If you’ve been following Nintendo at all for the past year, you know that the Wii U has been having sales problems. As with any problem that the Internet is aware of, every solution imaginable has been suggested and whether they are possible or in any way likely to work is not a high priority. One of the most common ones is that Nintendo should completely rethink their strategy and conform to industry standards. I think that is the worst choice they could make and that what they need to do is the complete opposite. It is time for Nintendo to stop apologizing for what they are and use their strengths for everything they are worth. In short, it is time for Nintendo to display confidence.
What would I define as “confidence”? At this point, I would say that it is embracing the fact that the Wii U is going to be mostly carried by Nintendo’s first-party line-up. Nintendo needs to stop apologizing for this state of affairs and make the best of it. It is clear that depending on third parties is not going to work; the only way for Nintendo to get them back is to win gamers over with first-party games. While expecting Nintendo and no other console maker to do this is clearly a double standard, that doesn’t change that it is in Nintendo’s best interest to become as self-reliant as possible.
How can Nintendo exude confidence with their first-party games? One way, which I’m happy to say they appear to be doing, is not allowing the gaming media to define which games are “worthy,” such as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze being undeserving of hype or a studio of Retro’s caliber being used against the game from the moment it was announced. Nintendo did not back down and instead, gave the game build-up in the months leading up to its release, going against those who said that a 2D platformer didn’t deserve a full retail release. While the game didn’t dramatically change the Wii U’s fortunes, it did manage to give the system a solid year-over-year bump.
That Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze didn’t instantly turn the Wii U around segues nicely into my next point. While expecting every game to be the savior of the Wii U isn’t very realistic, I think Nintendo should treat each one like it will be. Perception is a huge part of how successful a game is and Nintendo has to take an active and decisive role in how their games are perceived. The gaming media and fanbase is far too unpredictable and inconsistent to directly pander to; all Nintendo can do is fully support every game they make or publish and hope that some of them are system sellers.
There are promising signs that Nintendo is going with the full support strategy. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Super Mario 3D World were given full support, despite overwhelming backlash. The next major Wii U release, Mario Kart 8, is receiving a lot of hype and it appears to be Nintendo’s strongest effort for the series in both the game itself and the amount of attention they’re giving it. Despite being one of the best-selling series of all time, previous Mario Kart games have not seen comparable promotion prior to release. The new Super Smash Bros. had a Nintendo Direct dedicated to it that did a good job of drawing an audience, even if the 3DS version was given more attention at that specific Direct. I am strongly hoping that Nintendo will display this level of confidence with the less mainstream Bayonetta 2 and Monolith Soft’s X.
Moving away from the Wii U, there is another part of Nintendo that should be a prime source for confidence that I do not think is getting enough attention. The 3DS is not only the current highest selling eighth-gen system by a gigantic margin, but it is also proof that Nintendo can turn a system around. As with the original DS, people are quick to forget that, when the 3DS was first released, it had disappointing sales and many predicted that Nintendo was going to lose their crown in the portable sector of the system wars. The 3DS’ success is being rewritten to be an inevitability that Nintendo deserves little credit for, which is simply wrong. This should not happen so easily — they need to make sure the gaming community remembers that, regardless of how the Wii U does, the most successful eighth generation video game system has a very good chance of being made by Nintendo.
As mentioned, the recent Super Smash Bros. Nintendo Direct focused more on the 3DS installment than the Wii U one. While people have claimed that this is Nintendo abandoning the Wii U version, the fact is that it is simply them refusing to throw the 3DS version under a bus. Delaying the 3DS version just so it doesn’t launch before the Wii U version or refusing to let the 3DS version have any unique modes would not be treating the games equally. The Wii U version will have months of hype for the game all to itself and Nintendo doing everything they can to stop the 3DS version from being viewed as an afterthought is something that should be applauded, not resented.
Confidence alone will not fix all of Nintendo’s problems — expecting one thing to fix any company’s problems is unrealistic. However, it is clear that apologizing or promising to change only makes people angrier, so it is time for them to actively put the focus on their strengths. Nintendo has been making some of their best games recently, has exponentially improved the quality of their portable games, and the 3DS will very likely be the best-selling eighth-generation system, even if it doesn’t match the sales of the original DS. It is time for Nintendo to emphasize that instead of letting all the focus be on areas where they are struggling. For both their image and curing the needlessly gloomy mindset of the fanbase, what is needed now is confidence.