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WiiU

How Perception Is Key to Nintendo's Survival

by Aaron Edwards - August 5, 2013, 7:49 am PDT
Total comments: 20

In which someone decrees that Nintendo needs a Halo, and they're probably right.

These are interesting times, aren’t they Nintendo fans? Transitions always are. People are used to the status quo of the current generation, giving next gen consoles a tricky balancing act. Do companies stick with their proven formulas or do they try something new? Both Microsoft and Sony have showed gamers their respective hands… and they are interesting to say the least.

So what does this mean for Nintendo? To understand what Nintendo needs, we need to look at the lessons learned from their competition. In other words, we need to do a little opposition research.

The Wii showed us that Nintendo doesn’t necessarily want to play the same game as its competitors, a perception backed by their understated but confident presentation at E3. If we were discussing Nintendo’s position in 2007, then the musings of Sony and Microsoft would be irrelevant. But we also know that the casual market that made the Wii a massive success isn’t coming back for the Wii U as strongly as Nintendo anticipated.

The surprises of E3 have been picked apart for weeks. For one, we’ve learned that new ideas aren’t always better. But more importantly we’ve learned that perception is everything. We’ve had the Xbox reversal, Sony’s PR dominance, and a look into the next gen titles Microsoft and Sony have in store for us this fall. The one question everyone is asking is “Who will win?”

But perhaps the more important question should be “Who does everyone think will win?” After all, Sony managed to pull a massive victory out of E3 simply by creating the perception they weren’t like Microsoft, who had painted themselves as arrogant and greedy with their initial Xbox One policies. Nintendo, unfortunately, has also had something of a perception problem lately. The general view of the Wii U is that is that it lacks software support and is missing the power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

The good news is that Nintendo has avoided the pitfalls into which Microsoft has recently fallen. After all, being seen as antiquated and aloof is better than being vilified. Better yet, they are far more easily remedied. Even now, the Wii U has several promising titles on the horizon including Pikmin 3, Sonic Lost World, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, and The Wind Waker HD. Every one of those titles will most likely be strong and up to the standards we’ve come to expect from Nintendo.

But none of them necessarily say why we need a Wii U. That, by their own admission, is Nintendo’s biggest problem. They have an interesting idea with the Wii U GamePad, but haven’t convinced developers why they need it. In 2006, we needed a Wii because of motion controls. This year, people want the PS4 because Sony is promising a next generation console that respects them. In 2001, gamers adopted the Xbox because of one word: “Halo.”

Halo. Many see it as the last true killer app that alone could sell consoles. 12 years later, the idea of the killer app seems old fashioned with so many multiplatform games. But Nintendo has had some of the most shining examples of the term. Many bought an N64 for Super Mario 64 and GameCube for Rogue Leader (Editor's Note: Aaron is a huge Star Wars fan. We all know everyone bought GameCube for Melee). Both games convinced consumers of the virtues of Nintendo’s consoles. The Wii had Wii Sports, which was a brilliant PR tool because it was an entire game devoted to explaining why we wanted the Wii and its motion controls.

Sony won E3 because they very simply showed everyone why they needed a PS4. Microsoft lost because they tried explaining why the Xbox One wasn’t as bad as you originally thought. Microsoft showed some impressive games, but not one justified the DRM restrictions they were championing. In business and politics, if you’re explaining you’re losing. Nintendo has been trying to explain the benefits of asymmetric gameplay and their new controller for months. If Nintendo continues to produce diagrams or explain that the lack of games is due to the cost of HD development they will only sink deeper. Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot revealed the company is backing out of a ZombiU sequel due to lack of sales. EA has also backed out of supporting the console in response to a lack of an install base. What consumers and developers need is simply confidence, a quality they aren’t receiving.  The problem is you can’t receive confidence from others without projecting it yourself. It’s a vicious PR cycle.

What the Wii U needs is a Halo. The need a game that says: “It doesn’t matter if other people make games for us, because we made this.”

It could be a Zelda, a Mario, a Metroid, or a new IP, but like Wii Sports it should show us why the Wii U is worth having. It needs to be simple, innovative, and soon. For all the problems the 3DS suffered at launch, the handheld is prospering in a world of smartphones because it successfully showed us that its software (both physical and digital) was a commodity we wanted.

Nintendo is out of the blue ocean of casual gamers now, pulled back into the stormy waters of the console war. They cannot afford to hold themselves to a separate standard from their competitors when their future lies with the hardcore gaming community. In truth, the Wii U’s situation is, when stripped down to its basics, not dissimilar to the late era of the N64 and the GameCube. Nintendo had third-party support problems then as well, but they and their affiliates responded with some of the most amazing games to have ever graced the medium.

Majora’s Mask. Perfect Dark. Eternal Darkness. Rogue Leader. Donkey Kong 64. Super Smash Bros. The Wind Waker. Metroid Prime. The Resident Evil remake. These games moved systems. They showed us that Nintendo had experiences we needed to have that weren’t available anywhere else. Nintendo, more than Microsoft and Sony, has a history of providing these experiences. The only difference now is that before, the consoles were more or less on an even playing field in terms of power. Nintendo has a steeper uphill battle due to the power of its competitors hardware.

Microsoft’s online features for the Xbox One met backlash because they never showed us a piece of software that illustrated why we needed them. All they did was explain. That is a lesson Nintendo needs to take to heart. In the past, they’ve shown developers and gamers across the world why they needed a Nintendo console and in response they were followed with enthusiasm.

They can do it again.

…but it might be best to do it before November.

Talkback

Leo13August 05, 2013

I'm hoping that Next Month the Wonderful 101 will be that game they need!!!

Leo13August 05, 2013

If anyone reading this is ready to buy a Wii U Best Buy has a deal on the console ($50 gift card with purchase)
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/searchpage.jsp?&id=pcat17071&type=page&st=Wii_U_Console_Offer_109882&sc=Global&cp=1&nrp=15&sp=&qp=&list=n&iht=y&usc=All+Categories&ks=960

OblivionAugust 05, 2013

It'd be better to say they'd need a The Last of Us more. :P I wish they'd make Retro be that first party develop that makes the killer app Nintendo needs.

EnnerAugust 05, 2013

Nice editorial.


Looking at your examples of killer apps, I noticed that you didn't have one for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Thinking on it, the two systems never had one obvious system-selling piece of software. Instead, they built their momentum and install base steadily with a variety and volume of great games from first-party and third-party developers.


Nintendo has many first-party developers, but they are split between two systems and are having trouble with developing high-definition games. Nintendo is very reserved when it comes to reaching out to third parties and most major third parties are abandoning the Wii U.


The Wii U needs the one killer app or a bunch (lets say around a dozen) of unquestionably great exclusives to survive this coming winter holiday and the months after. It has looked as if the Wii U has run out of time to do that. Though, maybe there's a nice surprise in the future!

OblivionAugust 05, 2013

The Last of Us is system selling. Halo for the 360 is, if you're into that sort of thing.

I wouldn't call The Last of Us a system seller if only because of how late in the console's life it is. At this point, it's a lot harder for one game to have that much of an impact. As far as Naughty Dog goes, though, I would have called Uncharted 2 a system seller.

OblivionAugust 05, 2013

I dunno man, I've seen some 360 only dudes online claim that The Last of Us is the one game that would get them to buy a cheap PS3.

I know a guy who says he's buying a Wii U so he can play Wind Waker HD. Does that make that game a system seller? Maybe in a very literal sense for a handful of people, but not in the general sense of the word.

OblivionAugust 05, 2013

I would actually say yes, it would. It's a system seller because it sold him a system.

broodwarsAugust 05, 2013

I really dislike the term "system seller".  It's meaningless and vague.  Just about anything can be someone's system seller.  For instance, XBLA; Tales of Vesperia; and Alan Wake were my "system sellers" for the 360, yet if I were to call them as such people would insist that they're obscure games not worthy of the title.  Likewise, Valkyria Chronicles is the reason I bought a PS3.  Any game that strongly appeals to your personal taste can be a "system seller" if you want it badly enough.

Had I been more familiar with it prior to launch, FIFA 13 would have sold me a Wii U based on its GamePad functionality, but it is by no means a system seller by any rational definition of the term.

Most any major release on a console, and some of the less major ones, sells one or two systems. These things sell 50-100 million units, and there are all kinds of different reasons that go into each one of those purchases. The term "system seller" as it is used here refers to specific titles that drive large numbers of them.

smallsharkbigbiteAugust 06, 2013

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

Most any major release on a console, and some of the less major ones, sells one or two systems. These things sell 50-100 million units, and there are all kinds of different reasons that go into each one of those purchases. The term "system seller" as it is used here refers to specific titles that drive large numbers of them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_video_games#Top_20_console_games_of_all_time


Using that definition, the only system seller in the history of video games appears to be Wii Sports, as no other individual game appears to have moved more than 50 million units. 


I get the point of a system seller, but I think it's overrated which is why I'm hard on Nintendo and feel they need to get more games that a variety of people like.  For example, NSMB sold 28 million on the Wii.  NSMB U is better in every regard.  Halo 1, which is regarded as a system seller sold a mere 5 million or SSB:M sold a mere 7 million.  Most people would say 28 million is system selling material, but NSMB U alone is obviously not enough to move Wii U units.  It just means that people view it as a good game that they will pick up if they own a Wii U system but won't necessarily pick up a Wii U for that game.


Another example is Angry Birds.  There have been a staggering 1.7 billion downloads of the game.  Does that mean that it's a system seller and people will buy a $499 Ipad to experience Angry Birds?  Or does that just mean that people are looking for decent software for their tablet and Angry Birds being free or cheap is a worthwhile addition to their software collection?  Sales alone are a poor indicator of a system seller. 


The key is getting people to own the Wii U system.  Pikmin 3 was that game for me, but I'm only one person and as discussed it could be an indie title if someone really likes that.  Wii U sales will pick up when Mario 3D land is released.  They'll pick up when Mario Kart and SSB is released next year.  But to sustain sales they need to keep filling the release schedule with compelling software that is exclusive.  That is unless they somehow pull a rabbit out of the hat and have another Wii Sports. 

CericAugust 06, 2013

Monster Hunter was a System Seller.  Their is a good amount of people who play MonHun that have a WiiU only to play MonHun.  Their is the trick to a system seller.  They have to be in the first half of all the systems sold.  Then to really be counted as a true system seller they need to make a large noticeable blip on the the console adoption rate.  Historically they also should a be a turning point for their respective systems.

Its all very fuzzy when you get down to it.

Leo13August 06, 2013

I agree with smallsharkbigbite to a degree, but not fully. For example Halo, to me, was a system seller, but according to insanolord it couldn't be because it only sold 6.4 million, but to me it was because I knew so many people that had an Xbox and Halo and nothing else. Almost every Xbox owner I knew bought it for Halo and Halo alone. However I do agree with smallsharkbigbite that Nintendo's best coarse of action is to just pump out one great game after another. Hopefully one of them will turn out to be a massive system seller, but if not a a massive number of great games will get systems sold.

Truth be told I must be an easy sell because Nintendo Land was the system seller for me.

Leo13August 06, 2013

Sorry Ceric, but I disagree with you on one part.

"They have to be in the first half of all the systems sold."

Look at Kinect/Kinect adventures for 360. That was a SYSTEM SELLER I know so many people that had never even considered an Xbox until this and that is the only reason they bought it, but it was at the very tail end of the console's life; it certainly wasn't in the first half.

smallsharkbigbiteAugust 06, 2013

I do think Halo was a sydtem seller. I just don't like the way system seller is synonomous with generation changer. Wii Sports was a generation changer that the market had never seen before. It probably did sell 50 million Wiis. It catapulted Nintendo into first place, got them better 3rd party support than they would of had, and pushed 1st party sales into the stratosphere. If Nintendo can get another generation changing game, then great. But it's probably a bad idea to expect that that expecially since they haven't shown it yet.

Halo probably sold between 1-2 million xboxes by itself. Anything that can move 1 million boxes is a system seller to me. In those regards, NSMB U may be a successful system seller. It's the most compelling Wii U title until Pikmin and may have moved 1 million Wii Us. Its sales will continue to increase as Wii U adoption increases and I'd be surprised if it doesn't sell at keast 5 million. 

I guess that's what I mean. Xbox and Gamecube had high profile games considered system sellers and both were considered at least sales dissapointments.  It's probably a long road for the Wii U to go to be considered a sales success and if they make it, it will likely not be because of one game.

Quote from: smallsharkbigbite

Quote from: NWR_insanolord

Most any major release on a console, and some of the less major ones, sells one or two systems. These things sell 50-100 million units, and there are all kinds of different reasons that go into each one of those purchases. The term "system seller" as it is used here refers to specific titles that drive large numbers of them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_video_games#Top_20_console_games_of_all_time


Using that definition, the only system seller in the history of video games appears to be Wii Sports, as no other individual game appears to have moved more than 50 million units. 


I get the point of a system seller, but I think it's overrated which is why I'm hard on Nintendo and feel they need to get more games that a variety of people like.  For example, NSMB sold 28 million on the Wii.  NSMB U is better in every regard.  Halo 1, which is regarded as a system seller sold a mere 5 million or SSB:M sold a mere 7 million.  Most people would say 28 million is system selling material, but NSMB U alone is obviously not enough to move Wii U units.  It just means that people view it as a good game that they will pick up if they own a Wii U system but won't necessarily pick up a Wii U for that game.


Another example is Angry Birds.  There have been a staggering 1.7 billion downloads of the game.  Does that mean that it's a system seller and people will buy a $499 Ipad to experience Angry Birds?  Or does that just mean that people are looking for decent software for their tablet and Angry Birds being free or cheap is a worthwhile addition to their software collection?  Sales alone are a poor indicator of a system seller. 


The key is getting people to own the Wii U system.  Pikmin 3 was that game for me, but I'm only one person and as discussed it could be an indie title if someone really likes that.  Wii U sales will pick up when Mario 3D land is released.  They'll pick up when Mario Kart and SSB is released next year.  But to sustain sales they need to keep filling the release schedule with compelling software that is exclusive.  That is unless they somehow pull a rabbit out of the hat and have another Wii Sports. 

I may not have phrased it clearly enough, but I was of course referring to the consoles themselves selling that many units, with "system seller" games moving a significant fraction of that. And I don't believe I ever argued that a game selling well inherently makes it a system seller.

This kind of thing isn't really something that can be easily measured, with a lot of factors involved, many of which can't be objectively tracked. Especially now, where we've mostly moved past the point where one game on its own can move significant amounts of hardware. Jonny on RFN has referred to a "critical mass" of multiple games that has to build up before a purchase is warranted, and I think that's much more realistic in the modern era, and your argument that Nintendo needs to keep building their library is in line with this philosophy.

EasyCureAugust 08, 2013

Speaking of critical mass, I'm probably one of the few on this site that doesn't own a 3DS yet but with A Link Between Worlds on the horizon, and a ton of intriguing games I've briefly fawned over when announce, as well as the promise of others (Rune Factory 4 AND a new Ace Attorney?!?) I'd say, for me, 3DS has reached critical mass and new zelda will be that system seller to me, the always weary hand-held owner.

Previously it was Mario Kart on the 3DS. On-line MK made me run out and by the red phat bundle, then DSL as announced and I was a little upset. Oh well.

CericAugust 08, 2013

Quote from: Leo13

Sorry Ceric, but I disagree with you on one part.

"They have to be in the first half of all the systems sold."

Look at Kinect/Kinect adventures for 360. That was a SYSTEM SELLER I know so many people that had never even considered an Xbox until this and that is the only reason they bought it, but it was at the very tail end of the console's life; it certainly wasn't in the first half.

I picked that wording very carefully.  The question being Did Microsoft already sell 50% of all the 360s they were going to sell before Kinect came out.  If the answer is no then I would consider it eligible to be consider a true System Seller using the phrase as a point where the momentum shifted.  If the answer is no and let say the go on post Kinect to only sell 25% of the total for the full generation I would say why it was something that sold systems it did not cause a change in the momentum and just augmented the momentum that was already going on.  If I wanted to be more mathematical about it it would be a point in the sales graph where their is a noticeable spike in consoles sold and a high percentage of owners at the time of release end up with the software in their library within a quarter to half a year.  After that if Momentum is still high I would consider it an Evergreen title but not a system seller in and of itself anymore.

shingi_70August 08, 2013

Quote from: Oblivion

I dunno man, I've seen some 360 only dudes online claim that The Last of Us is the one game that would get them to buy a cheap PS3.

Gears of War and Uncharted.

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