves next to a PS4 that is only $50 more to anyone who isn’t already a hardcore Nintendo fan? Even ardent Xbox One detractors have to admit that Microsoft’s next-generation system is a better value and offers more exciting, slick, high-end software and features. The empirical evidence is already on the table, Nintendo; nobody is buying the Wii U when your system is sitting next to current-gen hardware like the Xbox 360 and PS3. What makes you think you can compete with sleek, new hardware? Without a substantial price cut, the Wii U will continue to slip into the abyss of irrelevance and obsolescence beginning this November.
Reintroduce the Console
Face it, Nintendo, your Wii U launch failed to inspire the minds and imaginations of gamers around the world. You failed to invigorate and initiate a new demographic into the fold of gaming enthusiasts like you succeeded in doing with the Wii. But don’t despair, just yet. There is still time to hit the reset button and start again.
When Nintendo first introduced the Wii U, they did so with vagueness and a confused message. They concentrated on the their new Game Pad controller and relegated their new console to the oblivious background. The result of this strategy was far from favorable or beneficial to Nintendo’s cause. The mass market of casual gamers that Nintendo had relied upon with the Wii erroneously thought the Game Pad was simply a new peripheral for the aging Wii console rather than part of something new. It is likely that there are people to this day who still make this mistake.
The time has come to relaunch the Wii U with a deep price cut, some pack-ins (free games or storage), and a renewed, clear focus on what the Wii U actually is. For example, the possibilities and functionality conducive to a fun gaming experience that the Game Pad can bring to the consumer is being better demonstrated and articulated by the competition. Sony and Microsoft are showing new and innovative ways to use touch pad controls with their respective next-generation consoles, while Ubisoft and EA are showing how they are taking advantage of these features with games like The Division and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. It is time that Nintendo demonstrate that they can take ownership of their innovations and ideas, and show what the Game Pad can bring to the gaming landscape.
Relaunching a video game system is not a new idea. In fact, this is a Nintendo strategy that they successfully implemented with the then floundering 3DS in 2011. The person responsible for conceiving this strategy must not work for Nintendo any longer. They need to rehire this person, quickly. And with a renewed, revitalized message, Nintendo needs to relaunch an effective television ad campaign to get this message to the general public.
Promote the Console
When was the last time you saw a Wii U commercial on T.V.? Perhaps the question should be: Are there even any Wii U commercials aired on T.V.? If so, then who are they marketing to? If Nintendo is airing Wii U commercials primarily during Saturday morning cartoons, for example, then they really need to rethink their marketing strategy. Children don’t buy expensive video game consoles; adults do. Nintendo needs to take the previous two suggestions and develop a new ad campaign explaining to gamers why they need to buy a Wii U, while giving them monetary incentive with a new, competitive price point. They should air these commercials during shows and on channels that gaming enthusiasts watch, then finish their campaign to convince us with an overwhelming display of games. It is about time that Nintendo shows that they know who gaming enthusiasts are, and what they want.
Release New and Exciting Games
The Wii U launched with a modest line-up of games, and a few ports of games from the other HD consoles that were already past their prime. Since then, a slow trickle of games have been released with only a few stand-outs such as Pikmen 3. This is not enough.
In the past few months, Nintendo has announced a few high-profile games are indeed coming to Wii U – in 2014. Games like Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros., and a new Legend of Zelda, should have all been launch or launch window titles. Instead, these games are all announced after Wii U sales data have already gone critical. Similarly, games like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Super Mario 3D World should have been announced with the release of the system back in 2012. This, along with an effective ad campaign, would have generated more interest during the launch cycle of the system which, consequently, would have translated into more sales and internet discourse.
Updating older, classic franchises, as with The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, is nice and shouldn’t be discouraged, but Nintendo seems to have forgotten what it was that made them successful in the first place: creating new games and inventing new franchises. When was the last time Nintendo released a new, original title? Although the Wii U needs the classic, familiar Nintendo franchises to survive, it also needs a brand-new, unique title to be successful; one that gives the console a distinctive personality and makes the Game Pad relevant. Unfortunately, if Nintendo hasn’t already started on their new franchise for Wii U, then it may already be too late.
Attend Major Gaming Events
Does anyone remember any big announcements from Nintendo at this year’s recent Gamescom in Germany? There was a lot of memorable news from Microsoft and Sony this year, but Nintendo was no where to be found. The same happened at this year’s E3, when Nintendo uncharacteristically did not stage a press conference at the industry’s most important trade show. Instead, they appear content with releasing pre-recorded, scripted, and stiffly performed Nintendo Direct internet videos to make their announcements. This is a fine delivery system to keep fans updated on the latest company news, but to the casual observer, this appears highly impersonal and defeatist.
Nintendo may not identify Sony and Microsoft as direct competition because they believe they appeal to an entirely different demographic, but not having an equal presence at gaming events appears as though they are conceding dominance to the other significant console developers. It also carries with it the perception that Nintendo doesn’t care enough about gaming fans to make in-person appearances to communicate their message directly with the goal of galvanizing the critical voices of the gaming press in their favor. Although Nintendo did have booths at events such as E3 and Comic-Con in San Diego, they lacked in having the “voice” that press conferences provide and, as a result, they received marginal internet coverage.
Appeal to Indie Developers
Nintendo needs to take a lesson from Microsoft on this one. Perceived mistreatment of indie developers means immediate infamy and negative PR seasoned with vitriolic criticism and internet backlash. Not providing a platform for indie developers means risking the loss of a growing population of gamers altogether.
Does anyone remember WiiWare? Did this service spawn any memorable indie games, giving these developers much desired exposure? Nintendo needs to start courting indie developers and their fans right now, if only to bring themselves to a level of parity with Sony and Microsoft. They need to eliminate the check marks next to the listings of features in their competition’s favor. They need to start curating with care services such as WiiWare and show that they are serious about embracing a diversified group of gamers.
It seems to be a historical cycle that success and the size of an organization’s collective ego are directly correlated. Nintendo has exhibited an almost pathological hubris and obstinacy toward clinging onto their traditions. As a consequence, they have shown an inability to transform, evolve, and mature along with the demands of a transitioning console cycle. A by-product of this phenomenon is that Nintendo appears unconcerned with reestablishing control of their message. They appear to be lacking initiative and look unprepared, as they were with the launch of the Wii U, in handling the fallout surrounding their tepid marketing efforts. It isn’t too late, yet; but with only a few months left before the very bright spotlight is redirected toward the two shiny, new, next-generation consoles, Nintendo must take control of their message before the internet takes control of it for them.