Skim through our list of the most important games of all time and you'll notice a trend: Nintendo is everywhere. From Super Mario 64 to Pokemon to the Legend of Zelda, the Japanese company has been a guiding hand, moving the industry along with innovative new hardware and software. And yet, as we speed through 2013, it would appear that it has lost its footing. Though the 3DS is doing well, Nintendos Wii U is stumbling where the Wii so proudly stood. Its time for Nintendo to make some big moves, and it needs to make them soon.
Which brings us here, today, to the list that invariably comes up every time we discuss Nintendos troubles. The mind-numbingly obvious things that, we believe, could help right the ship. The business decisions that seem so blatant from the outside, but, for one reason or another, stay on the outside. They're on the tip of every gamers tongue, and hopefully one day they come to fruition.
7. Nabbed third-party sequels to fan-favorite franchises
As the cost of game development rises, so too does the number of copies that need to be sold in order to make a sequel a sure thing--no matter how much fans seem to want it. When games are on the cusp of being profitable, or just below, theres a good chance that publishers will pass on a successor, leaving some of our favorite franchises in limbo.
But, as Bayonetta 2 proves, it doesnt need to be that way. Nintendo is flush with money, sitting on 813 billion yen (6.7/$10.5 billion) as of last year, and its time to take out the checkbook and start nabbing sequels. Throw a few million at Ubisoft and get a new Red Steel, or send Capcom a truck of money to finally get a new Mega Man going. Still have some leftover cash? Fund a sequel to Crystal Dynamics amazing Tomb Raider and make it the Uncharted of the Wii U. Nintendo needs exclusives, and there are plenty of developers that could do the heavy lifting for them if they had a paycheck.
6. Added an Achievement/Trophy-style system
People love being told they did something right. Seriously, we absolutely freak out when we get a pat on the head and a thumbs up. That's essentially what an Achievement/Trophy is--a little, blinking, "You done good, kid." Microsoft finally caught on to this reaction and added Achievements, and for better or worse, it's a part of gaming now. Well, most of gaming.
Nintendo is behind the curve on this one, and needs to add some sort of Achievement system into the Wii U/3DS. Honestly, it's in a good position to do so--integrating them with Miis would lead to some interesting gamification opportunities, and that's an area Nintendo has always thrived. Mix Achievements with Find Mii and have them unlock Mii clothing and hats and badges, and suddenly there's a metagame element that makes the Pavlovian response go from just drooling to projectile-vomiting saliva.
5. Released more Wii games for the 3DS
Know why no one played any Wii games? Because they all wanted to have an excuse to keep making, "Looks like I finally have an excuse to dust off my Wii!" jokes. Honestly, that's the only reason we can think that people didn't buy titles like MadWorld, or Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, or Deadly Creatures. Nintendo's last home console was a veritable smorgasbord of unappreciation, but that doesn't mean these unsung greats need to die lonely deaths--with some retooling, just about all of them would do well with a re-release on the 3DS.
Seriously, why not? Nintendo could outsource the updates to third-party developers that specialize in that sort of thing, pumping out loads of cheap 3DS games for a fraction of the cost of a new title. The hardware isn't too far off, either, so most games would likely work without any real changes to the visuals--it's just a matter of getting it working on the hardware and collecting the easy money.
4. Dropped the price on the Wii U
Rewind time a few years and you'll find the 3DS was, at one point, in the exact same position the Wii U is in. It cost too much for what it was, there weren't many good games, third-party developers were abandoning it, and naysayers were eagerly reading the system its last rites. Nintendo needed to do something drastic, something remarkably un-Nintendo, and... it did. It slashed the price of the system and gave everyone who bought it pre-price cut a slew of free games. And now the handheld is as healthy as could be hoped.
Hey, Nintendo, do that for the Wii U. The Wii U might be more powerful than the current-gen, but it can't hold a candle to the consoles coming out later this year. Slash the price by $50-$100, launch a new ad campaign, and give gamers a bunch of awesome games. Sales will spike when people realize that it's the "cheap next-gen system" and developers will be forced to bring their third-party games to the console.
3. Bought more non-Japanese studios
If you've made it this far, you've likely noticed a trend: Nintendo has a game problem. The games themselves are usually great, it's more the frequency of them that's the issue. Nintendo takes its sweet old time to polish a product into perfection, and while we don't want them to stop doing that, we do think Nintendo needs to release more games. The solution? Get some new non-Japanese developers on staff and have them crank out sequels to popular franchises.
Retro's the most obvious success story, but there are plenty of other examples of Nintendo handing over the keys to a foreign developer. For instance, the excellent Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon was put together by Vancouver-based Next Level Games. Nintendo should snap these studios up and get them to work on Star Fox or a new Punch Out!!--and while they're at it, why don't they buy Monster Games? They did a good job with Pilotwings Resort, Excitebots, and Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D; give them the keys to F-Zero or a new Wii Sports and let them go to town.
2. Turned the Virtual Console into the Netflix of retro games
Right now, if you want to play a retro game, you're... just going to pirate it. We're not condoning it, but that's what's going to happen. Emulators and ROMs grow on trees and no one wants to spend $5 on another copy of Super Mario Bros., so you're just going to download it. Worse than that, Nintendo seems to think that a slow trickle of releases is the best way to maintain interest in the Virtual Console when that simply isn't the case. It's time for Nintendo to open the floodgates and release every single game it can on the Virtual Console, but it shouldn't stop there.
Stop segregating handheld and console Virtual Console games. It's ridiculous. We should be able to play Revenge of the Gator on the Wii U VC and Earthbound on the 3DS VC. Better yet, if they really want to make a killing, give us the option to spend a monthly fee to play whatever games we want. $10? $20? Whatever. Just let us stream--or at least download and play--all of the Virtual Console games we want as long as we're subscribed.
1. Made a Pokemon MMO
It all comes down to this. Pokemon has proven itself much more than a fad, continuing to be one of the most successful game and entertainment products of all time (take that, pogs). It's not hard to understand why--people love the idea of living in a fantasy world that seems more fun than the real world. It's like Harry Potter or Star Wars--everyone wants to be a wizard, or a Jedi, or a Pokemon trainer. The handheld games enable that to a point, but not as much as they could if they were MMORPGs.
The franchise is already set up in a way that would adapt well to the genre--just turn each region into a "zone" that supports different levels of trainers and you're on your way to creating one hell of an overworld. There are pre-made mounts, plenty of items to buy, and an emphasis on friendly duels. Developer Game Freak has stated that it plans on keeping the franchise's core games as they are on handhelds, but we're hoping it eventually changes its mind and helps evolve Pokemon into the game it was destined to be. For now, we'll just have to gawk at the image above that we grabbed from a Pokemon forum and pretend it's a real game.
The mother of gaming
Nintendo has the means to print money, that's what it really comes down to. With a few smart choices it can establish the Wii U as a contender, give gamers all the games they want, and secure a future for our favorite franchises. What do you think? Is there any seemingly simple thing that you're shocked Nintendo hasn't done yet? Let us know in the comments!