What Does Nintendo Need To Do To Succeed In 2017?

Nintendo have a reputation for doing things their own way, obdurately ignoring what the competition is doing and finding success in the most unusual of places. The DS was laughed off as a gimmick for having two screens, the Wii was similarly mocked for its motion controllers and underwhelming power, but both were staggering successes. Admittedly, they’re successes that are now distant memories, but the Nintendo Switch is proof that the company aren’t simply going to fall in line with Sony and Microsoft.

Another way to describe their more recent track record is of being behind the curve, whether it’s the sheer power available in their consoles or things like internet gaming and digital rights management. Yet there are signs that Nintendo are changing. Much like we wrote for Nintendo’s two main competitors, here’s what we feel they need to be doing and trying to achieve in the next twelve months.

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The first few steps are pretty obvious; with a lot of question marks still hanging over the Switch after the presentation and hands on showcase nearly two weeks ago, Nintendo need to keep following up with a steady stream of information, which will be best delivered by their trademark Direct streams. They already held a little supplementary Direct for Fire Emblem last week, announcing a new 3DS game, a 2018 Switch game and going into detail about the imminent smartphone game, and we need more of these.

There’s still some real questions about what, for example, their new online subscription service really entails. Since they generally last around 30 minutes, an entire Direct could easily clear up such lingering issues as whether or not the console has built in voice chat (perhaps supporting bluetooth for audio), how the smartphone app will tie into the service and what it will offer, and the kinds of games that will be offered under the month long rentals you get. With multiplayer locked behind a subscription, they’re in danger of cordoning off online successes like Mario Kart and Splatoon unless the pricing and service is compelling enough.

We know that as part of this overhaul, features like StreetPass and Miiverse are being left behind in favour of third party social networks. I’d hope that’s also a sign that they can overhaul their eShop and online multiplayer, adopting the unified accounts and nicknames approach of other platforms, instead of the frankly archaic and fragmented systems currently in place.

From there, I know an awful lot of people want to know how broad the Switch’s Virtual Console support will be – it will be fascinating to see them talk about how SNES games can have online multiplayer added to them for one things. Will it be the same old drip feed of VC releases each month? Will there be discounts or even free upgrades for purchases on previous systems? Will the rumoured Gamecube Virtual Console support happen, somehow, despite the lack of analogue triggers on any controllers?o

Speaking of hardware, Nintendo have made some very open and inviting decisions with the console’s design. In particular using USB-C for charging means that they’re using an up and coming standard connector for charging and data transfer, and there’s similar standard adoption with microSDXC support for storage expansion. That’s nice and all, but how fast can the console charge? What power rating would an external battery pack need to be to keep it topped up? And can we get a list of recommended microSDXC cards and speed ratings, because that’s a whole other minefield for consumers to navigate!

But above all else, Nintendo need to announce more games and the fruits of third party partnerships need to be shown. Although the launch line up looks tiny and lacklustre, I’m very much in favour of Nintendo giving us a steady drip feed of games throughout the year – I still remember the endless complaining from you lot during the first half of 2014 about how there weren’t enough big games for PS4 and Xbox One – but they need to keep that ball rolling. The most obvious flashpoint for announcements is E3, and you can absolutely expect Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2 to feature heavily there, but they can’t stand in isolation.

Nintendo are already off to a good start showing that the Nintendo 3DS has not been forgotten. There was last week’s Fire Emblem announcements, the early release of Dragon Quest VIII and Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World, and they’re sticking to their pledge to keep the handheld supported for the foreseeable future.

The same can be said of Nintendo’s push into mobile. Though only tangentially related, Pokémon Go was and still is a pretty big deal for them, and the early signs for Super Mario Run were similarly huge, but sales for that game have noticeably tailed off, and it shows that there’s still some learning for Nintendo to do in terms of capturing an audience, getting them invested and then keeping them engaged.

2017 is a big year for Nintendo, and one that they need to get right. Despite hand wringing over price and game selection, I think the Switch is an impressive piece of kit, and if Nintendo can manage to capture the general public’s imagination once again, it could be huge.

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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!

10 Comments

  1. Stop making dumb consoles and release Mario/Zelda/MarioKart on PS4/XB1! :-p

    • All in favour of that!
      Please let this be the last ever Nintendo “home” console. I’m waiting for a switch with no screen :-)
      May they prosper in their mobile division and kill of the home consoles and bring Mario Kart to PS4 and XBONE

    • Stop making dumb comments and go play Call of Duty

  2. I think Nintendo need to capitalise on the classic games big time, preferably selling in volume for peanuts!
    Out of interest Tef, have you got any idea what the reactions been like in portable loving Japan? Specifically to the price and release schedule.

  3. They need to make a new console that’s on par with Scorpio/Pro never mind the OG systems. Even all fails, go the swag way & make your games third party. Nintendo would be the richest third party studio ever fact

  4. Just market the Switch as it actually is- by far and away the best portable console there is.

    Don’t try to position it as a home console when it’s a portable one which you can plug into a TV.

  5. I never owned a Nintendo console in my life, but considering how my gaming time has been massively reduced, how little I play these days, maybe buying a Switch wouldn’t be a bad idea. Plus, I travel a lot between my hometown and where I live now, so a highly portable console would be good. I think I am tempted, that is what I can say. Right now I only own a PS3, and have been waiting to buy a PS4 for a very-very long time. Perhaps I will go the Nintendo way and just play these funny, quirky games. I have no idea what I want. Rant over.

    • Sounds like a Switch would be a good fit with your current lifestyle. As much as it will be cool to occasionally plug the Switch into my TV and play up-ressed Zelda, I’m mainly getting it as a portable console that I can use when the Mrs is using the TV, when I’m working away, when I meet up with mates, etc.

  6. I remember the halcyon days of the Super Nintendo vs the Megadrive. That was the last time Nintendo really had parity with other rivals (and in fact was technically superior) and I still feel that was their best era. Confused business decisions largely based around a desire to keep a huge historical licensing mark up (carts instead of CD’s for the N64, mini DVD’s with no DVD playback for the GC when PS2 was flying off the shelves because of this, calling the Wii U the Wii U and confusing the non dedicated player base, not to mention the paltry internal storage,the list goes on) have essentially ruined them. I love Nintendo games but the simple fact is that without significant third party support Switch will go the way of the Wii U and, Nintendo will, sadly, just like Sega, leave the hardware market. Imagine if the switch could run Titanfall 2 or SW Battlefront as well as the various Mario and Zelda series, it would be a must have for a massive swathe of consumers. Sadly the underpowered hardware and half baked decisions surrounding Switch as it stands read like an epitaph already. Nintendo knew Wii U was a failure and yet in all this time the best they could prepare for a new hardware launch was rehashes of MK and Splatoon and a 4 year old Elder Scrolls game? Announcing a paid for online service with a free Super Nintendo rental each month when your rivals give several full games? The inevitable reselling of VC games that people have bought and rebought over and over? I know we don’t know the full details of Nintendo’s Switch plans but so much seems like a muddled mess with a company that has run out of ideas and is at last a generation behind in terms of ideas, hardware and infrastructure but is arrogant enough to think that it commands a premium price for mimimal effort. As I say I love Nintendo games but I think, as a company, they’ve blown it.

  7. In my opinion, what they need to do is get far more of their games out on the consoles they make. The list of Nintendo franchises which lay forgotten or which see sequels every 10-15 years is too long.

    Why was there never a metroid prime game on the Wii U? The Wii U controller seemed (to me at least) like it had to have been made with Metroid in mind but it never happened.

    Nintendo are sitting on a huge heap of cash. What they need to do is invest that cash into new studios and get to making games, games and more games. They should have more studios from different parts of the world to draw in more varied inspiration for Nintendo titles.

    I really hope that pokemon can make the transition onto the switch in a meaningful way. If this happens I think it would pave the way to success for the switch.

    Also they need to stop having third party companies porting games which are already several years old. Especially when most of these ports aren’t even done well.

    They’re better without broad ranging support if it means this kind of poor quality.

    They need third party support from studios focused on building games specific to the unique platform Nintendo provide.

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