Friday, 24 January 2014

Nintendoom: The Wii U is Doomed, Nintendo Are Fine

The Wii U is doomed but Nintendo are fine. It's no secret that the Wii U is bombing commercially, Nintendo are going to lose money this year and their stock value has gone down again. The Wii U is an amazing console with amazing games and it's at a damn good price but people just aren't interested.

And don't say "oh but the games will turn it around", they haven't and they won't. They clearly can't. There have been a lot of big hitting games for the Wii U so far and none of them have shifted the number of consoles Nintendo wanted them to. I'm sure the Wii U still has a few good years of games left in it but I don't think Nintendo can turn it around without such huge price cuts that it makes pointless to sell. I know Mario Kart, Smash Bros., Donkey Kong and Zelda are all on the way but honestly, if the games that have already come out can't sell the system then I don't think these games can either, at least not in the way they need to. 

So this leaves the Wii U with one likely outcome, it'll go down in history as a great console with great games but also as a commercial failure for Nintendo. Is this is a bad thing? 

Not really. 

A company as old and successful as Nintendo is going to have a commercial misfire every now and then, just look at the Virtual Boy, and Nintendo can certainly afford the failure, their years of profitability have resulted in about £10 billion worth of money simply sitting in the bank. So what should happen now? Well first off let's cover the idea of Iwata resigning, many people are calling for this as he has and indeed must, take responsibility for the Wii U. This is a ludicrous idea though, Iwata is going the right thing by staying. Iwata saw the release of the DS and Wii and subsequently Nintendo's most successful years. Some ignorantly argue the success of the Wii was luck. Luck plays a part in the success of all products, but so does business sense and creativity. Luck was not the main 
reason the Wii or DS was successful. 
As David Jaffe, creator of God of War, said recently, Iwata has earned the right to fail. All of the big names at Nintendo have and I personally find it reassuring he has the balls to admit his mistake and admit they are going to have to try a new business structure. 

It's this last point that makes me think this could be the most exciting time to be a Nintendo fan in years. Nintendo are known for their innovation and it's when they change things up that they usually certain out with their best ideas so I can't wait to see what happens. 

They've already said no to smartphone games and I think this is smart. A good example. Of why comes from Mario. A 30 year old Mario game plays as well as a 3 year old one so why, if I can buy Super Mario Bros on my phone for £1, would I buy New Super Mario Bros for £40? In the short term smartphones could make Nintendo vast sums of money but in the long term it would damage the quality of the brand name and, besides, Nintendo already have vast suns of money. 

So Nintendo need to try some other ideas and I thought I'd throw a few out there, in no particular order. 
The first is one that gets suggested a lot, up the amount of virtual console games, cover all the consoles from NES to GameCube and all the handhelds from Game Boy to Game Boy Advance and have a subscription model like Netflix which allows you to download and play as many Virtual Console games as you want so long as you pay the fee. Keep the option to buy individual games outright but run this alongside the subscription model. And keep updating the list with new games, without taking away the old ones. One of Nintendo's biggest strengths is it's back catalogue of legendary games, it's time they out it to use. 

Another idea, one i'm keen on whether they rush out a new console or stick with the Wii U for years to come, is to either massively increase the number and size of their internal development studios or form partnerships with more developers like Retro. Nintendo struggle with third party games so where their rival consoles get dozens of games per month they only get one or two, I honestly think this is one of the Wii U's biggest problems. So, increase your development numbers and, rather than just Mario, Zelda, Mario Kart and Smash bros. games coming out regularly, why not add Metroid, Star Fox, Kirby, F-Zero, Mario Tennis/Golf, Pikmin, Animal Crossing, Luigi's Mansion, Punch Out, Fire Emblem and any other old IP, as well as new IP to the roster. They could release a traditional Star Fox and then a year or so later a massive one with huge multiplayer. Imagine a Star Fox game that had 12 VS. 12 space dog fights but also huge 64 player land battles with ships flying overhead, it would be incredibly. Imagine a console based Pokemon MMO, or a hyper realistic looking F-Zero for the hardcore racers. Nintendo have enough games in their catalogue to say fuck the third parties and I think it's high time they do. 

Sure a game like Metroid or Star Fox won't sell the sort of numbers a Mario Kart game would but it means more than one or two games could come out per month and its more of a reason to buy the console.

Before you say that fucking the third parties would be madness consider how few people but the few third party on Nintendo systems, those games aren't why people buy Nintendo consoles. That being said, a huge amount of third party exclusives could do the trick but exclusivity would be key. 

Perhaps rather than spending some of their billions on internal development they could seek to do deals with Sega, Capcom, Platinum and Konami to get some big name exclusives. And perhaps they could pay the likes of Ubisoft and Activision, covering the costs of porting Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty to the Wii U and to other future consoles. It's not full proof, it's expensive and risky but third party exclusives, and some of the biggest multi-platform games, could give Nintendo a hell of a boost. Hell, maybe there are even some studios Nintendo could buy.

Ultimately it comes down to this: Nintendo are the most important company in the games industry, they have a lot of money, a lot of talent and a lot of great games and consoles and I am sure that, one way or another, they will make their way back to profitability and will stick to making great games for their great consoles. 

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