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What is Nintendo waiting for?

posted on March 26th, 2007 by jay

Nintendo has a chance to regain some market share this generation. The Wii is still hard to find five months after launch and there are reports that Nintendo’s stated mission of expanding the market is succeeding. But for every smart move they make, a dumb one — like keeping the friend code system intact — is soon to follow. I have compiled a short list of things Nintendo really should do sooner rather than later.

The most grievous sin Nintendo has committed is their neglect of online play. What were they doing while Xbox Live took off? It’s as if they only started thinking about the structure of Wii online after the system launched, instead of seven years ago when SegaNet showed us how cool online gaming could be. Personally, I think the lack of online capability (for gaming right now) is what makes the Wii feel a little old, not the weaker comparative processing power.

Neglecting the online component doesn’t only hurt the consumers, though. Wii Sports Online would be more popular than Jesus, Mohamed, and Pee Wee Herman combined. Nintendo is really missing the opportunity to have a second money printing game machine. Conversely, the lack of a strong online component may scare off fence sitters. It’s a little silly that you can play free MMO games on your PC but can’t play much Wii online.

That Nintendo refuses to enable Virtual Console games for online play is their second stupidest move. Playing Double Dungeons may be less amusing than playing Saga Frontier while being murdered, but if I could play it online with Pat, there is no doubt in my mind I would. Streets of Rage, Toejam and Earl, Tecmo Bowl, Contra III, Puyo Puyo, Gunstar Heroes…I’d even play Altered Beast online once, if only to pretend it’s 1989 again (it was good back then, especially if you were seven and retarded).

SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Prolonged exposure to Saga Frontier has been proven to cause cancer in lab rats.

According to the programmers I’ve spoken to, it likely wouldn’t take an inordinate amount of time to rework these games for internet play. Nintendo has played the, “true to the original” card pretty well, but most people can still see through it. “True to the original” really means, “no extra work for us.” Why they won’t enable these VC games for online play is mysterious. Sales would surely improve enough to make the effort payoff.

Here’s something Nintendo actually said was a possibility — translated VC games. Imagine Lady Stalker, FEDA, Fire Emblem, Der Langrisser, Bahamut Lagoon, Battlemania 2, Monster World IV, Shin Megami Tensei, Rent-a-hero, or Bahamut Senki fully localized and available for eight bucks. You may not recognize many of these games, but I assure you they would change your life…but only if they are in English (the language of change)!

And then there are all those indie games on the Wii that we are still waiting for. A fully realized Indie Channel would be extremely cool. This component is more important than Nintendo realizes because it can justify their entire business strategy. The Wii is cheap to develop for and I’d argue a democratic view on development follows naturally from an attempt to widen the market.

Ideological nonsense aside, the amount of unique content that an Indie Channel would offer could keep gamers glued to their Wii in these drought periods between big games. Murmurs of this channel have been heard for a while now, but if Nintendo knew what they were doing they’d already have half a dozen smaller games available for download.

Finally, there are the improved GameCube games Miyamoto mentioned. Better graphics, possibly new features? This isn’t necessarily a great idea, but it’s another bullet point on the list of things Nintendo “may” do on the Wii. I have no idea how it would work, but let’s pretend you can pay a few bucks to download the super code that will improve the game, which you already have a disc for. I’d probably play a prettier, extended version of Luigi’s Mansion, and I’d certainly pay some money for an online multiplayer version of Pikmin.

Part of the problem Nintendo runs into with this improvement concept is that historically, sequels are nothing but better graphics and a new mode taped on to an original game. Online Double Dash would eat into sales of the Wii Mario Kart, and why would they give us multiplayer Pikmin when they can just release the same game as Pikmin 3 and charge $40 more? Still, no one lesser than Shigeru Miyamoto himself said they are looking into the concept of beefing up GC games. I’d prefer it if this panned out and wasn’t another thing Nintendo talked up then ignored.

It is clear why Nintendo haven’t done these things yet — they cost money and take time. But every half assed game or product they make impedes the progress of these listed goals. Instead of spending the time and money on the new reportedly shitty Wario game for the DS, they could have localized four Japanese RPGs.

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17 Comments

  1. Matt said on March 26, 2007:

    I agree on pretty much everything. I actually completely forgot about that GC-enhanced thing. They’ve said literally nothing about it since, and I can only imagine it was something they later stopped looking into. If they haven’t updated VC games, I’m sure they won’t go and add anything new to GC games, which, I assume, would be more costly. And it does upset me that they have done nothing new for the VC games. I mean, Live has online-enabled Street Fighter II for almost the exact same price as the VC version, which is the least robust of all Street Fighter II games made. WFT, is the least I can say on that.

  2. Ahren said on March 27, 2007:

    Good post. I agree with you on a lot of your points, and I am extremely angry with the direction Nintendo is going with their online strategy. They are absolutely dominating console sales as of right now, and if they can just get a solid online architecture running, I guarantee that would boost sales even more and make customers happy.

    As a Wii owner, I am very dissatisfied with the extremely long delay in online capabilities. One thing that I am most upset about is Nintendo’s continuance of the friend code system. I was willing to except one , 16-digit (ARG!) friend code, for all games, but now with the reports of using game-specific friend codes, that just kind of sucks.

  3. joel said on March 27, 2007:

    Nintendo (i believe) could easily come out on top this generation but you are right that they are in desperate need of a "Live" service and a way to impower indi-developers.  It would definatly give them a boost against their competition (both of whome seem to have used AIM before (it’s a friends list! come on!) As well as giving gamers access to a widder and more interesting variety of games (especialy if you came up witha  way to share the 5$ you charged for the game)
    but you missed a lot of stuf so while i’m complaining: if you have bluetooth why don’t you have keyboard and mouse support?! why!and why is Sonic and the Secret Rings still in 3d-thrid person? Sidescroller! with online races! come on! why won’t my ds sync with my wii?  I want my NintenDog to automaticly jump from my ds to my 24connect wii when i’m home, and for that matter why won’t it see other nearby ds’s and challange them to a fight?  And you have a usb port, where’s harddrive support? where?!
    We’re only missing a few things, but You can do it nintendo! just …you know …do it!

  4. evan said on March 27, 2007:

    This is an extremely myopic view of Nintendo.  They are doing just fine with the GameCube and the GameBoy still on the market, the Wii giving a new gameplay dynamic, and the DS being the fastest selling system.  Nintendo is carving out a niche and not worrying about fringe features, which is smart in light of Sony being the one to worry about all the fringe additions.

  5. jay said on March 27, 2007:

    This was not written from the perspective of someone in the company. While I’d like Nintendo to do well financially, I am a gamer first and my wants and desires stem from this. That aside, I do not believe these "fringe additions" would cost Nintendo money, I believe they would make Nintendo money. If they made an online system as user friendly as the rest of the game, house wives and retirees around the country could be playing Wii Sports right now.

  6. evan said on March 28, 2007:

    My point is that Nintendo is already fine in the money department.  They simply aren’t competing with Sony or Microsoft in the gaming market, and instead are picking up people who aren’t interested in the titles on PS3 or 360…or are being picked up as 2nd-system sales, again because of the titles that Wii has that PS3 and 360 won’t have (or can’t because of play/control style or franchise).I’ll agree that the additions that you suggest would indeed be nice.  But there are pluses and minuses to each system, and many of the Wii launch games are pretty clever.  And like the 360 and PS3 title list, there are bound to be many ‘must-have’ titles for Wii.  And just like PS3 and 360…there are going to be many games that are garbage with poor controls, poor gameplay, or poor visuals.  But for the time…I can overlook those few titles and research what I really want to purchase. 

  7. anonynous said on March 28, 2007:

    umm…

  8. nntndofweek said on March 28, 2007:

    are you guys serious? why should nintendo be competing when they have enough money to keep quiet they are smart by not getting involved and being like sony and microsoft trying to do the next big thing nintendo knows that people know they are reliable and you get what you pay for even cheap some times so… but evan you are right about the games it is like having our own arcade game where you are in the game and YOUR movements are used and not the push of a button. the wii is a great experiance and should not be missed!!!!! ;D 

  9. Luke Mildenhall-Ward said on March 28, 2007:

    Excellent article, but you forgot the demo channel. The amount of regions Nintendo are screwing up in has gone too far. I bought a Wii expecting it to be a last gen console with the only difference being new controls. I find out it’s not even a last gen console is many regards. Heck, I still haven’t seen graphics rivaling most games on my original Xbox. The online system is just unacceptable.

    Keep digging for this, guys, and keep contacting Nintendo. They can’t keep dodging these issues.

  10. jay said on March 28, 2007:

    Thanks, that’s a good point. I left both a Demo Channel and Wii/DS connectivity off the list and probably should not have.

  11. Rick said on March 28, 2007:

    I’m still irritated at the lack of HD output.  Have you seen what that Game Cube looks like on a 37" 1080p LCD TV?  I stopped playing my Nintendo because I didn’t have a TV crappy enough for it.

  12. raishi said on March 28, 2007:

    The Wii isn’t a HD console, that was never the intention.  What true gamer cares first about graphics?  The Wii is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise crappy market.  Very few innovations are being made with the PS3 of the 360, 90% of the games being released for both consoles are the same old tricks with better graphics.  If I want online play I’ll use my computer, Unlike Sony and Microsoft Nintendo cannot afford to push the envelope of things.  That is why Nintendo made a console that is solid and makes them profit right out of the gate.  Nintendo would be crazy to attempt to compete with the online market of Microsoft, Sony, or computers.  The only real online content is to get old games new life, returning crappy gamers that want graphics to the solid story games of my childhood, *pleasant sigh* 

  13. jay said on March 28, 2007:

    But why should online gaming be a binary issue? Nintendo doesn’t need to beat the other two with their functionality, they just need to offer games that use it.

  14. Phone said on March 28, 2007:

    The truth of the matter is that N is doing quite well while watching the competition struggle… right now. They are smart enough to realize, though, that this period of Sony bashing will not last forever. The UK ate Sony up – perhaps a vision of things to come for those of us who may have already written off the PS3.They’ve already said that better graphics won’t appear from a year past launch, which implies that "features" are generally going to be staggered. We want everything now, right, but what happens 3 years from now when PS3’s are 300 – 400 bucks? Without the cushion of a ridiculous price gap, N needs a high fresh factor to keep this thing alive.Honestly, I’d love everything on your list – including a browser that supports the Wii-Mote accelerometers (think of all the wonderful homebrew flash fun that will be created) but I don’t think it’s part of the bigger plan to let everything out at once. Call them perfectionists, call them sadists, but in the end, N has a goal and they need to be faithful to that. An afterthought: the Wii is made for a much… much different audience than the others. Introducing online elements into a *family* machine is a different ball game than doing the same to a pure *gamer* machine. Remember those mid-west mothers who assume their children think porn when they think "internet."

  15. Ken said on March 28, 2007:

    @Phone:Little bit of a problem in your theory there. Wii has a browser.

  16. rob said on March 29, 2007:

    Couldn’t agree more with all of the above statements.  As a Nintendo shareholder, I think that Nintendo’s dropping the ball, especially on ramping up Wii distribution and getting a decent online service going.  Who the hell cares about Miis?  What people want is to play games against each other.  The author’s right – How could Nintendo watch the success of XboxLive and not have something like that AT LEAST in the works?  The indie channel’s a great idea too – I don’t think flash games would cut into Nintendo’s game sales in the slightest, but it would add another dimension to the Wii by capitalizing on the user created content movement.  Come on Nintendo…. Make daddeh some moneh!!!

  17. Nevva said on March 30, 2007:

    I agree with every word! Let the online begin!

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