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How the Nintendo NX Could Win Back Gamers

It’s been hard to be a Nintendo fan in recent years. The company shifted gears during its Wii console phase in order to focus on a broader consumer base, and to the company’s credit, it achieved massive success. Despite being a financially viable tactic in the short term, however, the firm failed to recapture a lot of what made the company and its properties so beloved amongst fans to begin with. Some great games released on the Wii platform, that much is undeniable, but the emphasis on motion control and an intentional lack of power as a dedicated gaming machine left many longtime followers sour.

Ignoring its core and dedicated fanbase in order to chase casual players eventually backfired once the Wii U arrived on store shelves, causing many that felt no attachment to the brand name to promptly abandoned it – alongside former fans that had long since moved on. This isn’t just my opinion either, as the trend in sales can be tracked from the GameCube (21.7 million lifetime sales) which launched in 2001, to the massive sales spike from the Wii (101.6 million lifetime sales) which arrived in 2006, back down to the lacklustre arrival of the Wii U (12.8 million lifetime sales as of April 27, 2016) in 2012.

The numbers don’t lie, as the Wii U is now set to become the lowest-selling platform (outside of the Virtual Boy) that Nintendo has ever released. So, what exactly caused the drop in interest, even when compared to the GameCube? It’s a number of things, ranging from time on the market and competitive hardware to third-party support and pricing, but the truth of the matter is that Nintendo is only still around now because of its wealth of franchises. The IP alone makes Nintendo relevant in the modern gaming scene, and the firm needs to keep this in mind as it attempts to take another crack at the hardware market with its new console – codenamed NX.

Set to arrive in March 2017, the new hardware is a do-over of sorts for the publisher as it attempts to capture some of the marketshare it’s currently lacking. The only issue with this is that, outside of a new and phenomenal technological feat, there’s only one way to appeal to longtime gamers – with games. As of this writing, the once Wii U-exclusive The Legend of Zelda is the only confirmed piece of software for the NX platform. This will undoubtedly make for a buying point amongst some, but there needs to be a lot more on the horizon in order to draw in customers.

Exclusives will be key in gaining interest amongst the masses, and rumors state that there will be plenty of software surrounding the NX’s launch. Reports of blockbuster Wii U games like Super Smash Bros., Super Mario Maker, and Splatoon receiving ports for NX are enticing for the onslaught of consumers that never picked up the Wii U, but the Japanese gaming giant needs to do all of these things and much more. Making better use of its IP in an affective and timely manner is crucial, as the last-ditch bids to innovate various properties through hardware gimmicks has left many fans weary of Nintendo – with the mixed reactions to Star Fox Zero being the latest example of this.

While catering to the core audience with exclusives will prove key, there absolutely needs to be more third-party support this time around, too. Reflecting on what made the company’s older consoles so great, there’s little doubt that the hardware’s wide array of software contributed to the appeal of a Nintendo console. In particular, Electronic Arts and its wide selection of sports games are absolutely essential in making hardware appeal to gamers, while Activision and Call of Duty need to be part of the loop. The industry’s biggest games need to be central to the discussion for Nintendo to even be considered by consumers when it comes time to spend cash.

Third-party exclusives were once common place for Nintendo, as well, with the likes of Resident Evil 4 and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes proving to be noteworthy points for the GameCube. To its credit, the new approach that Ninty has taken with outsourcing the work to established developers like Tecmo-Koei, Platinum Games, and Bandai Namco have worked well, and allowing these companies to keep working with its beloved IP ensures strong relations moving forward. Better yet, it secures even more exclusives for consumers looking for a reason to invest in the system.

Third-party support from the biggest firms in the industry won’t come unless the NX’s system specs are up to snuff. Rumors have the system pegged as more powerful than the PlayStation 4, which would be great if true. Even then, it needs to (at the very least) have similar specifications in order to draw in support from other developers, because making it easier to port between consoles means that it costs publishers less to do so. With that in mind, the house of Mario has to at least be able to compete with the Xbox One and PS4 in terms of raw power, and with 4K on the rise, Nintendo needs to plan accordingly.

Finally, the firm needs to have a solid online system in place. Playing online with friends and strangers alike is not at all the fad the developer may have once thought it was, and the fact that it is non-existent in so many of Nintendo’s biggest games is, frankly, embarrassing. Voice chat, parties, and achievements have all become pillars of the online community, and failing to keep up with the Joneses on this front will firmly leave the company in the dust. By the time the NX arrives in stores it will be 2017, and there’s no excuse for a multi-billion dollar company that’s keen on redeeming itself in the eyes of consumers to be lacking on either of these fronts if it is at all hoping to be competitive within this market.

There’s a lot riding on the success of the Nintendo NX, and it’s hard to gauge potential interest from a broader consumers base without knowing more details about it. Truthfully, there are still a lot of blanks left to be filled in that regard, but the core appeal of this company has always lied within its games – which is the point I’m trying to drive home in this piece.

In the wake of scrapped health initiatives, underpowered platforms, the breakdown of third-party relationships, and online-enabled ignorance, it’s hard to see the light at the end off the tunnel. Even then, I think it’s possible for gamers to once again be reminded why it was that they loved the company to begin with. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but Nintendo needs to finally realize that modernizing doesn’t stop it from innovating.

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