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Fri 13th Dec 2013

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mediumbluemetal commented on NPD Results Deliver a 3DS Milestone And Modest...:

I'm new here, but I'm not new to Nintendo, and I would agree with everyone who says that Nintendo's Wii U is in deep trouble. It doesn't have the "wow" factor of the original Wii's new motion controllers, it's not as close spec-wise to the competition as the GameCube was, and unlike the 64, its predecessor wasn't hugely successful with core gamers. Suffice it to say, the Wii U is in a worse predicament than any prior Nintendo home console. And it's a shame too because I love it. But that doesn't mean the big N should stop selling hardware; in fact, being the hardware sales leader last generation (and a handheld sales leader this generation), Nintendo should do anything but stop. Clearly they sometimes know what they're doing.

At this point, Nintendo really only has two options. 1) Create and hugely promote a truly original "killer app" that will blindside Sony and Microsoft, or 2) Ditch the Wii U and release a spec-comparable Wii U.2 by next November. Keep with me and I'll explain.

The former solution could allow the Wii U to survive for some time as it is, but Nintendo needs some real ingenuity to make this happen (Miiverse and Tvii were not what I'd call ingenuity). The "killer app" that I see potential for, though it could be challenging to develop, is a new Virtual Console emulator that allows for online multiplayer control of retro games. Imagine, for example, being able to play Mario Kart 64 in multiplayer mode, only the person you're playing with is online, chatting through the Wii's microphone. An app like this, properly promoted and properly worked, could do some real damage to Sony and Microsoft. I honestly believe that Nintendo could take it a step further and also enhance the original multiplayer experience of these virtual console games by adding support for simultaneous play (ala 3D World) along with online multiplayer. Coding could be near impossible, and it would take more resources than Nintendo may want to risk devoting, but the bottom line is that it's technologically possible, and it's something that Sony and Microsoft couldn't fend off. Beyond virtual console tinkering, Nintendo could also create a killer app that doesn't relate to gaming. Specifically speaking, Nintendo could align the Wii U with either Android or (less likely) Apple to allow smart phone apps to function through the Wii U over the TV. Perhaps clicking an Android icon on the Wii's menu could transport your phone's screen to the TV wirelessly, ala Chromecast, allowing for full-screen control. I also think there's some potential for Nintendo to capitalize on TVii (a currently useless app) by turning the Wii U into a DVR. A USB adapter could provide cable TV input, and programming could be saved to either flash drive or (more likely) an external hard drive, either hard-wired or on the network. I imagine Nintendo could also stream live TV to the gamepad using this setup too, which we'd all use in the bathroom, right? There's also a call for better social networking integration; direct links between Miiverse and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and perhaps something like Skype (but not Skype since MS owns that) are surprisingly absent from the current Miiverse. But all of this would take a lot of work and time, and Nintendo is notorious for doing nothing to capitalize on the unrealized potential of already-released systems.

Now, my latter suggestion was an upgraded "Wii U.2" which I think is perhaps Nintendo's best bet. Let's face it--system specs are what really sell a system to hardcore gamers. The Wii U will not be getting most of hardcore fans' upcoming favorite titles because developers won't be able to port from PS4/X1 to the Wii U--it's just too weak. For the typical hardcore gamer who doesn't care about the upcoming Mario Kart and whose future CoD and GTA titles won't and can't appear on the Wii U, why by one? This is the justification for a new console from Nintendo. It needn't be new from the ground up, just a spiffed up Wii U with a new processor, more ram, and more storage space so that future hardcore titles can be ported to the Wii U with no major hassles for developers. Comparable horsepower specs aren't all that will sell a Wii U.2 though. Nintendo would first need to take a loss and offer some sort of buyback/trade-in credit (however small) toward the U.2 for current U owners to ensure loyalty, and the console would STILL need some sort of killer app as described above to stand out from Sony and Microsoft. A new "killer app" PLUS a turbo-charged console revision would at least give Nintendo a fighting chance in the console wars for the next 6-8 years. (See bottom note about the Gamepad).

So yeah, those are my suggestions. If Nintendo wants to remain relevant this generation (PS4/X1) and if they want any hope of being noticed next generation, then one of those options needs to happen--a killer app or a new, jazzed-up Wii U successor of some sorts by next holiday season. At this point, no spectacular title will save the Wii U, and it will be a long, long time until the PS5 and next Xbox debut (and let's be real, Nintendo can't expect to do well by releasing a new console mid-generation or years ahead of the competition without the risk of falling flat prematurely). If Nintendo fails to follow one of these suggestions (or something like them), then the Wii U will be another GameCube at best, and I fear for what their next home console will look like.

Note: I can't mention a Wii U.2 or new "killer app" without mentioning Nintendo's current Gamepad (the gadget that was supposed to be the U's killer hardware). It's both the best and worst thing about the Wii U. It's awesome because in games like Zombi U it's killer useful, and off-screen play is an incredible feature that 1/2 the world doesn't know about. But it's also the worst thing ever because it makes people think the Wii U is a handheld, it makes people think it's an add-on to the old Wii, and it's supposed to be tablet-like but it's nothing like a tablet. In either of the above-described survival scenarios for Nintendo's home console, something needs to be done about the Gamepad (though I must note, it shouldn't been killed-off if a U.2 debuts; in fact, it's a good idea, says Sony with their controller-based touch screen). It needs to be marketed correctly, and it needs to be updated. At the least, its range and battery life need to be somehow extended so that off-screen play (and the live TV streaming that I mentioned) can actually be a worthwhile pursuit. For anyone who's ever heard of a tablet, it's obvious that the Gamepad screen is super unresponsive; Nintendo needs to implement a new screen so that their tablet controller actually feels like a tablet. Pipeline wishes are network extendability (being able to play Wii U at work by bringing just the Gamepad to work) and the ability to turn a real tablet into a Gamepad via a Nintendo app for Android and Apple (thus allowing a version of the Wii U/U.2 to sell on the cheap with no Gamepad).