Wii U and The Public Concern
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There’s an old expression that you only get one chance at making a first impression. Nintendo is looking to buck that trend as they attempt to reveal the Wii U for a third and hopefully final time next week.
While the Wii U was officially revealed over a year ago at e3 2011, Nintendo decided to take a vow of silence on the device for nearly a year. Then e3 2012 rolled around, and they further pulled back the curtain on the device, but left fans with even more questions and tempered expectations. Now just 3 months after E3, Nintendo is hosting another event to hopefully pull back whatever remains of the Wii U curtain. But has their slow-burn for Wii U news bitten them in the ass or can they finally right their course in a week’s time? Let’s look at what they need to DO, and what they should do as they gear up for launch.
Price and date. This is a no-brainer. I was actually okay with them not revealing the price and date of the Wii U at e3, I mean logically it doesn’t matter if you know the price and date at the start of the summer or the end of the summer, if the device still doesn’t come out until the Fall. But that grace-window is now closed. Retailers need to start planning for their holiday stock, and consumers are more focused on the holiday season with summer vacation behind them.
Nintendo has two options when it comes to price. They can either price it cheaply, we’re still in the middle of a major economic downturn or they can entice users with an excellent value. While I have gone hands on with NintendoLand, and think it would be a terrific party game, they could probably turn that into a bundle. In addition, I would include Panorama View since I don’t know how they expect to sell that on their own. I also think that Panorama View could be an excellent trojan horse for their digital service. Partner with companies like Disney, Six Flags, hotels and major attractions, and allow users to download updated packages every now and then. Imagine being able to take a 360 tour of a hotel you want to stay in or to see all that a theme park has to offer when making your decision?
As for price, I think if they are going for an economically friendly price point that $250 is where they should thrive. It is about the same price as the two remaining current gen consoles, and still allows for a possibility of an impulse purchase. If they are aiming for a value pack, I would say $299 with NintendoLand and Panorama View as a pack-in title.
Date is a lot more clear-cut at this point. Unless they want to be crafty and pull a SEGA, the timing of their announcement really suggests that November is the only possible time for them to launch the system since a month of build-up isn’t a lot of time when you think about it. Traditionally, Nintendo also loves their Sunday releases (almost every console and handheld going back to the GameCube has released on the Sunday) which leaves us with a possibility of Nov 4th, Nov 11th or Nov 18th. Now smart money, and my personal money, has been on Nov 18th since the first Wii U reveal because Nintendo is a remarkably unpredictable predictable company. Just take a look at their past decade of releases:
- November 18, 2001 – Gamecube
- November 17, 2002 – Metroid Prime
- November 17, 2003 – Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
- November 21, 2004 – Nintendo DS
- November 14, 2005 – Mario Kart DS
- November 19, 2006 – Wii
- November 12, 2007 – Super Mario Galaxy
- November 16, 2008 – Animal Crossing: City Folk
- November 15, 2009 – New Super Mario Bros. Wii
- November 21, 2010 – Donkey Kong Country Returns
- November 20, 2011 – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
All of those release dates fall inside of a week window, and were considered Nintendo’s major holiday title/launch (Yes even Animal Crossing: City Folk), I don’t really see them bucking tradition this year!
Games. The games are another area that Nintendo needs to focus on. While the Wii U has a fairly impressive line-up on paper from a business standpoint (I don’t care how you argue it but launching with sequels to 3 games that have sold over 10 million, 2 of which sold over 20 million, copies is just a smart business strategy), they do lack the game(s) for folks to rally around a new console. While it may be too late for launch, I mean really what can they announce at this point to have an impact in 2 months? I do think they need to extend their gaze into the future. I’m not saying to show your entire 2013 line-up, but show/tease/hint at major announcements that people want to see. Whether it is a whole lot more 3rd party support from both Japan and the West, or the next major title in one of their key franchises, they need something to make people stand up and take notice.
Third Party. Nintendo also needs to address the software situation. Right now their 3rd party line-up is filled with months old games including Mass Effect 3, Batman: Arkham City and Darksiders 2 with none of them really offering a more compelling experience or additional content over the already released versions. The other side of the coin isn’t looking any better as Assassin’s Creed 3 is so far the only major fall title that is also being released on the Wii U already the same time. While rumors/leaks point to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, that would only make two games for the launch. Where’s Resident Evil 6? Medal of Honor: Warfighter? Borderlands 2? Dishonored? Where’s the announcement of Bioshock Infinite? Tomb Raider? Dead Space 3? Metal Gear Rising? And so many more.
Nintendo NEEDS to instill confidence in their consumers and with developers that the Wii U won’t be a Wii redux as far as major third party title support goes. If they have troubles convincing games that they can get ports of current gen ports, what would make anyone believe it would get better with the release of Microsoft and Sony’s next consoles?
Online. And even if these games get announced, will they have features parity on the Wii U? Nintendo has yet to truly detail their online game plan. While the Miiverse is an interesting start, it really more of a service of communication than it is of game play. Many questions loom about their online presence and services and rightfully so, the Wii didn’t exactly set the online gaming world on fire and didn’t really improve over time. While Nintendo has shown some progress as it relates to the 3DS, they are still far behind in certain key areas. Namely, not all of their games feature an online component. Perhaps, that will change with the emergence of Miiverse, and using online as a means to instantly communicate among peers playing the same game, but they need to do and answer more.
How will online work? Does the system have an account system? How will Nintendo evolve the friend codes system (since confirmed still using it in some fashion)? Will you have an actual friend’s list? Will you be able to communicate with friends and others while not playing the same game? What new and interesting ideas will Nintendo bring to the table to lure people away from Xbox Live or PlayStation Network? Will they charge for the service? How will they handle the eShop/virtual console? Will purchases carry over from your Wii? Will your purchases be tied to an account or still tied to your console? So many questions that they need to answer as solely a baseline to make people think they are taking online seriously.
Even if they do answer these questions, and answer it well then we get back to the problem of software. As it stands right now, none of Nintendo’s major launch titles (New Super Mario Bros U, Pikmin 3, WiiFit U) have online play. Two of those games will feature a co-op play for at least 4 players if not 5. That doesn’t bode well for the future when games that already have multiplayer don’t have online. Granted, we don’t know about Project P-100, LEGO City Undercover or the numerous other games they have down the pipe, but they do need a 1st party title that showcases they are serious about online, and they need it sooner rather than later.
Nintendo has always been an interesting company since they love to play by their own rules, but as the time draws near they have way too many questions and concerns out in the open for your average consumer. While I do expect that their conference next week will answer some of these questions, I fear that many will go unanswered even through the holiday season. I hope they prove me wrong, but only time will tell.