The Wii U will have a good Christmas, that’s my prediction. It has taken some time, but the console now has a decent, if slender, library of games. The recent price drop and Wind Waker bundle have given the system a lift, and Super Mario 3D World now looks like a game to be genuinely excited about. I doubt that the console will provide serious competition for the PlayStation4 and Xbox One, but I’m sure it can be successful on its own terms.

The irony is that Nintendo is one of the most prolific developers and publishers in the industry. The roster of games released by them this year, across 3DS and Wii U, is hugely impressive both in quantity and quality. But it’s a significant task for one company to sustain two hardware platforms with new software at such rate. (Although they kind of have to.)

Meanwhile, third-party support continues to evaporate. Even Ubisoft, who have genuinely tried to use the console to its full potential, seem to be gradually backing away with exclusives becoming multi-platform and DLC stripped from certain titles. Maybe in recognition of this we have seen Nintendo turn to the indie community for support with a range of initiatives to encourage Wii U and 3DS development. Whilst this is a refreshing approach, and exciting to see, these titles alone will not make the console a roaring success.

So maybe the path to success is to look to the past and make the Wii U an unashamedly proud Nintendo nostalgia box.

I’m not talking about flooding the virtual console with old games (although they should be kept coming) but about cultivating the love that exists for Nintendo’s history and IP and curating a selection of considered updates. The success of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker have proved the worth of doing this. Both games shine on the their new hardware, allowing them to live up to the rose-tinted memory of the original experience in a way that an N64 signal shoved on to an HD screen can’t do. And as bona-fide classics they are also bringing in new players through their combination of reputation and modern flair.

Nintendo’s top tier teams, and the likes of Retro Studios and Monolith, should continue to work on the flagship brands (and new IP too) but aside from that, why not make a concerted effort to trade on Nintendo’s past. If Nintendo could work with decent 3rd party studios to upgrade and enhance classics like Super Mario Sunshine, Wave Race and Super Metroid, the Wii U could become the ultimate Nintendo time machine.

There is a near endless array of games that could flesh out the most anaemic of rosters. What Nintendo fan (or fan of great games in general) could resist an HD version of Super Mario World from the likes of WayForward, or a new edition of Super Mario Galaxy that brings those awe-inspiring levels into pin sharp glory?

The original versions of these games could be included for purist,s along with original artwork, production notes, commentaries, all displayed on the Wii U game pad while you play. With a little thought and care these releases could be genuinely special.

There is a danger in looking to the past, and it’s certainly a risky proposition to base your hardware strategy so completely on such a model, but a focus on ‘Heritage’ from Nintendo seems perfectly natural. The nearest comparison would be Disney. Both companies have a large portfolio of well-loved IPs that appeal to a broad family audience. Disney continue to create popular new product to a high standard, but still trade on their past glories in a way that is, for the most part, respectful.

For Nintendo this approach could reinforce their history and supplement their new titles with some context. Unlike film, games are so hardware dependant that preserving their experience can take considerable effort. Nintendo are in a unique position in that they have completed control over their history and hardware. Miyamoto famously said that a “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever”. Nintendo’s good games are more impressive than most, and it would be great to see them kept alive and treated with respect.

Nintendo has an ethos and past to be proud of. Maybe the time has come for them to embrace it. And maybe sell a few more Wii Us to boot.

4 Responses

  1. Richard Wood

    Ubisoft infuriate me. I keep going from hating them to admiring them, and the flip flop is so rapid I’m giving myself whiplash. The fact that they’re becoming a AAA money making machine is all fine and dandy, but to pull out of developing for the Wii-U just because it’s going to make them slightly less money than if they stuck with the most mainstream of consoles really gets to me. Rayman Legends is probably the best game I’ve played on the Wii U (aside from Monster Hunter), and I really can’t see why they delayed it like they did to make versions for the alternate consoles. Between how good Rayman was and them delaying it for no reason and how bad Assassin’s Creed III was, while Watch Dogs looks fantastic I don’t know how to both love and hate them at the same time.

    This was about Nintendo wasn’t it… I’ve been playing my Wii-U and 3DS more in the past month than I’ve ever played Nintendo game in my life. Between Sonic Lost Worlds, Rayman Legends, Pokemon, the upcoming Phoenix Wright game and all those virtual console games, I think Nintendo are going to come good in the end, they might not be on competing terms with the other two, but as long as they keep putting out quality games, I’m happy to spend my time with them instead of with GTA.

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  2. Daniel New

    Ubisoft don’t make it easy. I was all set to get AC3 on Wii U. (Just having the map/items on the pad is a real benefit) but then they cancel the Wii U DLC. Sale lost.

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  3. Dan

    It’s a shame that Nintendo can only rely on old IP, but then that shame is forgotten when you remember just how good Nintendo is at making games you actually enjoy playing.
    New games being developed proved that even older games can really be improved, see Mario Kart 8. But the issue here is that if they don’t innovate they might find that fans get bored of playing the same games every time.
    The remake of Wind Waker on the Wii U was almost enough to warrant buying one, but I’d be more likely to go for it if it was a brand new Zelda game.
    The new Super Smash Bros release perhaps shot itself in the foot by releasing on 3DS as well, as it very well might have been a reason to buy a Wii U, but again, this is a game that’s been remade three times already.

    I can’t criticize Nintendo for being a company that produces bad games or consoles, they have always made games that are a genuine joy to play (where GTA online has had me yelling at the screen) but their lack of real NEW IP and dwindling sales of third-party games I hope they can pick it up soon and make me want the Wii U more than I did a 3DS!!!

    In short, I don’t think Nintendo should just keep reliving their glory days, although if they could encourage Square Enix to do some of the same I wouldn’t mind.

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