Nintendo has always strayed away from the pack in terms of controllers. The Nintendo 64 sported a bizarre three pronged monstrosity. The Gamecube featured a sadly malformed secondary joystick and asymmetrical face buttons. The Wii features a TV remote tethered to a device known only as the Nunchuck. The Wii U features the love child that is produced when a Wii Classic Controller makes sweet love to an iPad. Nintendo’s controllers always seem strange at first, but there is a method to their madness. This leaves us with one simple question. What the heck does Nintendo intend to do with the Wii U’s tablet?
People have proposed numerous ideas for the Wii U’s new controller. It could serve as an inventory screen, it could be used as a sniper scope, it could be a rear view mirror, it could be used as a steering wheel, and perhaps it could even be used as a uDraw tablet. While industry analysts have thought of a wide variety of uses for the Wii U tablet, they’ve all missed the most obvious and most important use of the technology. It’s going to advertise to you.
Nintendo has struggled with its casual fanbase. These people don’t read gaming magazines (you know, those funny paper things that used to come in the mail), they don’t visit websites, and they may spend months without browsing the shelves at their local game store. These people will show up in droves to buy the latest Mario or Just Dance game, but they’re completely unaware of anything going on outside of major franchises. Nintendo has come up with a fiendishly clever way of appealing to this particular fanbase.
To see what we should expect from the Wii U, let’s take a look at a recent experience I had with my 3DS. I awoke to see my 3DS’s blue Spotpass light shining brightly. As every 3DS owner knows, a blue Spotpass light means that Nintendo has sent something to your 3DS while it was in sleep mode. I eagerly flipped my 3DS open to find that Nintendo has sent me a new puzzle for my puzzle swap application. The puzzle just so happened to be of Kid Icarus Uprising. Say, isn’t Kid Icarus Uprising a new game that Nintendo’s going to release? Oh Nintendo, you sly dogs. You’ve managed to sneak an advertisement into my fun little puzzle game.
I hope you like Spotpass, because it’s going to become a big part of your gaming life.
Of course, Nintendo isn’t always so subtle. In the past, they’ve sent me a note about the downloadable game Freakyforms. Within the note there was a link which took me directly to the game’s page on the Nintendo eShop. Over there, I could learn more about Freakyforms and download the title. Nintendo’s sent me notes to tell me about new demos, a series of notes to get me hyped about Super Mario 3D Land, and so on. Nintendo certainly hasn’t been shy about schilling their games to me.
With the Wii U Tablet, Nintendo should be better than ever at selling their products. Imagine that a new game is added to Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Without ever turning your TV on, you’ll be able to see the press release, watch the trailer, play the demo, and buy the game. You’ll know about the latest DLC coming out for your games without ever booting them up. You’ll receive a constant stream of trailers, images, and press releases.
All this might sound a bit shifty, but it can be a tremendous boon to the gaming industry. Not every game can have the kind of marketing budget that catapulted games like Skyrim and L.A. Noire into the public consciousness. Look at a game like Rayman Origins. Considering that Wii fans purchased over 5 million copies of Donkey Kong Country Returns, and well over 10 million copies of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you’d think that Rayman would be very successful on the console. On the contrary, the game sold a paltry 270,000 copies. Imagine if Nintendo beamed videos of the game directly to anybody who had a New Super Mario Bros. save file on their Wii. How do you think that would influence sales? What if Okami had been directly advertised to fans of the Zelda series?
Save me, Wii U Tablet. You’re my only hope.
I’m well aware that the X-Box and PS3 each display advertisements on their respective dashboards. However, without the tablet style controller, neither is able to do so when the console itself is off, and neither is able to do so in such an immediate yet unobtrusive manner.
So, you can call be crazy, but I find the advertising potential of Wii U’s controller to be its most compelling feature. I’m positive Nintendo will aggressively advertise their games using the Wii U tablet and a Spotpass-esque feature. My hope is that Nintendo will also use this strategy to highlight games like Murumasa, De Blob 2, Red Steel 2, Bayonetta, Excitebots, Mad World, No More Heroes 2, Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts, and Viva Pinata. If Nintendo plays their cards right, the Wii U can be the savior of niche games, and can lead to a brighter gaming future for all.