maandag 27 januari 2014

Shut up! Nothing is wrong with Nintendo WiiU!


The last few weeks there has been said a lot about Nintendo and its products. It seems every analyst out there is keen on telling his doom scenario. Most of them seem to think that Nintendo could solve all this by simply moving their software over to other platforms (mainly mobile) and some seem to indicate that Nintendo should drop hardware all together.

As a developer who has been exclusively developing on Nintendo platforms for over four years now, I can tell you this are all ridiculous solutions. Not only will they not fix the real problems, they will decrease Nintendo’s changes significantly.

The real problem at hand is not that the Nintendo WiiU or Nintendo 3DS are bad products. Quite the opposite, they are well made products with a lot of opportunities. Dropping great products (and thus move out of hardware) is not going to help Nintendo, it only limits the their options.

The real problem is communications and services. And when I say communications I mean both to consumers AND developers.

Let’s start with consumers. By now most hardcore gamers understand that the Nintendo WiiU and 3DS are completely new products. This was not the case when the Nintendo WiiU got unveiled at E3. 

First news posts and tweets talked about a new tablet-like controller. But it was unclear if this was a new console or a add-on for the Nintendo Wii system. Only later it became clear it was in fact a new console.

This issue never got resolved. To mainstream consumers it is still not clear that the Nintendo WiiU is a different platform. The name itself did not really help the situation.

Same issue is also true for Nintendo 3DS (although admittedly less than with Nintendo WiiU). The appearance and shape of the handheld and name is very close to Nintendo DS.

With Nintendo releasing new iterations for the Nintendo DS system over the years (Nintendo DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL). It is no surprise that some consumers are mistaken the Nintendo 3DS for yet another iteration of Nintendo DS.

A good solution for this problem should be a well made marketing campaign. Show consumers that they are different products and what is exciting about them. This seems like a obvious solution. But nothing like this has happened till now.

The next problem with communication is towards developers. I feel like Nintendo is targeting the wrong group. Nintendo WiiU is a very different machine compared to Xbox or PlayStation. Fans will quickly point out that the hardware capabilities of Nintendo WiiU are equal or in some cases better then Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles.

While that might be true, under the hood the Nintendo WiiU works very differently. For Triple A developers it will be hard to add Nintendo WiiU capabilities to their current Engine, Framework and pipeline. Simply because things have to be processed differently if you want to make a game shine on Nintendo WiiU.

Which means that developers have to heavily invest extra time and money if they want their games to run on Nintendo WiiU. Couple this with the bad Nintendo WiiU sales figures to see why developers are not very keen on this.

Having the CEO of EA on stage telling the world Nintendo WiiU is great, is not really helpful unless EA actual decides to makes some games.

So instead of targeting those big developers that clearly are not interested, they should focus on smaller developers. Let the smaller ones make software that will compliment the special features of the Nintendo WiiU.

Nintendo should go after companies like Mojang instead of EA. Get a game like Minecraft on Nintendo WiiU. Looking at the features of the gamepad and the target audienc, I think that could be a huge hit.

The game industry has matured. Indie games have matured. If Nintendo would pick up a few games like Minecraft, games that are smaller but matter, they could outweigh a big fish like EA.

Brining software onto other platforms, or more specifically mobile, is not going to help. Nintendo will not be able to bring over enough new consumers from mobile to their own hardware for companies like EA to suddenly care or consider making games. With the release PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, hardcore gamers have better platform options for those games.

Going over to mobile also does not magically solve the communication problem Nintendo is having towards their consumers. For example it will be hard for mainstream consumers to spot the difference between ‘new Super Mario Bros Wii’ and ‘new Super Mario Bros wiiU’.

This does not mean Nintendo should ignore the mobile platform. Instead they should expand their services towards mobile as well as PC. Some services are already accessible through a web browser.

This should be done to more services like for example the Nintendo e-shop. Although speculation indicates that Nintendo has plans for this, as of yet it is still not possible. Making it easy for consumers to buy software for Nintendo systems should be a high priority.

Nintendo is currently in the process of learning how to create and maintain good services. It took some time for their competitors to learn this as well. However, Microsoft and Sony where learning this at the same time. Now that these competitors have good services on their systems, it seems all more apparent that Nintendo has not (yet).

As example take Nintendo Network ID. I own multiple Nintendo handhelds (3DS,XL,2DS) but I cannot share one unified Nintendo Network ID account between those systems. Instead I have to juggle three accounts, one for each system.

This affects my decision when I buy games. I mostly buy retail games because I can swap out the cartridge and put it into any of my three systems. While a downloaded version of the game can only be played on the system I bought it on.

About Nintendo’s future. Is Nintendo going to be doomed this year? Honestly, I expect them do make major progress on the above issues. I think 2014 will be a very positive year for Nintendo.

We are going to see some amazing games from Nintendo themselves (Mario Kart 8, Smash Bros) as well as a bunch of great indie games (Shantae, Shovel Knight).

These games will increase hardware sales.

And of course my own indie game Tappingo. Which I personally expect to do really well in the Nintendo 3DS e-shop. Looking at the sales figures I have from various sources, those little games are really starting to thrive in the e-shop. I expect this to only get better when (and I’m sure they will) Nintendo improves their services.

Improved services such as the e-shop will make it easier for consumers to buy and access software on their system. In turn this will lead to more software sales, which will get developers confidence up!

Communication between developers has been improving in a big way in the past year. Where in 2012 I barely talked to Nintendo, I now had almost weekly conversations in 2013.

I hope Nintendo will increase their focus on smaller developers opposed to bigger developers. Let the smaller studios make games that truly appeal to the Nintendo audience and make the Nintendo systems shine, instead of convincing the big companies to put out weak ports. 

I’m very positive that, if given a change, smaller developers will prove that they are capable to fill the void bigger developers left in the software library.

For this to happen Nintendo systems should be easier accessible for developers. We saw major improvements in this area for Nintendo WiiU. Most notably the web SDK and Unity support (free of charge!).

The Nintendo 3DS is still a relative closed system, with expensive devkits. Hopefully those positive improvements on Nintendo WiiU will also transcend to Nintendo 3DS this year.

For 2014 I hope all these improvements will line up and drastically change the future for Nintendo in a positive way. Their systems certainly deserve it.

12 opmerkingen:

  1. You, sir, are great. An incredibly thoughtful sentiment, full of sound reasoning. I hope to see some of your work on the Wii U eshop in the near future!

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  2. Love your games and attitude. Thanks for the positives!

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  3. Very well thought out, I agree entirely.

    I'm currently developing a game for Wii U and so far Nintendo has been great to work with.

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  4. The problem is that Nintendo has tried to beat the competition by imposing new technologies on the market, difficult to understand, especially from longtime players.
    This has convinced many people to buy products like playstation or xbox because closer to something they already possessed or with they were most familiar.
    This then led many developers to give up any ports to the Nintendo consoles, like as you said, for reasons of adaptation to the new devices.
    I think their real problem is not "communication", but having taken choices that players hardly fail to follow or understand...

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    Reacties
    1. And yet both the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS where huge successes. Innovating is not a problem, Not selling enough systems is.

      When the user base of Nintendo WiiU will expend drastically, you will see developers like EA put out games for it.

      Those big companies do not run on sentiment or emotion. If they think the userbase is big enough for them to make money, they will jump at it.

      Also your last sentence; is that not exactly what a communication problem is? When players are not able to follow or understand your product?

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  5. So true! I completely agree with you, although I must point out several things about your post:

    1. So many grammar errors (sorry, it's true, and I know you don't care, but I had to point it out)

    2. You were comparing the Wii U to the XBox 360 and the PS3, instead of the XBox One and PS4. Does that mean you consider the Wii U to be a last-generation console? Do you think it will hold up for the next five years?

    3. The Wii U is also suffering from a severe lack of good third-party titles. Many of you will compare this to the XBox one and the PS4, but realize that the Wii U has been on the market for well over a year now, and you can't really ignore the first year of a console's life. I don't think getting Minecraft on Wii U will be particularly easy.

    Overall, though, I agree with your post.

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    Reacties
    1. 1. It’s not my mother language and I’m dyslectic. The fact that I write these blog posts at 4am after a heavy night of coding probably does not help either :)

      A good solution could be to write these blog posts in Dutch from now on ;)

      2. I think from a hardware perspective the WiiU is definitely a last-gen console. In terms of innovation and gameplay I consider the WiiU a nextgen console. Therefore I do think it will do fine over the next five years.

      3. Sure, but it’s time to stop and try to get EA and the other on board. It’s pretty clear this won’t happen until the user base expends. On the otherside Nintendo is also missing out on a lot of indie titles because their focus has been too much on bigger companies.

      So currently they are missing out on both fronts. Minecraft isn’t ideal, but with games like that at least the indie front will be covered.

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  6. If they have not sold enough, how do you say that they are successful?
    The success is sales, if it remains on the shelves, I don't think you can call it "success".

    And yes, my last sentence means that if you enter a strange kind of technology, as a new type of gamepad (Wiimote for example), there is a risk of scaring the big chunk of gamer that until the first generation had a basic gamepad, whose form is the applicant for the major consoles .
    I have been startled by the WiiMote and the Nunchuck too, and this has delayed the purchase of my first Wii for quite some time.
    Many of my friends have not bought a Wii, just opted for a ps3 or xbox 360, because frightened by the WiiMote, according to them, "too extravagant".

    Now I don't feel particularly bad to use the WiiMote, especially if I can use it as a classic gamepad (as in new mario bros for example), but even now I can't make me go down the nunchuck...

    On the PS3, this problem has been dealt differently, a device type like the Wiimote was released later as supplementary addon to the console and along with a few compatible title, I think that's the way Nintendo would have to move...

    (Sorry for my bad english, I'm Italian :] )

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    Reacties
    1. New technology or innovation is not the problem. Not explaining it well is. So this is all a communication problem, not a hardware problem.

      Those gamers you mention that grew up with a gamepad, also learned to deal with analog sticks and touch screens on their mobile phones. Learning how to use Wii or WiiU controls therefore should not be a problem is explained well.

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    2. Yes they do, but the analog stick was a little step after the simple dpad controll cross, jump from generic/analog gamepad to a completly different kind of game controller it's not that simple.
      When Wii come out, people thought that the only way to play was wagging the WiiMote around, and they didn't see any alternatives to this, not so immediatly.
      Nintendo makes a long jump, expecting that players follow it with no problem.

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  7. Very good thoughts, embracing Mobil for advertizing purposes I think is a ok move after all Xbox games are found on windows devices (some any ways)

    how ever I think Nintendo has many better options for the long term.

    1) honestly they should buy both Sega and platinum games. Let platinum work on new and ambitious IP, Sega can still work on 3rd party games for Xbox if they really find a good match like Kinect games such as rise of nightmares or sonic snowboard. But for the most part Sega has a huge library, but many of those games are T or M rated which could give Nintendo some edge, games like vactorman, golden ax, and house of the dead, those could all be Nintendo equivalents to oddworld, Skyrim, and zombies. Plus platinum has only ever published with Nintendo or Sega any ways so they might as well be picked up once Sega is bought out. This would also technically let Nintendo have a second publishing company, which means if Sega was focused as a US companie it would Borden their developing scope.

    2) they could partner with Lego and work on some projects that embrace the "maker" culture. They could create create products that can cater to things like 3D modeling, 3D printing, programing, robotics, game design. As well as many other avenues.

    3) they could partner with WB/ cartoon network as well as Netflix and create showed and movies based on their IP they could create some shows for an "adventure time" demographic ( pikmin, Mario, donkey Kong) and other showed for the "adult swim" demographic (bayhoneta, w101, metroid) these shows don't even necessarily need to feature the main characters of those games to be great showed.

    4) they also need to look into developing some of their IP with big US developers. They could combine efforts and experience to make something truly special. Imagine if they announced they were making the next Zelda or ice climbers with Skyrim developer Bethesda, tell me that wouldn't fly off shelves. Or a star fox made with desteny developer bungi.

    5) I wont lie they need to shuffle some things around and really plan a great strategy next round. Virtual console needs to be two different things, part 1 us a 8$ a month service that lets you play older games like Netflix, works on several devices and can use cloud saves. With the option to still buy the games if you want.
    part 2 is a fully remade HD/4k remake of a game as if it were a modern tittle. All new 3D models, added color, lighting, physics, maybe even new content. Then call them like VCHD games or something.

    their controllers need all updating. The pro controller was ok at best. Their next system needs all new updated versions. And the game pad needs to work as a stand alone product (maybe powered by WebOS) but of course is a controller first...call it a "smart controller"
    they should also brand family game as "Wii" games and remove Wii from system names. They should also move away from DS as well (we get it, it has duel screens) their home system needs to focus on it being the base of the Nintendo ecosystem. And the handheld needs to focus on being something you play when your not at home, and that's actually made for gaming, rather then a phone.

    all those things are more simple then they sound. They would also help BIG

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  8. This sums up exactly how I feel. Nintendo needs to fire it's marketing team and aggressively cater to indie developers. More than anything else, I think Nintendo has lost it's competitive edge. I don't Minecraft is going to be much help to them at this point (Minecraft has pretty much reached full saturation at this point), but coming up with a new IP somewhat like Minecraft (but also new and innovative) might help.

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