I’m going to let you in on a little secret that I am not proud to admit. I skipped the Wii. Not on purpose, mind you, as I really wanted one on day one. When it sold out and was re-stocked a month later, I still wanted one. Around sixteen months later, with the system still only found on eBay for around $400 (a sixty percent mark-up), I gave up and decided that, if I was going to spend that much, I’d just buy an Xbox 360 Elite, instead.
I’ve missed out on a lot of great Nintendo games; Super Paper Mario, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl spring to mind. But, like all those days Peter Gibbons missed in Office Space, I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing them.
I’m that prototypical Nintendo-faithful, and I missed the revolution. My Nintendo DS was enough until it broke. Then I picked up an iPhone 4 to fill the gap. As you may have noticed, I haven’t looked back since.
But I believe in Nintendo. I believe it isn’t too late. I’m not calling for them to start developing for the App Store, as that should be their last resort, but it’s obvious that the 3DS is having trouble. The console market doesn’t look a lot better with iPad HDMI connectivity. What can Nintendo do to right themselves? How can we save the Big N?
1.) Get the fuck off the high-horse and open up to indie developers.
We get it. You think games have to be made a certain way. Full experiences and whatnot. But just like the preceding sentence fragment, sometimes you don’t need to be complete to get the point across. Angry Birds and Cut the Rope are two great success stories that the likes of which haven’t been seen on a Nintendo system since 2D Boy’s World of Goo injected itself into Game of the Year talks. But that was before the App Store amounted to much of anything. Could you imagine World of Goo coming to the Wii before the App Store if it were being released today? I can’t. I imagine Zeptolab couldn’t, either, when they released Cut the Rope.
2.) Give developers a good reason to come back.
Apple takes a thirty percent cut of just about everything that goes through their stores, be it the apps themselves or the in-app purchases. The cost to them is minuscule. So, it’s time to 1-up them by giving back some of that coin.
A twenty or twenty-five percent take would, perhaps, be enough to get developers to switch allegiances or at least to consider cross-platform ports. If nothing else, it’s a step in the right direction.
3.) It’s time to get your online shit together.
First thing’s first: Make people sign-up for a Nintendo account and then, just like Microsoft, Sony, and Apple have done, tie a person’s purchases to that account. The pain-in-the-ass that was switching Virtual Console games to a new console was, perhaps, one of the more cumbersome experiences that a lot of gamers endured out of love. Let’s not even start the “Friend Code” bullshit. Make me jump through hoops once, shame on me. Twice? Well, you know the rest.
Digital distribution is a must. Games kept getting bigger and bigger with the advent of disc-based technology. Now, though, solid-state drives are the standard and smaller games have proven that they’re not necessarily inferior games. Yes, there’s still a market for cartridge-based games, as well as disc-based games, but they’re now starting to look like a nuisance that may one day be an artifact of a forgotten era alongside FMV games.
Moreover, a lot of us really want to be connected to others. I remember, when playing a friend’s Wii, waiting to connect for some Super Smash Bros. Brawl and thinking, after having Xbox Live on the original Xbox, how primitive it seemed. Hell, it seemed primitive when compared to NFL 2K1 on Dreamcast. I don’t mind paying a membership fee, really, for some premium services. Keep that in mind.
Also, your online store is an absolute mess. So is the App Store, mind you, but it’s a mess that has other apps, such as AppShopper, that help you sift through it. Look at what AppShopper does right for iOS platforms and make that the basis of your actual store. Then consider what Apple does right, such as the “Game of the Week,” and throw that in as well.
4.) Enter the smart phone market.
Your shareholders are calling for you to develop for iOS. You’re against it. You’re proud. You should be. You’re Nintendo, dammit. You’ve seen hard times and lived to tell the tale. After losing for two straight console generations, you took the world by storm. It was your oyster. You got a second wind and got cocky. Now, you’re in trouble again.
Face it. You’re in direct competition with Apple. When you weren’t looking, they stole your market share through multipurpose technology, cheap gaming, and extreme portability. You can either jump aboard like so many record companies eventually did or you can try to go it alone.
Sure, some gamers aren’t going to want to buy a phone just to have a Nintendo system. That’s fine. The iPod Touch has done pretty well for itself. Hell, get some sort of console integration, perhaps with the Wii U, and have it connect natively. Then we’ll see some real change.
5.) Consider how to re-market your existing franchises.
Free-to-play games (often referred to as “freemium,” the portmanteau of “Free” and “at a Premium”) are doing very well at the moment. Smurfs Village, Tap Zoo, and more have shown that you can make money even if you just let them have a game with an incentive to pay real world cash. Personally, I have spent ten dollars on my Smurf Village, which could’ve bought me ten other games, just to make it fit the image in my head. What would a Smurf Village be without a Smurfette to smurf?
Even games that aren’t free, such as Paladog! and Order and Chaos: Online, have other additional purchase options. Make the game cheap and, if it’s good enough, people will spend the money. Many players even consider in-app purchases as some sort of virtual tip jar.
Only one franchise, at the moment, really fits this mold well: Animal Crossing. Want a bigger house? Buy some bells and get Tom Nook off your back. Is it Christmas time? Well, buy some Nintendollars and you can decorate to your heart’s content.
6.) Tactile controls are not a thing of the past.
I hate the clumsiness of touch screen gaming when it comes to traditional genres. Analog and control pad are definitely not dead. The fact is a lot of games found in the app store waste valuable screen space on virtual controls. From The Chronicles of Inotia’s decent overlay to the awful overlay sported by emulated Genesis titles, there’s just no real good way to go about it.
I think the sliding controls of the PSPGo were actually very viable, though the system itself was not that sound. Had it released that way initially and not had a large library of UMD games available for far cheaper than the digital downloads, it would’ve had a shot of surviving. As is? Horrible.
7.) Consider which games are best suited to small sessions.
Just like examining how to re-package the world of Animal Crossing, Nintendo would need to examine which games would best suit the smart phone market. As is, I think the two franchises that would fit best are WarioWare and Nintendogs.
Warioware feels like a damn prototype for what was to come. Short, quick gaming sessions with simple objectives are the bread and butter of the App Store. Most stages in Cut the Rope can be completed in under fifteen seconds.
Nintendogs is great in short bursts and could even benefit from a freemium model. Don’t want to walk your dog around and win money through tournaments just to buy a new friend? Okay. Buy your way to a new dog. Just don’t do that premium exclusive dog stuff, please, as I’ll be a jealous little girl about it.
8.) Embrace the new pricing models
We had some fun around E3 with our predictions of what we expected this year. I made the following “prediction”:
• Nintendo, in reaction to the success of Angry Birds and other games on mobile platforms, announce a new installment of Wrecking Crew for Nintendo’s 3DS. Mario and other characters from the Mushroom Kingdom, will be shot out of pipes that you angle towards the buildings to stop all the Koopa Troopas who stole Yoshi Eggs. It will come on a cart and retail for $39.99.
It was me poking fun at how out-of-touch the company seems to anyone who’s moved on to mobile gaming and its cheap, easily-downloadable gaming.
Times? They have changed. Premium games can still sell for premium prices, but not every game is a premium game. Square Enix have proven as much with their ability to sell games for $15.99 in the App Store, and I’m sure people would pay a pretty penny for Nintendo games. But the blanket-pricing strategy of the Virtual Console where a game’s priced was based on the system it was released on? That’s gotta go.
9.) Find what the iPhone does wrong and improve upon it
The obvious problem with iPhone gaming has already been mentioned. There’s just no good replacement for a d-pads. However, it can become garish if done improperly. Hell, the 3DS has a problem with screen scratches because of poor design.
But, what else is problematic?
Heat. I am scared of the world of iPhone 5 gaming. I’m sure it will be nice during the cold winter days, but the amount of heat the system throws off is just not comfortable. However, you also need to toe the line to ensure that the unit is small enough to be extremely portable. I’m not a design major. That’s for your geniuses to figure out.
Micro-SD compatibility should become a must. Say what you will, but the idea of additional storage being available has to be enticing to some. Even if it’s just for save files, this would be a step in the right direction. I hate that I cannot back up my saves and deleting a file takes all that with it. It’s just not intuitive.
Hell, find someone who can give you good pricing and start your cheapest model at 32GB. Then, either take a loss on the hardware or go at value. You can make that money back if you can get your market back.
10.) Battery life is very important
This isn’t just for a smart phone, though it’s far more vital to be energy efficient when it’s also how you communicate with the outside world. The 3DS has laughable battery life. I will be waiting for a hardware revision before I even consider purchasing one simply based on this fact.
Find what the specs of the competing iPhone will be and find a way to be better, if only for a little while, while trying to appeal to more than just children. I love you, Nintendo, but I’ve grown up. I still love happy games, as my unabashed praise for Cut the Rope has shown, but it’s time to consider going beyond family-friendly hardware. Having that iPod Touch equivalent will be the option for kids, but make the system with adults in mind first. Browser, e-mail, productivity… all these things need to be considered while moving forward.
Make it cool for the business set as well as the techies.
There’s that old adage: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” With Steve Jobs out, one has to wonder if Apple will be vulnerable moving forward. Maybe you can beat them.
Just consider this a love letter, a guide, and a warning.Tweet
About the Author
|Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming.
Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.
Fade to Slack has written 308 posts on Delta Attack.