Nintendo, for all the gloom and doom about the Wii U, is still a profitable company. The 3DS gives it a lock on the handheld gaming market, which despite all the insistence that mobile was like totally going to crush it, has thrived. It still owns some of the most valuable brands in gaming. But it needs to do something, and quickly, to turn around its console business.
But it’s still a company that has taken a financial beating in recent years. And people, including yours truly, are full of suggestions! Some of them are good, some of them are bad, but there are a few common ones that just won’t work.
Turf The Wii U
Honestly, Nintendo is thinking about this one. The 3DS is profitable, sells lots of games, and is really popular. The Wii U is essentially a lead weight on their bottom line. Right now it’s off the table but if 2014 doesn’t show some improvement, the Wii U might be facing a firing squad.
Why It Won’t Work: It’d help Nintendo’s bottom line, but it’d be a disaster for gaming. Nintendo is the single most well-known brand in gaming; how many times has your grandmother called your XBox 360 a Nintendo? Mario is better known than Mickey Mouse. A console tanking is never good for gamers, and losing Nintendo in the console wars would be an enormous setback for gaming culturally as well.
Bribe The Major Publishers
To be fair, this is a pretty good idea on the surface. EA won’t bring Madden to the Wii U? Sweeten the pot with a little cash and maybe it’ll be worth their while. After all, publishers like money, right?
Why It Won’t Work: Sure. You know what publishers don’t like? Nintendo and its consoles, and the feeling is mutual. Nintendo and third parties have a long and fairly antagonistic relationship, and it’s been steadily worsening for a decade. A little cash is not going to change things.
Build An Online-Only Nostalgia Box
In light of the Ouya being more popular as an emulation machine than an actual gaming platform, there have been calls in some quarters for Nintendo to put out a cheap little processor box that lets you raid the eShop for all those classic titles we know and love. Again, the appeal is obvious on the surface, at least to us nerds.
Why It Won’t Work: First of all, that’s a major strategy for the Wii U. Secondly, part of the reason Nintendo is in all this trouble in the first place was because they couldn’t differentiate enough between the Wii and the Wii U; introducing a third console would just make things worse. Also, making nostalgia a pillar of your company’s finances is a bad idea; ask Capcom or Sega how that’s been working out.
Where’s the harm in putting some of Nintendo’s older games on more than one platform? Everybody plays old Nintendo games on their phone for free anyway, Nintendo might as well make some profit out of it.
Why It Won’t Work: Nintendo’s entire appeal is really their intellectual properties; if you want to play a Zelda game or a Metroid game, you play it on something Nintendo makes. The entire company would collapse if it went third-party.
So What Can Nintendo Do?
One big bright spot in the latest Nintendo Direct was the fact that Nintendo is giving indie games a great big hug:
As goofy as it sounds, indie games are probably going to be Nintendo’s key to bringing more people to the Wii U. It just needs games, in general, and amid the swarm of adorable platformers there are games like Nihilumbra and So Hungry that will make the Wii U stand out as a platform.
Beyond that, Nintendo simply needs to develop more games. One of the big frustrations is that, for example, they’ve shelled out a fair chunk of cash for the Fatal Frame IP, but there doesn’t appear to be anything happening there. But games will be the Wii U’s, and Nintendo’s, salvation; once Nintendo gets that pipeline flowing, system sales will come.