Nintendo’s Road to Salvation Starts Here

Unless you’re dead on a beach somewhere or possibly locked in a bunker on an island typing in codes every hour – you’ve read at least ten articles about Nintendo in the last week.  Most of them discussing how Nintendo is as good as dead.  Nintendo should get out of hardware.  Nintendo MUST make iPhone games to survive.  The Wii U is so dead it’s decomposing on the floor.

Articles of this nature.

Of course, everyone knows exactly what Nintendo should do; despite not understanding for a single minute how Nintendo does business (and more importantly, why).   They downplay the global, insane success of the 3DS (or at the very least, using it as the life support system for the struggling Wii U) – a portable handheld system that still prints money (despite all the “no win scenario” competition of mobile/tablet gaming) and was the top selling system in 2013.

Sure, a few people out there are trying to make the world understand – some of which has some damn fine writing too.  Like this article and this one.

Unlike those complaining about Nintendo without offering a real, viable solution (iPhone or die?  please …) I’m going to address the elephant and 900 pound gorilla in the room and suggest a method that Nintendo could shut all your mouths (well, most of them) and continue to do business the way Nintendo does.

The Wii U Is Dead and Should Be Euthanized

If you look around, the biggest elephant in the room is the Wii U.  The “Epic Failure” it is and how Nintendo “should remove the gamepad since it adds nothing”, possibly even re-brand it with a new name as to not confuse consumers with the original, still-for-sale Wii console.  While you’re at it, upgrade the hardware so it is as good as XBone or PS4.

Basically turn the Wii U into “just another console”.

Let’s start with the viability of the gamepad.  “Second screen gaming” is apparently a popular idea; as long as it is Sony or Microsoft tinkering with it.  Sony enthusiasts LOVE to talk about Remote Play and Cross Buy games – and Microsoft fans chant “Glass” in a monotone drawl.  With Wii U?  It’s crap, useless and since it makes the system price go up – they should just get rid of it.

“No one is using it; not even Nintendo”.

Nintendo has seriously fun uses for gamepad within many titles such as Wii Party and NintendoLand.  Asymmetric gameplay in New Super Mario Bros. U may not set the world on fire, but it is damn fun all the same.  It’s there; unfortunately those that cry the most about it not being there don’t even own Wii Us – so how would they know?

As for third party developers?  Therein lies the problem.  Developers want fast cash-in ports across the board.  To actually make something ‘special’ for Wii U costs time and money – and they simply won’t do it until Nintendo moves more units.  I understand that.  However, let’s not say “there is no use for the gamepad”; there are dozens of fun and interesting uses for it.  In fact, I wrote an article outlining so many possibilities.  Some have been used in games, but most have not.

If you look at that list of enhancements the gamepad can offer, you’ll see that most of these don’t really pertain to Nintendo’s existing IPs.  People don’t want their favorite IPs messed with, yet Nintendo is the devil because they aren’t rewriting their IPs to use the gamepad – instead using new IPs to harness that accessory.  You can’t have it both ways.

Brilliant games like Ubisoft’s Rayman Legends can be dramatically enhanced with gamepad play – in fact, the Wii U is (by far and away) the most fun means of playing the game.  Off-screen play opens some serious doors as I outlined in another article I wrote.

If you want to blame someone for the gamepad – Nintendo isn’t whom you should be blaming.  Talk to your favorite developers.

Another of my favorite arguments is that Nintendo didn’t make the Wii U powerful enough to compete with “real next-gen consoles”.  When has Nintendo ever participated in a hardware arms race?  Ever?  Yet, despite the “non-dudebro-pixel-counting-compliance”, Nintendo has managed to nail down and dominate market after market.  Look only to the Wii and the Nintendo handheld line for examples.

It’s like, anytime Nintendo upgrades to what people ask for like “Mario in HD” or “1080p Zelda”, unified accounts, better online or more traditional controllers – the Nintendo-haters figure out some other reason to count Nintendo out.  I love the “kiddie” moniker that has been thrown on Nintendo despite Xbox One and PS4 anemic launch titles including such “hardcore” games like Lego Marvel Super Heroes and Angry Birds Star Wars.  Oh and the fact that if Nintendo’s “kiddie” IP appeared on “real next gen” consoles, somehow they wouldn’t be “kiddie” anymore?  On what planet does this make sense?

Hey … Haters gonna hate.

Nintendo Should Go Third Party and Mobile

Now here is a scratched record that won’t shut the hell up.  Nintendo should put Mario on <insert any other platform other than Nintendo’s platform here>.  Why doesn’t Nintendo align with Sony or Microsoft and give them exclusive IP access and bring those titles to “real” next gen hardware?  Nintendo should make an iPhone controller and sell Mario to play on iOS.  Nintendo should “pull a Sega”; make games for all platforms.

Right, we’ve heard all these before?  Endlessly?

For the most part, several above-named articles have better explained Nintendo’s synergy of hardware and software.  I don’t really need to discuss that again.

What does need to be debunked is that Nintendo should be supporting their IPs on any mobile or tablet device; even if THEY provide the controller.

There are many, blatantly obvious reasons; so many that it boggles me that some lowly homosapien such as myself can see it – but the mighty gaming journalists (and “financial analysts”) around the internet (whose opinions are actually respected and catered to for some reason while my words fall on deaf ears) don’t have a clue.  I’ll stick to the big ones.

First of all, without control of the hardware – Nintendo cannot guarantee the Gold Seal quality of the title.  Android is considered “fragmented” and Apple is trying to match that with an amazing number of skus on their own.  How does Nintendo promise – and deliver – the high quality of software they are known for when there are dozens of potential unforseen factors?  Processor, memory, screen sizes – you name it.

Second, (and heaven forbid) Nintendo actually makes money.  In fact, since all they do is gaming – they MUST make money … with gaming.  With the amount of cash they have in the bank and the constant “prints money” monikers, I think we can all be assured that Nintendo knows how to make money.  No matter how popular you try to paint Sony or Microsoft offerings, both companies’ gaming divisions are being kept alive only by subsidies of other divisions.  Neither company could survive as a gaming-only company because they don’t know how to make money. That’s right, your big pixel count PS3 and Xbox 360 lost their respective companies a boat-load of cash while Wii printed money for the Big N.  Microsoft has lost $3B (yes, that’s billion) in the last ten years on their gaming division; Sony has lost $5B. (source)  As a bonus, despite “great sales”, it is estimated Microsoft lost $1B on the Xbox One so far … and Sony’s credit rating has been demoted to “junk”.

How does Nintendo make money in mobile?  Apparently, NO ONE is making money in mobile.  Even with the success stories like Candy Crush and Angry Birds, article after article appears discussing how there is no real money in mobile development.  Why on EARTH would Nintendo be interested in a market where only .01% of apps are actual financial successes?  Nintendo doesn’t know how to make smurfberry, freemium, bleed-you-dry games loaded with paid DLC/IAP.  I doubt they would even want to.  Mobile gamers demand free games.  Supposedly they like the nickel-and-dime leech model; smartphone users (apparently) aren’t going to pony up $4.99 for Super Mario Bros. 2.

That’s not the Nintendo way.  Nor could Nintendo deliver the quality titles they do being constricted under the In App Purchases model.  They don’t need to “evolve” to mobile; they are making money; unlike 99.09% of mobile app developers.

Nintendo surviving on mobile morsels simply won’t happen … and they know it.  Besides, most people that want Mario on their mobile are already doing it for free with emulation.

How Can Nintendo Shut You All Up

I refuse to complain about a situation without offering a solution, and here is what I have cooked up for Nintendo.

So the main complaints are the “useless” Wii U gamepad and people demanding that Nintendo produce mobile games.

Perfect.  Here is the solution.

Currently, the gamepad requires close quarters tethering to the Wii U.  It might make it through a wall and 20 feet away, but given that range you can barely take it to the bathroom while you’re playing.

What if … you could?

What if the Wii U gamepad could get it’s frame buffers from another source.  We know that Nintendo worked long and hard with assloads of R&D money to get the gamepad to talk that quickly to the console (it is the only “second screen” with imperceptible lag).  But could that proprietary requirement be lifted if the range was reduced to say – 3 feet?  As in the distance from your  hands to your pocket?

That’s right – imagine if your Android phone could transmit frames to the Wii U gamepad.  Not of a Wii U game in progress, mind you …

… but of a game you bought on  Google Play, downloaded to your phone and are now playing on a near 7″ display WITH real, physical hardware controls?

A Mario game.  A Zelda game.  Better yet?  A full virtual console experience you can actually take to any room in the house.  Maybe even Michigan.; anywhere you have your phone.  We know NES emulation is great on Android.  We know even DS emulation is possible on Android.  Hmm…. And no, it isn’t Nintendo’s duty to let you play it without the Wii U gamepad.  That’s how they keep their hand in the hardware game.

Think about this.  You own a cell phone, you own a Wii U – but you don’t own a tablet.  The phone becomes the bridge giving you tablet style gaming with real controls.

Dead Trigger 2 on a nice clean gamepad you can play on your lap while you watch TV – with fantastic Nintendo-designed hardware backing the user experience?

But what about fragmentation?  What about all those reasons I said Nintendo couldn’t create for mobile devices?

Mostly moot points.

Even the lowliest of Android devices should be able to push a steady 30 fps to the more-or-less SD gamepad.  With close quarters connectivity backed with a respectable transfer protocol?  Shouldn’t be an issue.  Screen size is no longer an issue – because it is a constant.  Controls aren’t an issue – they are a constant – and there is no excuse to NOT use the gamepad controls.

So let’s say – to play Devil’s Advocate – that this isn’t possible.  There may be other solutions.

Perhaps to avoid issues with hardware disparity, it uses a streaming service to push the frames; essentially making the phone a conduit between a server and your gamepad.   I’m not a fan, but millions of PS4 owners seem content with losing all backward compatibility in hopes that this same tech will bring their last gen games back to them.

There are also some odd ports on that gamepad.  Maybe a little adapter is required, or possibly a dongle to tether up your phone.  Regardless, you get a bigger experience with solid hardware controls.

The point is – Nintendo does what Nintendo does best; controlling from top to bottom the game experience using their own hardware (for the most part) – guaranteeing a repeatable experience.

Nintendo gives you another great use for your gamepad (a pseudo Android tablet; maybe a full one with proper screen mirroring) and is (technically) creating content that uses mobile technology.  Sounds like a win-win scenario.

Oddly enough, I already know of a person right now that would LOVE this scenario (hi, Travis); Android’s Dead Trigger on a bigger screen with real controls?  Sign him up.

Nintendo Isn’t Broken; You Are

While I may come off as a Nintendo fanboy, truth is; Nintendo could be trying a lot harder.  Have they made mistakes?  Do they need some fresh strategy to disrupt?  Absolutely.  Truth is; Nintendo hasn’t changed.  They are the same Nintendo they have always been.  They haven’t “screwed up” or changed the way they do things.

Consumers are changing – and not in the best and smartest ways; even to the point of contradiction.  That’s not something you struggle to embrace.  That’s something to tolerate until the gamers come around.

There is a great article I’ll leave you with.  It describes well why we, the consumer, are largely to blame for the current Nintendo issues.  Our behavior affects the third party developers.  Which inevitably hurts us all.

Nintendo’s glory days aren’t over; they are just waiting for everyone else to figure it out.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+