The Nintendo Wii U is struggling. Since January rolled around, the company has only sold around 400,000 systems, a number that's caused numerous analysts to cast doubt on its future prospects. With Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox 720 flying over it like vultures, what's the Wii U to do?
A price drop would seem like a good idea. After all, the 3DS was mucking its way through similar doldrums until Nintendo slashed the price. But one notable analyst has even said a price drop wouldn't be able to cure the Wii U's illness, especially considering the Xbox 720 and PS4 are bound to soak up all the oxygen in the room when E3 rolls around and they launch (presumably) during the holidays.
But that's an awful attitude to have. Nintendo can't just give up because the PS4 and Xbox 720 look scary. All it can do is improve things that are under its own control. Thankfully, there are a few options the company can consider. Here are three:
1. Fix the horrendously awful marketing campaign
At this point, it's too late to change the Wii U name, but Nintendo really borked it with that one. Customers have no idea there's a brand new Nintendo console waiting for them on store shelves, to the point that some have even complained to retail employees that the Wii U games they purchase won't work on the Wii.
It's not just the name, though that is core reason these problems are happening. Nintendo's marketing isn't helping. It's gotten to the point that Nintendo had to send out a direct message to every single Wii system imploring its owners to check out the Wii U — it's not an upgrade, "it's an entirely new system." There's no doubt that the PS4 is a brand new system and not just a PS3 upgrade, and it's unlikely the Xbox 720 will run into the same problem whenever Microsoft names it. If no one knows your new system is a new system, it's time for a change in strategy — and no, these commercials don't cut it either.
There isn't exactly an easy fix for this (or any of the Wii U's problems for that matter), but it has to be handled as soon as possible.
2. Games, games, games
Then again, a new marketing campaign may not work either if the console's current library doesn't improve dramatically. There hasn't been anything noteworthy since launch, and third-party support is already drying up. The upside? This is Nintendo, so any time it releases a major, flagship title, it's going to make some noise and dominate some headlines. A brand new 3D successor to Super Mario Galaxy, or a brand new Legend of Zelda and Super Smash Bros. are all going to be heavily anticipated, and Nintendo should be able to leverage that hype into a boost in sales.
At the same time, flagship games aren't going to be enough. If third parties aren't going to be onboard in a big way, Nintendo needs to figure out how to court developers or speed up their development process without sacrificing quality, lest the Wii U turn into another Nintendo 64 situation. The company used GDC 2013 to try and court indie developers, and it's even starting to offer software to get mobile developers to put their titles on the Wii U. It needs more of these kinds of initiatives.
Launch games are never the greatest, and though the PS4 and Xbox 720 are bound to have a couple of good games, chances are Nintendo can counter what's offered by competitors by putting up a stellar line-up of quality titles.
3. Open up the Virtual Console
Here's an easy, amazing and profitable way for Nintendo to soften the blow of delays and long development periods: unleash the hoard of its incredible back catalogue. Games from its past systems shouldn't be trickling onto the Virtual Console every few months; Nintendo should be working to offer as many as possible. Game Boy and Game Boy Advance titles should be available. Heck, even Nintendo DS games can make their way onto the Wii U, since it features a touch screen built into the controller. And whenever (and so long as it is) possible, when you buy a game you should be able to play it on any Nintendo device, just like the situation Sony is setting up with the PS4 and PS Vita.
Sony has a great library of PlayStation games, but even if the PS4 were to offer them all digitially, it still wouldn't stack up to the sheer amount of quality that Nintendo could offer. The same goes for Microsoft and the Xbox 720. We've talked about this before, but Nintendo has so many gems and great titles hidden in its treasure trove that it's amazing the company won't offer them up for gamers to binge on. The Wii U should be a one-stop shop for anything and everything Nintendo, old and new. It should be a celebration of the company's storied history and legacy. Let the games do the talking, and the dollars will be made on their own.
What do you think? Agree or disagree, let us know in the comments.