Amateur Advice: 5 Things Nintendo Needs to Do

Amateur Advice is a new, on-going series on my advice to gaming companies and the overall tech industry from someone outside the fence, without the typical “industry” experience and with nothing to lose. In this post, we take a quick look on what Nintendo is trying to achieve and what they need to do to get there.

In the E3 media presentation this year, Nintendo unveiled their next generation gaming console named the Nintendo Wii U. They mentioned that while they brought over many casual, nontraditional gamers onto the Nintendo Wii, they now want to bridge the gap between casual and hardcore gamers with the new console. So, in a sense, what Sony and Microsoft have been doing but in reverse order.

The Nintendo Wii U controller has a 6.2″ touch screen in the middle of an otherwise traditional controller. Users are able to use the touch screen as a supplementary screen to the game they’re currently playing or to transfer the visuals from the television over to the controller. The controller can be used to play games by itself, but it is not meant to be used as a portable device and will not function outside of the home console’s reach.

Whereas we understood that both the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii were derived from the blue ocean strategy, or the concept of reaching for a broader audience instead of fighting over an existing and shrinking demographic, we have no idea what the Nintendo Wii U is about. Does the blue ocean strategy still apply? If not, how is this different from the now-motion-control-enabled PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360? In what way is the Nintendo Wii U not another me-too product?

With Nintendo raising so many questions while answering so few in their 80-minute presentation, it’s not surprising that many of us are now more confused (and in turn skeptical) than ever. Here are my thoughts on the five things Nintendo needs to do to get back on track:

  1. Rebuild the story and the message you’re trying to convey. Explain to us the bigger picture and how the Nintendo Wii U can deliver. The blue ocean strategy was an excellent way to explain why we needed a stylus with the Nintendo DS and why the Wii controller looked like a remote. Give us the backstory on why the touch screen is essential on the new controller and ultimate why we should care.

  2. Marketing. While it’s sounds pretty absurd to name the console with two one-syllable, unrelating words, it’s slightly less absurd if people think of it as a wordplay of Wii 2. Maybe the logo animation should start with Wii 2 with the 2 turning sideways and into a capitalized U? Whatever it may be, do the homework to find out what’s the best way to communicate the brand. Remember, it takes one bad move for consumers to dismiss a product regardless of features or quality.

  3. Don’t get complacent. You hit a home run when it came to the Nintendo Wii, but that’s because consumers never had motion control gaming before. But the Wii U is a lot more similar to the original Wii in terms of user experience, as there are already a lot of abandoned and/or inactive Wii owners. If anything, Nintendo has their work cut out for them because of that.

  4. Go out of your way for third-party developers. The era of “a good product will sell itself” is over. It’s no longer enough to make the platform flexible and expect developers to come knocking on the door. That’s because other developers have been developing for other platforms for years, and there needs to be an incentive to them to return to Nintendo’s console. Most games are multiplatform these days and Nintendo needs to do whatever it takes to ensure every multiplatform game will make their way to their new console.

  5. Make the controller portable. The controller certain looks like an iPad, so why not make the Wii U controller portable? If Nintendo is going to take a risk, they might as well take a real one. Imagine reading an ebook from Amazon Kindle or playing Plants vs. Zombieson the way to work; there are huge opportunities if the controller is integrated with the Nintendo eShop. Not only will that catapult the Nintendo eShop into the mainstream audience (akin to the blue ocean strategy), but it will also be the only mobile device with a traditional button layout — something mobile action games sorely need.

    And don’t worry about the Nintendo Wii U controller cannibalizing the sale of the Nintendo 3DS. Apple’s iPhone and iPad coexist very well because the two devices offer very different experiences. Same goes for the Wii U controller and Nintendo 3DS. They have their own unique features (one has 3D while the other one has a bigger screen) and they will certainly find their own place in time.

So those are the five things Nintendo needs to do in order for their next console to succeed, but what do you think? What can Nintendo do to make their next console a success? Do you think they’re on the right track or do you think it’s ultimately a lost cause?

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