With Nintendo announcing that this is their third year of losses, many are calling for them to get out of the hardware business and to start porting their games over to other platforms. I happen to feel differently about that. Considering that I've seen Nintendo make some amazing comebacks in the past with the DS, 3DS, and Wii, my belief is that with some tweaks, the Wii U could be successful or at least profitable. Read on for my ideas.
The Wii U Gamepad
Let's start with this standard piece of equipment. This would be the perfect time for Nintendo to release a Wii U system with an updated gamepad. One that would be thinner, lighter, have better battery life and more range. I would love a capacitive screen as well, but it's too late since it would really fragment the market and would also interfere with my next idea.
Nintendo has hinted that it's possible, and it needs to be a reality asap. Make the 3DS/2DS compatible as Wii U controllers. Sony has already incorporated this strategy with the PS4 and the Vita and Microsoft has its smartglass. The 3DS is incredibly popular and the best selling console out there. Use that popularity to leverage the Wii U. Let's face it, in multiplayer games, no one wants to be the one using the Wiimote instead of the Wii U controller. With the 3DS, more than one person can have and utilize the second screen experience. In addition, Wii U pads are rare to be found without buying a parent system (unless you count ebay) but the 3DS is easily available as well as pocketable to take to a friends house.
This is another missed opportunity. Nintendo's eShop is a fragmented mess in need of an overhaul. The Wii, Wii U, and 3DS should have one universal shop with cross platform gaming enabled. This is especially true now with Nintendo having both a two screened console and a two screened handheld. The current set up of the eShop is both archaic and confusing. To play Wii shop games on the Wii U, you have to go through a rather lengthy process requiring your original Wii, an SD card, and an internet connection. Then your games are essentially tied to your console but only accessible through the Wii channel on the Wii U instead of simply being tied to your eShop account and accessible directly through the consoles main menu. Once transferred, your original Wii loses all access to your purchases so you cannot utilize them if you have both of your systems in active in different rooms. This creates a fragmented system within the Wii U itself or between the old and new consoles. To add to the confusion, you can now tie your eShop account between the 3DS and Wii U but their purchases are still tied to their respective systems and not cross compatible. It's a huge mess and a missed opportunity. For a company that is attempting to appeal to the casual masses, Nintendo is making things too complicated due to fear of piracy. I have little to no confidence in purchasing anything through their online store due to these reasons.
Another issue is the pricing for games. Nintendo needs to adopt variable pricing to their titles even among the same virtual console. Why is the NES balloon fight the same price as the NES Super Mario 2 when they do not in any way offer the same kind of quality game play? I have seen that they do have occasional sales but those also need to be advertised more so that customers can actually take advantage of them.
Cross platform compatibility
As mentioned before, Nintendo has both a dual screen console and a dual screen handheld which now use the eShop. While not all games would work with both consoles, there are plenty that would. To give an example the "indie games" section has plenty of tablet games that don't require more power than either system can process (Toki Tori is one example) and are playable with the resistive touch screen on either the Wii U gamepad or the 3DS/2DS. Even newer games like Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies should work well on the Wii U with proper scaling since it's a download only title. Emulated classics should be accessible through all their systems from the Wii and DS to the Wii U and 3DS/2DS. This would beef up the Wii U library while keeping customers within the Nintendo family of products. If cloud saves were implemented among cross compatible titles, then it would be a dream come true. Imagine playing a game at home on the TV and Wii U pad, saving, and then continuing it on your handheld on the commute to work? It would be awesome.
This is an ongoing trend by this point. Having a two screen console and handheld with touch screen technology built in, Nintendo should add the DS system to its virtual console. Games for the 3DS/2DS should be cross compatible whenever possible. Better yet, if you can play 3DS games with only one console needing a game cartridge, then this feature should be added to the Wii U firmware if possible. Imagine beaming a 3DS game back to the Wii U and playing it on the TV screen from your couch. Not all games would look great, but there should be plenty that would. Another issue is the slow pace at which VC games are released. Just make your entire library available for purchase at once. Add new games to it as you work out licensing deals with your third parties.
The whoring of Mario and the need of new intellectual properties
I understand that Mario is a well known brand, but Nintendo needs new IP's. Mario and Zelda will still sell on name alone but they have really diluted those brands to a point where new releases aren't that exciting these days. They aren't the system movers that they once were. Yes, they still have massive fan bases, but it's time for new ideas and revisiting some vintage titles that have been forgotten. Earthbound has a large following despite not being advertised and is a traditional RPG that I would love to see updated and back on a Nintendo system. Titles like Pikmin, Wii Fit, Wario Ware, Brain Age, Nintendogs, Animal Crossing, and the recent Kid Icarus are things that have drawn attention back to Nintendo in the last couple of years because they were fresh ideas exclusive to their systems. More of this type of creativity is needed.
Online play on the original Wii was a mess of complicated friend codes. I haven't played anything on the Wii U nor do I know anyone else with a Wii U for online play so I cannot comment on this aspect. General consensus online is that it still needs work. Anyone who has experience on how the Wii U handles online gaming, please comment with your expertise. The one thing that I'm sure of is that it is still free.
Currently, I don't think that Nintendo can lower the price of the Wii U much more due to the included tablet controller. With that said, loosening restrictions while streamlining and combining the eShop experience across the home console and handheld lines, attracting more third party indie developers, exploring new and/or concentrating on less used IP's, and making a compelling online game play experience should help the Wii U become profitable. Update that tablet controller and make the 2DS/3DS into compatible controllers a reality. It's not too late Nintendo.