I had been meaning to write up this article a few weeks ago- after the Nintendo shareholders meeting- unfortunately, alongside schoolwork, job work, and my own procrastination, I’ve held off on putting the words down until now- a month after the news broke. Now, seeing as Nintendo’s E3 presentation is only several hours away, I figured I should probably get this post out before everything I could possibly say is spoiled (or whether predictions I could make are proven true or false).
So everyone seemed to be up in arms over Nintendo last month, each person trying to come up with a different or similar way that Nintendo could be ‘saved.’ This isn’t a new phenomenon. Many folks have been predicting Nintendo’s doom since about this time last year. But like many others have pointed out in the time since: Nintendo doesn’t really need to be saved.
The first thing people need to know is that Nintendo isn’t going to be dropping support for the Wii U any time soon- so whatever predictions that they are going to be showing off new hardware at E3 isn’t going to happen. Satoru Iwata explained at the investor meeting that “unless existing users are satisfied [Nintendo] cannot release next hardware.” The most you’ll get is a redesign of the original 3DS, something that greatly boosted the sales of its predecessor in the DS Lite.
That isn’t to say that Nintendo isn’t changing to adapt to their current situation. Iwata has stated countless times that they need to integrate their hardware so they can better work together, and at the investor meeting, it was even mentioned that their developers, who had been working separately, “will move into the new building in Kyoto around E3.” This is a big step, as it means that their different developers will be working side by side. This strategy is already used by companies such as Apple and Pixar to make their employees share ideas and come up with new ones they wouldn’t have thought of if they worked separately– a strategy that has worked to great results.
Another strategy they’ve begun making use of is taking advantage of other company’s technology. The Mario Kart TV app recently launched for mobile phones, and it’s likely they will figure out at some point that an actual Miiverse application for iOS and Android would be nice. Nintendo has hinted that MKTV is just the start of their foray into taking advantage of these other devices– much in the way that Sony and Microsoft have already done– and doing so will greatly help both Nintendo and its playerbase going forward.
Finally, they’re really starting to take advantage of their IP assets. Nintendo has always done very well at using their vast array of IPs and characters. Smash Bros and Mario Kart are as much about the characters in the game as they are the gameplay itself. Even the new NFC figures, of which I’ll talk about a bit later, are all about taking advantage of their IPs. But now Nintendo is finally taking advantage of the fact that they can license their characters, as shown from the Japan GLA commercial-Mario Kart crossover… I expect that we’ll get cooler licensing agreements going forward. (My fingers are crossed for Kid Icarus anime after getting those great shorts on 3DS video.)
However, showing they can adapt isn’t akin to doing something now that can help boost Wii U sales. Mario Kart has greatly helped that, albeit the actual sales data is not yet in bar the 660% increase in the UK. However, they’ll likely need both a slew of games in the near future and a price drop to really help sell it. They could have both at E3. We already know about many of the games, such as Smash Bros., X, Bayonetta, Hyrule Warriors, as well as unannounced games, such as the new Zelda expected to be shown at E3. But what’s more interesting is that at the investor meeting, Nintendo announced that they are no longer losing money from their hardware. While they could just sit on this, it could be a signal of an impending price drop of the console to make it more viable to consumers. $250 was a magical number for the original Wii.
Which brings me to NFC figurines. I do not feel I’m exaggerating when I declare that these figures could single-handedly save the Wii U. Yes, that’s an incredibly stupid thing to say, and it will likely not be the case. However, I do think that it will greatly help sales on a level that Mario Kart appears to be doing, if not greater. Ignoring the fact that there are many Nintendo characters that many consumers would certainly want to get figures of. Ignoring the fact that this could signal the beginning of new Nintendo IP. When I say that I think these NFC figurines could do the impossible, I’m specifically looking at how they will be marketed towards children.
NFC figurines are to work across multiple Nintendo games, across both Wii U and 3DS, and if the rhetoric used in talking about them is any indication, they will be much more than simply characters you can put into your game. On top of that, the Wii U will be the only system with access to these NFC figurines, as well as the two other big figurine games in Disney Infinity and Skylanders. That could be a huge selling point to parents whose kids may be interested in all three. Not to mention the possibility that Nintendo could bring in their new licensing strategy to make crossover games with Activision and Disney Interactive.
The key will likely be pricing. The figurines for Disney Infinity and Skylanders are fairly expensive. On the other hand, figures like those used for Nintendo’s Pokémon Rumble U are relatively cheap– though random, which is something we can only hope Nintendo won’t do with their general NFC figurines. Alongside that, hopefully whatever use the NFC figures have will be accompanied with good gameplay. I don’t doubt Nintendo will do it well, but its important to note, as Skylanders isn’t exactly the greatest and most innovative game on the planet outside the figures themselves. (Though props to Disney Infinity for trying something interesting.)
Of course, the speculation here is just that, and to really know what Nintendo will do–or what they can accomplish with what they have–and know what new games they will release to try to sell the Wii U to consumers, we will just have to wait for the press conference as it occurs in about 9 hours at the time of this article’s posting. As for me, I’m excited. I don’t see doom and gloom in Nintendo’s future, I see a lot of different options for the Big N with quite a lot of potential. Thankfully, that fits right into the spirit many gamers tend to take into E3, doesn’t it? We’re all full of hope and excitement for the future of gaming. So let’s stop all this doom and gloom stuff for now, shall we?
Let’s just sit back and see what Nintendo has up its sleeve…