Pioneering the 2nd-screen experience is an entirely new game.
Since the launch of Wii U, numbers have shown that consumers are either a) not excited b) confused c) over gimmicks or d) all of the above about Nintendo’s new venture into the 2nd-screen, HD, video game media center world. I have decided to provide some ideas that may help Wii U get off the ground.
Cut the Confusion
Black Friday numbers revealed that 400,000 Wii U units were sold since launch (CNET). This number is 200,000 units shy of it’s predecessor’s launch week numbers. From disenchanted post-motion-control gamers to the lack of emphasis on first-party titles, there are many theories as to why the Wii U is not performing as well at the Wii.
With the original Wii still on shelves, an extremely similar name, clear use of Wii remotes in commercials, and a marketing focus around the GamePad, it is no wonder why some consumer’s may be confused. In recent years, Nintendo’s core market has been children to pre-teen and casual gamers. For this reason, it would not seem unfathomable that uneducated parents are flocking to stores to pick up the latest and greatest console for their kids and walking away with the original Wii.
Sure the original Wii price is appealing but what if Nintendo decided to remove the original Wii altogether and price the Wii U at $199, taking the hit on console manufacturing costs of Wii U to drive buyers to their new console? The original Wii games will still play on Wii U and buyer’s would not have to debate which is going to be the better buy!
To be honest, I was extremely shocked at the Wii U’s price tag. Sure it is pack with some very hi-tech to use the GamePad but the features outweigh the benefits. I’m sure some of has to do with being the first “next-gen” console to the market, but I find it hard to pay a premium for the 2nd-screen experience that I care very little about and find to be very distracting.
Aside from iPhone and iPad (kinda-sorta), Apple heavily adopts an “out with the old, in with the new” approach, removing the previous generation equipment and subbing in the new goods at the old price. This allows consumers to confidently walk into an Apple Store, ask for a Mac or iPod, and walk out with assurance that they now own the latest an greatest Apple product. This eliminates confusion, allows Apple owners to take pride in their product, and keeps the industry’s ear to the ground for that next update and re-vamped lineup. When Nintendo releases a newly re-designed handheld every 2-3 years, keeps their 6-year-old system on the shelf, and releases a new console with specs comparable to the existing 6-7 year consoles on the market (Xbox 36o and PS3), it’s hard for consumers to have confidence that they are making a long term investment in a console that will be sustained for the next 5 years. Please excuse the following immature example: If you want to enjoy Mass Effect 3 for the first time and lack a console, would you rather drop $249 on a Wii U or $199 on an Xbox 360?
While Mass Effect 3 is a formidable title, the game is nearly one-year-old… as is Batman: Arkham City. While Nintendo is excited to be working with more third-party developers, Nintendo fans seem to be a bit less enthused. The word “Nintendo” typically fits into the same sentence as Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, Kirby, and Pokemon. I can promise you that when Nintendo was announcing the Wii U, gamers were ready to hear about Mario’s next mind-bending world, Link’s next breath-taking adventure, and Samus’ new control scheme. What did we get? Lots of third-party titles, a host of Nintendo IP themed mini-games in NintendoLand (side note: I would have much rather seen a real-life NintendoLand), and another “New” Super Mario Bros. (see IGN Game Scoop Episode 267).
With the GamePad, Nintendo has an opportunity like no other to reinvent their beloved IPs much like they did with Samus in Metroid Prime 3 (while Metroid Prime was host to the real innovation, it was truly brought to life with motion-controls in the third installment) and Super Mario Galaxy. Instead they are choosing to abide by what they think gamers wanted from the original Wii; third-party titles. I don’t know about you but I don’t think I ever dreamed of playing GTA, Skyrim, or Final Fantasy on my Wii. I just wanted a new Star Fox!
Nintendo needs to realize that while it’s nice to have a massive library of games (PS2), a quality library can prove to be much more powerful (N64). These are the games that stick in our minds and get us excited about future titles.
When the Wii U was original announced, I found myself unsure of we would actually be buying; a new set-top box or just a controller. The E3 announcement never showcased the box’s hardware and focused on the GamePad.
With a name like Wii U, I cannot help but feel that uneducated consumers are seeing the ad campaigns focused around the GamePad and thinking that the “U” is an add-on to their existing console. With set-top-boxes that look relatively similar, parents may be hesitant to buy a “new controller” at the $299-349. While it may be too late to change the name, Nintendo’s marketing could target the actual console changes a bit better. Remove focus from the GamePad and tailor to the core gamer, first and third-party exclusives, HD, TVii, and playing with just the GamePad when loved ones decide to take over the TV. Nintendo needs to eliminate the idea that consumers are simply buying a GamePad and inform them that this is a completely new console!
It may be too early to tell but Black Friday and Holiday numbers are usually pretty good indicators of new trends and the desire of consumers. I was hearing many reports that one could simply walk into a big-box retail store of their choice and walk out with a Wii U without any issue (again, see IGN’s Game Scoop Episode 267). In the past, Nintendo has been able to turn around their other consoles, 3DS most recently. Will they be able to do it again with Wii U? Or will the Wii U suffer the same slow death the GameCube saw?
I’m not sure where this fits into the argument but the original Nintendo Entertainment System will see it’s 30th anniversary in 2015 here in the US. Now that we have seen a resurgence of 8-bit gaming/music/art, how wonderful would it be if Nintendo built an anniversary console loaded with every first-party title, provided an online-social gaming experience with achievements, and the ability to purchase third-party titles through the virtual console? Would you buy one at $299?
Image Source [VideoGamer.com]