Wow, it must be bag on Nintendo day; so, itís 2008 and Nintendo has come into the year with the apparent lead in this generation of gaming. Their worldwide sales are astounding and the demand for product is unlike anything that we have seen in the past years. Like it or not, the Wii is a force to be reckoned with. This is going to be an important year for all three consoles and this is going to be the year where I feel that the winner will emerge. Can Nintendo continue its surge to the front? Honestly, only time will tell the true answer to this question but I think that there are a few things that they can do to help their cause in this race.
So far, I would argue that Nintendo has done everything right, up until this point, but their strategies are not going to hold them over through the end of this calendar year. They have done a good job in establishing themselves, but now they need to further separate their selves from the competition. A lot of people have complained that Nintendo has ďabandonedĒ the hardcore gamer, which is true. The thing is that people are not facing up to the fact that Nintendo said that they were going to do this from the start. From the moment that they revealed their intentions with the Wii, they admitted, flat out, that the hardcore gamers were no longer their focus. Nintendoís focus was, is, and will continue to be on the casual gaming population. While I am slightly disappointed in that (being a hardcore gamer myself), it is something that I completely understand and cannot help but support.
Nintendo should continue to push for this casual market of gamers. Their casual game lines such as the Brain Age and the (Touch) Generation titles are helping them to increase their market share by incredible amounts. If it isnít broke, donít try to fix it. On the other hand, Nintendo needs to take the casual base that they have managed to install thus far (over 18 million I believe) and start helping them mature as gamers. Keep the casual games coming to continually draw new gamers in, but donít let those gamers that you have managed to lure in graduate to the competitorsí hardcore market. Nintendo needs to slowly evolve and grow their software with the needs and likes of these gamers.
There is a small sense that leads me to believe that this is exactly what they may be doing. Take Super Mario Galaxy for example; the game was simple enough for almost anyone to pick up and play, but it managed to tie over the hardcore gamers as well. These are the exact ďtransitionĒ titles that they need to keep coming. On the surface, and from my experience with the previous entries in the seriesí, I would argue that this is exactly what they are going to do with both Super Smash Bros. Brawl and the new Mario Kart Online. These are just two more examples of games that I think can easily appeal to the casual market that they have garnered so far and the hardcore game that have been waiting for the games that they know and love.
Nintendo also needs to shift some of their focus to the online portion of their games too, which they also appear to be doing with these titles. Now, if they can only get away from those friend codes. Smash Bros. is going to be a major test of their Friend Code system; if they thought that they had heard the consumers complaining before, just wait until the largest game of this generation (for the Wii) gets released. The eyes and voices of millions of gamers are going to be focused directly on what is arguably the weakest part of their arsenal. Xbox Live is obviously the leader in terms of online gameplay services, and the PSN is a distant second; Nintendoís service doesnít even register on the map at this point. The Friend Code system is so cumbersome and is anything but user-friendly.
I can appreciate everything that Nintendo is trying to accomplish with the system, but I think that it is doing more harm than good at this point. The easier that you can make the process for youíre your consumers, the better results that they are going to see. They need to take the route that Microsoft has taken with the 360 and XBL, in terms of putting the parental controls in there so that the parents can do their job and utilize the tools to protect their children. They should not continue to place their restrictions and protection on all of us; let the parents do their job.
The other thing that Nintendo needs to do is to throw a ton of support behind their third party developers. Nintendo cannot, I repeat CANNOT, do this by their selves. They are going to need to put some faith and support in their third party developers in order to get the same feeling(s) back. There are some true third party gems out there for the system already (Zack and Wiki anyone) and they are going unnoticed because all that anyone hears about are the first party monsters like Mario and Zelda. There are only two big first party titles on the horizon (announced) for the Wii, and that doesnít look good with that mentality. If Peter Mooreís recent comments that EA needs to focus more on the Wii in order to succeed. Nintendo needs to reciprocate that support and spread the loveÖ and they can all win.
These ideas arenít that novel and they arenít that difficult. They are some simple things that I think Nintendo could do which could make or break them this year. Despite the lack of belief I am sure many will put behind them, I have the hope and faith that they will do the right things this year. Nintendo has made a huge comeback this generation after pretty much being counted out of the race after the demise of the Gamecube. They have already started this game off with a lead, now they just need to close out the matchÖ