Nintendo is company cherished by the masses. For many, it’s because of Nintendo that we’re in this industry. I was raised holding a rectangular controller and testing my lung capacity on dozens of wonky cartridges. Nintendo was impervious to slip ups and rarely had to wipe egg off their face. Well, until a few years ago.
Nintendo has the arduous task of living up to a bar so high that Andre the Giant could limbo under it with ease. Nintendo remained on the rise for much of their tenure. They lead innovation and ushered in new generations. But, for there to be a high point there must be a low point. Many of their disappointments always seems to happen at E3 when the entirety of the industry is laser focused on them. Like the time they revealed the vitality sensor. Or when Cammie Dunaway thought she knew about snowboarding. Or the unfortunate Skyward Sword demo. Or when the 3DS was brought out to the press tethered to women. But from all those staggering moments where journalist struggled to live blog the absurdity, I think Nintendo learned something.
They’re wiser. They’re agile. They’re evolving into a company that’s ready to embrace the next generation of gaming. They’re weary of criticism and have opened themselves up to the public. Their Nintendo Direct presentations and social media initiatives are evidence that they want to communicate with their audience. They realize they’re in a corner and this E3 they’re going to showcase their renewed savvy. They aren’t one of the biggest players in this industry for lack of trying. It’s easy to write Nintendo off for their screw ups because watching a goliath fumble is entertaining. With the waning success of the Wii and the 3DS needing a steep price cut to boost sales, I think Nintendo has finally seen the light. What can they do to get me, and countless others, to forget about years of grief? Well, for one they need to take advantage of their heritage.
Console us With Virtual Goods
Nintendo’s Virtual Console has been an epicenter of pain and anguish for Nintendo fans. The casual attitude they approach the service with is questionable and, despite the kicking and screaming from fans, Nintendo has been reluctant to budge on their virtual console support. The potential squandered there is enormous. A huge library of games, but barely any demos. Trickling out subpar releases week after week. All marketing has fallen on the reluctant shoulder of Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann. The virtual console has turned into the elephant graveyard of video game history, but it’s time Nintendo hires a necromancer to resurrect and revive the Virtual Console initiative.
There’s a glimmer of hope on the Virtual Console front with the 3DS. We’ve been privy to GBA and NES games on the Eshop, good games at that. Nintendo knows what they need to do, but watching them get to that destination is as ulcer causing as watching Mr. Magoo bumble his way through his daily chores. If they want to elicit a “wow” from my mouth they need to revive that heritage. Give us the keys to the treasure trove of virtual games, whether its a subscription fee or a part of an online package. The games are idling on some server untouched. Let me pay you $10 a month for unlimited access. That’s at least $10 more a month than you’d already be making.
I may be simplifying the process (I hope so, anyways. If it’s as easy as flipping a switch consider me livid), but making good on their past can help blaze a bright future. Releasing the grip on the classics symbolizes to me that Nintendo as a company is ready to move on to bigger and better things. They’ve already won over our memories, let them worry about winning us over with future franchises and developments. Of course, to do that they need to consider connectivity.
It’s easy to criticize Nintendo for their lackluster online offerings, but you need to consider what the technology was like in 2004 when the DS launched and 2006 when when the Wii arrived in stores. Smartphones were scarce, hard disk storage wasn’t as rampant, and networks weren’t very social. It left Nintendo straddling two parallel lines that were slowly shifting away from each other. The chasm was deep and instead of building a bridge, Nintendo stranded one side and focused on what was familiar.
As iOS devices continue to devour portions of the gaming market and a value of a game is increased via multiplayer and digital downloads, Nintendo needs to capitalize on the current trends. Nintendo is a fan of utilizing technology that is perfectly plump, affordable, and accessible, no sooner. Online facets and innovations have been on the market place long enough that embracing tools to improve the user experience and delivery of content that they won’t have to invent the concept, just use them.
Seeing as how the 3DS is halfway there (it has a friends list, but interactions are paltry. And soon you’ll be able to download whole retail games through the eShop), I have confidence that Nintendo is going to announce some OS level features that bridge the gap between consoles and deliver a more traditional gaming experience. Like, 2010 traditional, not 1995 traditional. But they’ll still need to bring some of that 1995 whimsy with them.
Nintendo’s next venture needs to focus on connection and options. Let me browse the net, share photos with my friends on Twitter and Facebook. Make me want to pick up the Wii U tablet instead of my iPhone. I want leaderboards, and the ability to share things with my friends. While couch co-op has gone by the wayside, let me gloat and taunt my friends in other ways.
Just Make Games
Iwata has said that they made a mistake with the Wii by leaving core gamers by the wayside, which won’t be the case with the Wii U. As Wii sales skyrocketed, the attach rates did not. Third parties floundered in a sea of peripherals and motion, and “core gamers” weren’t sure what to do with their Wiis between first-party launches. Nintendo came around during the end of the Wii’s life cycle with games like Xenoblade and Rhythm Heaven, but it was too little too late. Sales have stalled and the elusive casual market has been distracted by who knows what. After the launch of the 3DS, Nintendo has taken stock of their audience and the market and has a plan: Be Nintendo.
Ensure that the launch of the Wii U is supported by first-party games. Work hard to maintain relationships with third-party publishers and create a gaming ecosystem that blends the innovative gaming experience that the Wii U can deliver while capitalizing on game design. The words casual and core don’t even have to be part of the experience. Push the envelope of the experience games can deliver and help to innovate the industry. Nintendo can be the defibrillator on a creatively barren industry with their future offerings, and at E3 if they don’t impress with new titles that takes advantage of their stable of technology, they’re missing out.
E3 is about gaming. It’s the fundamentals. It’s a showcase of what we’ll be writing about for the next year. Nintendo, if you want to be part of the conversation you’re going to have to be bold and venture into foreign territory. You’ll have Mario and Zelda to capture some of the flak, but they can only cushion your bottom line so much. We need to see innovation. We need to see crazy ideas. Crazy is what we want right now, and not vitality sensor crazy or Sony marketing crazy. Weird experiences that we can talk about our friends with. Make me want to stay up late to finish just one more level. Make me want to rave to my girlfriend about my experience. Be brave, Nintendo. Be Nintendo.