Ladies and gentlemen, come one, come all! Walk right this way, for under the big top in the three-ring circus of gaming lies fantastic visions of the future! Yes, for those waiting for the next big thing in gaming, mark your calendars for the end of 2012, when Nintendo will release the Wii U!
…Wait, no, don’t go, I’m serious.
With Microsoft’s next-gen console in the development stages, and Sony’s next-gen just words at this point, Nintendo’s eighth iteration of the home gaming console breaks ground, especially in the fact that at the time, the Wii is the best selling console.
Despite being the best-selling console, however, the Wii carries the least clout amongst gamers. It’s considered a “casual” gaming console. It’s the cartoon-y one, it’s for kids, it’s got easy games. The PS3 and XBox 360, those are the real gamer consoles, with great titles, amazing graphics, online play… these are the dominant forces in the gaming world.
And that’s something Nintendo intends to change. At E3, Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, stated the following: “…shortly after the Wii console was released, people in the gaming media and game enthusiasts started recognizing the Wii as a casual machine aimed toward families, and placed game consoles by Microsoft and Sony in a very similar light with each other, saying these are machines aimed towards those who passionately play games…. It was a categorization between games that were aimed towards core, and casual… On the other hand, I certainly do not think that Wii was able to cater to every gamer’s needs, so that’s also something I wanted to resolve.”
So Nintendo wants to step up their game, so to speak? Well, in order to do that, they’re going to have to do some spectacular things, and they’re going to have to do it at or near launch, or they run the danger of being the “next Wii.” Fortunately, here I am, with my world-renown Top x List, where today, x = “7 Things Nintendo Can Do To Start Off The Eighth Generation With a Bang.”
NUMBER 7: Give it a better name.
You want to put a new spin on the next-gen console? Want to get it out of the casual aura that the Wii is in? Don’t put “Wii” in the title then! That’s just someone failing Marketing 101, in my opinion. Sony knocked it out of the park with the PlayStation, so it only makes sense to call the next-gen the “PlayStation 2” to remind gamers that hey, that one kicked butt, so this one will kick that much butt AND MORE. Same with “PlayStation 3” and the “XBox 360.” If you want to trigger that feeling, include it in your title.
But if you’re trying to shed an image, you don’t use the same wording! When EA Sports’ boxing title made the jump from Knockout Kings to Fight Night, it took advantage of the switch to correct some major flaws in the gameplay, such as introducing their “Total Punch Control.” Instead of making it another Knockout Kings game, they renamed it, producing an out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new mentality in the market. Nintendo should have followed suit (and realistically still could). They should have just called it “MOAR Wii.” What the hell does the “U” even stand for anyway?
NUMBER 6: Give it better (much better) online capability.
I know The Powers That Be at Nintendo are already saying that there will be better online capability, but I need to see proof. I was so stoked when I heard the Wii was going to have online play. In reality, it’s barely stable enough to have a few races on Mario Kart Wii (if that!). And what the monkeys is this “friends code” business? On the PlayStation Network or XBox LIVE all I have to do is remember a clever tag, like “MeGustaTacos42” or “RamonIsAJerk” or something like that. Not the Wii… their code is all numbers, and it’s all buried somewhere within your system. Remember where to find it? No? TOO BAD, that’s the only place that will produce it. Then you have to give that long-ass code (correctly) to your friend, so your friend can input it (correctly) into their Wii, and then they have to give you their long-ass code (correctly) so you can input it (correctly) into your Wii.
That’s just Wii-tarded.
So please, Nintendo, follow the example of the PSN. Microsoft kinda cheated a little because they’ve been doing this online thing for years. But the PlayStation Network was a new creation from Sony with a sound infrastructure (security aside) that’s handled online gameplay like a champ. Dump the codes, come up with a network for online play. And if you insist on these dumb names, maybe you can call it the Wii U Us.
NUMBER 5: More grown-up games, please.
Believe it or not, the Wii actually has some pretty intense gaming experiences. Ever hear of a game called MadWorld?
It’s a highly-stylized, good ol’fashioned bloody beat-em-up, sandbox-style with a pretty good plotline (think Hunger Games, three years before they did, minus the b.s.-crazy people lining up for days in front of theaters wishing that odds are ever in someone’s favor). Critics were mostly positive in their reviews, with both Nintendo Power and IGN giving it a 9.0 out of 10. So why is it this title is not on the tip of every gamer’s tongue?
Because no one stood up for it.
MadWorld was rated M by the ESRB, which would have been a slam dunk on the PS3 or XBox 360, branding it as a true “gamer’s game,” as it were. But on the Wii it was a death knell, akin to showing Kill Bill on Nickelodeon. Yes, Nintendo did offer a paltry defense of the title, reiterating its stance that the Wii was a console for gamers of all ages, but it was about as effective as Fox News trying to defend a Democrat. And when no one came to the defense of MadWorld‘s bloody bonanza, you get groups like the National Institute on Media and the Family trying to make a name for themselves by capitalizing off the game’s downfall. Shortly after the game’s release, the ultra-conservative group who has become notorious for attacking the video game industry released in a statement that “In the past, the Wii has successfully sold itself as being the gaming console for the entire family and a way to bring family-game nights back into people’s living rooms. Unfortunately, Nintendo opened its doors to the violent videogame genre, since the video game contains such outrages and violent content.” (via IGN, 3/09.)
So if Nintendo is serious about making the Wii U a gamer’s console, and pitching it back into competition with Sony and Microsoft, it’s going to have to learn a few lessons from Tammy Wynette and stand by their men. And not just with little weenie “gaming is for everyone” statements. They’re going to have to get aggressive about the promotion and distribution of more mature games, and be prepared for some tough battles from conservative groups who want to make their fame off the Wii U’s failure.
NUMBER 4: Don’t alienate your base, either.
So, the Wii U needs to make a stand and get tough, while not pissing off the people who supported the Wii. If I’m making it sound like a politician running for office, I’m doing that on purpose. Nintendo wants you, the American consumer, to invest your hard-earned resources (dollar bills) into the Wii U because it’s first and it’s best in the eighth-generation world.
We’ve already discussed how to appeal to the hardcore gamer… so how do you not only appeal to, but “wow” the “base,” as it were? You do the same thing that Hollywood does: go back, find out what people liked before, brush it off, shine it up, and make it new again for a new generation, along with a nostalgic older generation. It worked for The Muppets. It worked for the first Transformers movie. It works for pretty much any movie set in the 1980s.
So, looking at things Nintendo gamers loved that we can spruce up… Well, let’s weed through the gimmes… you know there will be a Mario game and a Zelda game. They’ve already announced a Smash Bros title to go with the system, so that’s out. Donkey Kong Country hit a small revival on the Wii, and Metroid is still kicking around their latest incarnation.
Hmm…. what else… what else were Nintendo gamers into about fifteen years ago that you can replicate with a controller the size of an eBook, useful for collecting facts and date about characters you meet? What else, what else indeed?
That’s right, Pokémon makes the jump to the big console! Grab your Poké Balls and head off for adventure, using your Wii U controller as an actual PokéDex for the biggest Pokémon adventure yet!
No, wait, come back! Stop running away, I’m serious here. The game would incorporate the monster-hunting of the handheld games with elements of the most popular spin-off games, such as Pokémon Battle. The familiar Pokémon characters will engage both young gamers and gamers who grew up on the first generation of Pokémon, while the larger platform will allow for a more expansive, and more difficult, game that the first Pokémon generation is now looking for in their 20s and early 30s. Plus, with the promised enhanced online capabilities, how easy will it be to trade rare Pokémon with other trainers online?
It’s been proven by games like Pokémon Black and White that while not making gangbusters, the Pokémon franchise is still a viable series, and Nintendo has already said they plan more Pokémon titles. Save those titles for the Wii U and release it not as a launch title, but very shortly thereafter. Money in the bank.
NUMBER 3: ……….MM2: DoTT.
OK, yes, this is my cry every time a new console comes out, and I know it falls on deaf ears, but it was such a good game to not be ported! Clean up the lyrics and the sound, and bam! Instant hit, or at least cult hit. Your Wii U controller can be used for inventory and EVEN a portable Chron-O-John! Come ON!
….Just me again?…..
Fine. Let’s just move on.
NUMBER 2: Find common ground.
Hardcore gamers need realistic appeal and challenging play like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The Nintendo base needs colorful graphics and less complicated controls such as Mario Kart Wii. Creating both types of games will please both camps, but will ultimately end up destroying the Wii U for two reasons: first, there simply won’t be the finances for third-party makers to produce games to satisfy both groups of gamers, and will relegate their resources to the most profitable (at the time) type of game to produce. Secondly, having and maintaining two separate groups of gamers (a “hardcore” one and a “lighter” one) is an omen of doom. Either one group will dominate the gaming spectrum of the system, and the other will be ran off; worse yet, the two sides could pull resources so thin that neither side has enough quality games to satiate them, and as such turn to other consoles.
And when Honest Abe talked about “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” I’m pretty sure he was talking about the Wii U.
Common ground will need to be hashed out here, where Nintendo die-hards get the familiarity and easy-to-understand controls, but “hardcore” gamers get the rush of blowing an ammunitions tent sky-high.
OK, follow along with me on this one, and don’t run away this time… for a great launch title, Nintendo should get with Capcom and develop a first-person shooter…
….set in the universe of, and starring… Mega Man.
YES! You’re with me on this one, I know you are. If you could blow up the world of Pokémon, imagine what you can do in Mega Man’s universe? Wily is back and has made his most lethal creations yet, and they are working on destroying the land from the outside in… eight crime bots ready to assist the mad doctor in his latest attempt for world domination, and only Mega Man can stop him.
As you enter each “contaminated” part of the land (laid out sandbox-style, instead of the select screen) the challenges are now in fully-mastered graphics much like the FPSs of today. Your Wii U controller acts as Mega Man’s control panel, administering Energy Tanks and changing weapon implements in real time. That’s right, no more sub-screen – you want to change from your Mega Buster to the Metal Blade, you better not get shot while you’re doing it. You need assistance from Rush? You better do it in a safe spot, because Dr. Wily’s bots are gunning for you. To make it more challenging, Mega Man acquires the enemy bot’s powers via microchips, but Dr. Light has to manufacture attachments and adapters for the power, so it’s not instant as in other games. You may have to hide, take off the Mega Buster, snap on the Magnet Missle Launcher, let it boot, and then you can go in with new gun blazing.
There’s precedent for a 3D-rendered world in the continuity of Mega Man. We saw it with Mega Man Legends, a PlayStation game that varied from liked to panned depending on who you asked. A flimsy story with very little of the Mega Man mythos still in tact led to low sales, a half-assed sequel, and the miserable prequel The Misadventures of Tron Bonne. However, amongst the few things applauded in Mega Man Legends was bringing Mega Man into the third dimension. So don’t say it can be done because it has. It just has to be done better. Simply reboot the series (pun intended); no need to bring back X or that Battle Network nonsense. Not one, but two 2-D games were successful on the Wii’s Virtual Console, so it’s clear the interest in the original series is there.
The thrill of the hunt for hardcore gamers; the familiar elements for Nintendo’s loyals. This common ground is where the Wii U needs to head to for their best chance at success.
And the Number 1 thing Nintendo can do to start off the eighth generation with a bang is…
NUMBER 1: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
We talk about this sort of need to please the hardcore, and this sort of need to satisfy the casual, and better this and that, and all of this is to shirk the idea that the Wii U will have the stigma, like the Wii, of being a fluffball in the land of gaming. The Wii U will NOT be a party toy brought out for nights of Rock Band fueled by drinking, by gumption! It will be MORE!
…Well, there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun too, right?
Example: When reviewing Mario Party 9 for this site, I held test panels of people actually playing the game and recording their thoughts. These people ran from people who rarely played games to hardcore multiple-hours-a-week fraggers and everything in between. And, whaddyaknow? Everyone who played it, no matter what level, enjoyed it and had a good time.
Mario Party and the like may not exactly be that common ground that was discussed before, but a third arena, as it were, where hardcores and casuals can go in, meet up, and have a good time. Party games are designed for pure fun. Plot? Minimal. Character development? Who needs it? You’re lucky if the party game has characters at all! Along with the Mario Party games, the Mario sports titles, and music and dance games like Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution have shown that everyone can take a break from their “type” of game, and come together for a bit of fun, competition, and silliness everyone can enjoy.
So while the Wii U should shoot for quality games for both camps as well as common-ground games, despite all my pleas, I end with the statement (I would say “fact,” but I’ll refrain) that one of the launch titles, and possibly the packaged launch title itself, should be a party game.
And the name of that game would be…
For every ten people reading this article, at least eight of you went, “Holy sh*t, I remember that game!” Of course you do! The original party game, Anticipation may not have had the complexity of future party games, nor the excitement and action of other NES titles, but it lodged itself a firm foothold in the history of video gaming. Even if you don’t remember the title, watching a pair of high heels jump along a board to watch a pixelated computer drawing of some person, place, thing, or phrase triggers some memory. You may not have had the game yourself, but you know someone who did, and you played with them because it was different than the usual hop-and-bop or shoot-em-up that was out there at the time.
And now it’s ripe for the plucking to refurbish it. Consider that you’re launching a console whose main draw is the touchscreen built right into the controller, and considering it is launching during a time when your hottest free AND paid app on the iPhone, iPad, and Android mobile systems is Draw Something, it’s almost a gimme. This time, instead of the computer drawing the picture, the player can be flashed the secret word on their controller, then use their finger or a stylus to draw on their controller which would then be broadcast on the television for players to guess.
The nostalgia would be enough to pique people’s interest; the play would be enough to get them to explore the option of the Wii U. Think of it… why did you want a Wii? Probably because you went to someone’s house who had one, bowled or boxed with them on Wii Sports, and decided, “This is pretty fun. I want one of these next to my PS3/XBox 360/DVD/etc.” It turned average people into gamers and gamers into – well, more outgoing people. Hook them in the same way with the Wii U, then unleash the genius of every kind of game imaginable.
It’s a thin high wire Nintendo will have to toe, but they’ve pulled off some pretty amazing tricks in the past. Guided well, Nintendo competing with (and taking from) Microsoft’s and Sony’s bases could be their most spectacular feat yet.