Now that the Wii U hype train is getting closer to its final destination, there'll be much analysis and opinion on what Nintendo needs to do to make it a success. There'll be plenty of talk about its technical capabilities as well, of course, but for developers and Nintendo itself it's really all about how many Wii U units sell, and whether it can prove to be a worthy successor to the hugely successful Wii.
Although early sales don't give the full picture — early 3DS sell-outs were followed by struggling sales until there was a price-drop — it seems as if Wii U is off to a decent start, with pre-orders selling out in the U.S. There's little doubt that early enthusiasm from Nintendo fans will only work for so long, however, and Scottish developer Firebrand Games, working on an un-named multi-platform title that'll arrive on Wii U, has weighed in on the marketing challenges facing Nintendo. Here's what the developer's creative director Peter Shea told guardian.co.uk.
I think there are two main challenges. The first is getting the message across that this is more than "just" a Wii with better graphics and HD output. I think there is a danger here of the message getting confused, especially to the casual market. Nintendo needs to charm the mass market in the same way it charmed people so successfully with the Wii. You could almost argue that the unprecedented success of the Wii makes it almost impossible for Nintendo to compete with its successor. I do believe that with the right titles, the right price and Nintendo's excellent marketing they can do this but I expect it to be the focus of next year – Christmas 2013 – rather than at launch or in the coming months.
The second big challenge is selling the machine to gamers who already own one or more HD consoles, and handheld devices and smartphones capable of gaming. I don't entirely subscribe to the view that Apple and Android are Nintendo's biggest rivals from here as I think the different devices will always offer different experiences and there is still high demand for both those experiences at differing price points, be it £40 or 69p, even in a recession. The traditional markets we have grown up with are definitely in a state of flux but to me that doesn't mean there isn't scope for at least one more generation of traditional gaming device under the telly.
While the games market is evolving and posing new challenges, Shea believes, like others no doubt, that Nintendo's first-party strengths will be vital for the new system's success.
Nintendo is still among the best game developers in the world, and you can only play Nintendo games on Nintendo consoles – as much as the market changes these facts remain. People still need Nintendo, its popularity has not waned despite the growth of new devices, platforms and franchises – it's bigger than ever.
It's this fact alone that makes me optimistic for the Wii U despite the difficult times and the ever changing market. The majority of the game development community wrote off the DS before launch and almost everyone wrote off the Wii on first look too – both went on to be extraordinarily successful. The lesson is clear: never underestimate Nintendo!
So, what do you think? Is it a big challenge for Nintendo to convince consumers that this is more than Wii HD, and will the Nintendo brand be enough to convince millions of gamers to take the plunge? Let us know in the comments below.