OPINION: What Nintendo Can Do to Win This Console Cycle

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

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This should have been written after E3 2011, after the unveiling of the Wii U. Or after the lackluster E3 2012 conference. Or just before the system launched. But soon after the official unveiling of the PS4, this seems just as appropriate as ever. So, let’s dive into my ideas of how the Wii U can survive and possibly thrive this generation.

Taking the Japanese Market

First and foremost, BE THE ONLY PLACE TO GET JAPANESE GAMES! Last generation was pretty rough for people who like the Japanese gaming aesthetic. Very few really good JRPGs were released for consoles last generation (at least compared to the PS2 era), with most releases ending up being mediocre sequels. Do I even need to name names?

Final Fantasy XIII_Nintendo

I get why that was the case. The dominant console in Japan was not a console at all; it was the PSP, a handheld that was desperately trying to be the PS2. Since the PSP had a very limited market outside of Japan, most of the truly great Japanese games of the generation were stuck on a device that no one outside of Japan owned. I have my own personal hypotheses about why the PSP managed to gain moderate momentum in Japan while utterly failing elsewhere, but this isn’t about the PSP. It’s about the Wii U.

Japan seems to be technologically a generation behind the rest of the world when it comes to video games, at least from my perspective. Japan struggled to remain relevant in the high-risk, high-reward structure of the PS3 and 360 era, as there were simply not enough gamers in Japan to make that model work and not enough fans outside of Japan to make up Japanese losses. Now that development budgets seem to have peaked with PS3 and 360 hardware and software experience is higher, this is the best possible time for Nintendo to take advantage of Japanese development, and Nintendo needs to lead the way.

To start with, more Mario RPGs. Who doesn’t love Mario RPGs? Starting all the way back with Super Mario RPG, Nintendo has consistently released terrific Mario RPGs. Even the “bad” ones, Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: Sticker Star, are still great games, well worth your time. So, Nintendo should push that advantage going forward. I’ve got a list of Mario-themed RPGs that I’d like to see on the Wii U:

Super Mario RPG 2

With Mistwalker in the Nintendo stable, this should definitely get made. The first Super Mario RPG was headed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and was a great start to the Mario RPG legacy. Should it be a turn-based game like the original, or a real-time game like The Last Story? Whatever Sakaguchi thinks is more appropriate, but I’d actually like to see one of each. Mario is versatile enough to handle both well, I think.

Paper Mario

Actually, this one is more or less an inevitability, as every console since the N64 has had one. I think, though, I want to see Intelligent Systems go back to a traditional RPG setup for the Wii U one. Not that Super Paper Mario and Sticker Star aren’t great in their own right, but Sticker Star especially lost the trademark sense of humor. Party members are a must, as a silent protagonist can’t bring all the humor.

Mario and Luigi

Yes, I know that Dream Team is coming to the 3DS, but I actually have mixed feelings about it, as I’m not sure that 3D models are the best choice for this series. (Granted, though, the models look quite good.) For a Wii U iteration, I’d like to see Alpha Dream do an HD 2D sprite-based adventure. So long as they continue the tradition of excellent slapstick humor, this should be a stellar game.

But that’s not all. I also have ideas for three new IPs in the same vein:

A Wario RPG

Wario is an oddly terrific character. He’s Mario turned inside out. Think how twistedly awesome a Wario RPG could be! Think about this: Intelligent Systems bringing Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door mechanics to Wario.

Nintendo Princesses RPG

Super Peach Nintendo

Thanks to ~TheJayPhenrix for this piece of art

Has everyone seen this? The first time I saw this, I thought, “Nintendo should make a game like this!” Okay, not exactly like this (seems a little too risqué for a Nintendo game), but all three of these women are extremely capable in their own right. And Peach got her own platformer. She deserves her own RPG, too.

On a similar note, how much money would this game make?

Nintendo character artist depiction

Iron Mario, Cap-Toad America, Black Daisy, Wari-Hulk, Peach Potts, Luigi Barton aka FireEye, WaThorigi vs Lokoopa Bowser

Thanks to ~TheJayPhenrix for this piece of art

And next, Nintendo needs to leverage their JRPG back catalog for sequels and spinoffs. Let me name some games that Nintendo has the rights to:

EarthBound

Fire Emblem

Baten Kaitos (They did publish the second one, so…)

Xenoblade Chronicles

The Last Story

Pandora’s Tower

Golden Sun

Glory of Heracles

Magical Vacation/Starsign

Pokémon

And these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure some of you out there could name even more. Who wouldn’t want to see EarthBound 4? Or Baiten Kaitos 3? Or… You get the idea. The only problem game I see on this list would actually be the most well known: Pokémon. Just making another Pokémon on the Wii U would probably be disastrous, as the story is nonexistent, and the mechanics are best served in short bursts. So, Pokémon should probably have a radical reinvention (as a spinoff) for the Wii U.

And one idea that isn’t said here but that I’d like to see is a Fire Emblem spinoff as a more traditional RPG. While Intelligent Systems has done a great job mixing things up with every release, I still think there’s room for more expansion in the franchise.

Oh, and while I’m on it, Nintendo should buy the rights to the games that Microsoft clearly has no interest in continuing. I’m talking about Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, though arguably, Microsoft doesn’t give a second glance at all the Rare IPs that they have piled up. Microsoft published the two Mistwalker games as an attempt to break into the Japanese market. That didn’t happen, and it’s likely Microsoft has no intention of trying to capture the Japanese market again. So, why not get some cash for games that aren’t going to mean anything going forward? Nintendo could actually make money on ports of and sequels to those games.

So that’s Nintendo, but they also should commission ports of good third-party JRPGs from the last generation, like the Tales games. Shouldn’t be too much work for the developers, and Nintendo gets more Japanese games. And you know, on that note, there’s a certain game that has been in development for six years now. Nintendo should grab that game before it comes out on the PS3. After all, the PS3 will probably be dead before this game is finished.

FF XII artwork

But while all that would be a great boon to JRPG fans, there’s one other genre at which Japan has previously excelled but this generation has been rather lacking in: the Japanese action game. And it seems that Nintendo actually has this one covered, though I think they should do more.

We all know that two Platinum games are coming exclusively from Nintendo: The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2. That’s great, but Nintendo should really push this partnership by getting ports of games from the last generation and exclusive sequels going forward. After all, the stylish third-person shooter Vanquish would stand out more on Nintendo’s system (where shooters are probably going to be few and far between) than on the PS3 and 360.

And there’s one other developer who seems to really like Nintendo: the legendary Suda51 and his studio Grasshopper Manufacture. After all, the Wii got not one, but two exclusive games from them. Nintendo should form a publishing partnership with them, as Suda51 games always attract attention. Will they all be successful? Probably not. Will they gain buzz that leads back to Nintendo, as the games are all Nintendo-exclusive? Yeah! And while we’re at it, Nintendo should get a couple of exclusive FromSoftware games. FromSoftware has a really good track record, and Nintendo could use a challenging action RPG and a solid mech game in their library.

More than ever, though, Nintendo needs new IPs. Not that their old IPs are bad, but now more than ever, the games industry is stagnant. The PS4’s press conference showed an alarming trend: very few new games and a lot of sequels, especially from third parties. If Nintendo can be counted on to consistently deliver new, exciting products, gamers tired of the same old, same old on Microsoft and Sony platforms may give the Wii U a second look. Not that I don’t want Mario, Zelda, and Metroid, but if I only play those games this generation, I’m going to be very disappointed.

Continued on Page 2: Appealing to Western Audiences

About Guy Rainey

I’m Guy Rainey. I’m a hardcore Nintendo fan, a PC enthusiast, and a Sony sympathizer. Also an amateur/aspiring game creator. I love any game that puts story as the main focus of the game, so that means JRPGs are my favorite genre almost by default.


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  • I though this was going to be a something general… it was basically all RPGs.

    • Do you read all the THREE pages?

    • FrancisUnderwood0482

      nope, and neither did some of the other knobs who commented.

    • no need to be a jerk to everyone. of course there is more, but it focused a bit too much of one genre….

    • Kyrith

      Even in the second page, the article sticks mostly to RPGs along side vague mentions of “new ips.”

  • yeah this article was kind of meh. not the worst thing ever since i would like to see a lot of the stuff mentioned on here, but this was mostly revolving around RPGs. I know this site was the one that pushed for The Last Story, Xenoblade and Pandora’s Tower, but come on! talk about a different genre like have Nintendo make unique action games and other genres only for the Wii U.

  • Kyrith

    The game industry is stagnant, churning out sequel after spinoff after sequel, again and again; and refusing to move to new territory outside of the “safe zone” bubble that the majority of video games have been existing in for decades. And the solution we’ve been presented with in this article, to “win” the console generation for Nintendo and keep gaming alive and growing as a medium, is to churn out spinoffs and sequels to a dozen different JRPG franchises along with a few non-specific “new ips”… does that sound a bit ridiculous to anyone else?

  • Realistically, Nintendo just needs to be able to do what the other consoles can. If they can CoD, we should CoD. If they can Crysis, we should Crysis. As long as Nintendo doesn’t get shafted by multiplatform titles, then it’s just as good as the other systems, PLUS has a solid 1st party lineup.

    That’s why I fear for XBox – they don’t have a whole lot (that I can think of, so forgive me if I’m wrong) that they offer that you can’t get elsewhere. Kinect-Based things, Gears of War, and Halo come to mind. But if they just focused on peripherals for PC gaming, I don’t see how we’d lose anything by not having a Microsoft Console. If Microsoft just went to Gaming PCs, allowed Kinect integration (easily) with PCs, then I feel like they might be able to do better. [In fairness, I’m jaded against Xbox. Paying each month to access general features like my online multiplayer is BS if you ask me…]

    In the end, I feel like Nintendo’s 1st party titles will ensure them everlasting console significance, even if it is underpowered compared to the others of this generation of consoles.

    • “Realistically, Nintendo just needs to be able to do what the other consoles can.”

      I’m pretty sure after having their asses handed to them during the GameCube era, deciding to push innovation further was probably the best thing they could’ve done to save themselves.

      I doubt Nintendo wants to be anything like a Sony or a Microsoft – carving their own niche has helped them for so long. Besides, I don’t think pandering to what the industry wants now (“big budgets! polygons! super-charged hardware! AAA games!”) is going to help them.

      Over 140 studios closed in this past generation because they could barely break even with the demands of game development costs. What good would it do to Nintendo, because all I see are video games losing sight of what they’re really supposed to be – fun.

  • SpyMonkey

    You hit home with EarthBound, Baten kaitos, and Golden Sun! COME ON NINTENDO! Also, a Mario & Luigi rpg would be nice (Superstar saga was still the best mario rpg).

    • The Mario RPGs were what started me on the genre. I would gladly see more of them done in a style similar to the earlier titles.

  • Ibi Salmon

    That sounds great and all, but even if Nintendo does everything you suggested. I doubt it would be enough to win this console cycle. The people who looked at the system and decided it sucks are not going to have their minds changed no matter what Nintendo does to make it more attractive. It’s sad, but thats the reality.

  • “Super Mario RPG 2” “Mistwalker”
    NO THANK YOU.

    They should make a sequel to The Last Story (aka their only engaging game)

    • Kyrith

      or they could make a new game instead of just pumping out sequels.

    • Or they can take the framework that they’ve already built and use it to built a bigger larger game. Just like ever other sequel that’s better that the first game (aka most sequels).

      I said A sequel not a dozen. It’d be silly to take that fantastic engine and not do something more with it and it’d be stupid to not use the cache of goodwill felt toward the first game. Game sequels and film sequels mainly perform based on reception to the first and The Last Story was a damn good game.

    • Kyrith

      I never totally understood why it was so well received, I guess. I didn’t like any part of it, stereotypical characters, clunky combat, everything about it just screamed “done before and better” to me, but as long as it doesn’t become the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy, it shouldn’t be an issue.

    • I realize that publishing doesn’t necessarily mean that that the publisher has the rights to the IP, but from my understanding, in most cases it does. In most publishing deals, the developer hands over rights to the IP. That isn’t the publisher being evil. They’re just protecting themselves from a developer taking their money. Therefore, I simply thought of all the games that Nintendo has published.

    • I’m pretty sure that trend is reversing a la Bayonetta to Bayonetta 2.

  • i would like anotha Magical Starsign, more like da original we didn’t get. Had more elementz an’ characterz.

  • I’d like to see Retro studios make their own IP, like Ravenblade. You know, that fantasy, action-adventure game they were working on before devoting themselves to Metroid Prime? Yeah, that game had potential. It could’ve been something special if they’d finished it. I think after their work with the Metroid Prime Trilogy, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Mario Kart 7, Retro Studios has shown they are more than capable of handling their own intellectual property.

  • I have to say that I disagree with at least half of this article. I’ll go point by point.

    1) Be THE place for Japanese games: I totally agree. If they brought over a lot of the games that were never localized last generation, it would earn them a lot of credit (and sales) with western gamers who ended up in the Sony camp during the PS1/2 era for the same reason. It would also be a relatively small investment for them, given that the games just need to be localized. They’ve already said they will do this for the 3DS, so… what are they waiting for?
    2a) More Mario RPGs: 1 Mario RPG for the Wii U would be good, but no more than that. Mario is already in too many things.
    2b) Nintendo Princess RPG: My first reaction was “Ew, no.” But then…. Actually this might be my favorite idea for a game that I’ve ever heard from someone who isn’t a dev.
    3) Buy up dormant IPs: Maybe this would work for one IP, but certainly not as a trend. Maybe Banjo Kazooie or something like that that has a huge fanbase (if they don’t already own that).
    4) 3rd-party ports of last gen: Absolutely not, unless they were never localized previously to the West. The Wii U does NOT need ports. It needs new games.
    5) JP-Action games: The new Suda51 game Killer is Dead needs to be on Wii U. Make it happen, Nintendo.
    6) New IPs: Yes and no. They’ve had a lot of new IPs in the past 10 years that haven’t really caught on for whatever reason. So, they don’t need more new ones, just better new ones, or better marketing for the new ones.
    7) Have big name western devs handle their IPs: Maybe. I think this is really risky, and I’m not sure Nintendo wants to take that kind of risk with it’s heavy hitters.
    8) More retro revivals: Not unless it’s F-Zero. I don’t think people want a whole lot of revivals–maybe 1 or 2 max.
    9) New online strategy: This is where I disagree the most. I do NOT want a “service” that lets me play “free” games as long as I PAY a subscription. I want to own my games, and so far, Nintendo seems to be the company that will respect ownership of games the most. “Free” games on PS+ is nothing but a rental in disguise(a really good rental deal, but still a rental), and I don’t want that kind of thing anywhere near the eshop.

    Sorry that was so long.

  • Gemnist

    I have to disagree on the Japanese one. That’s all Nintendo’s been doing since 1889! Japan has always been a seclusive, lone nation unless you count WWII, and their people tend to stick to that principle. Japan’s gaming market is all about the casual gaming experience, which is present in almost all Nintendo products. Sure, Zelda, Metroid, Fire Emblem, Kid Icarus, Star Fox, and the three Oprainfall games go more extreme, but they are overwhelmed by Nintendo’s other products. Plus, Nintendo’s The Avengers? Seriously?
    I am completely for the others, though. I think that the way to get to the West is by releasing a handful of M-rated products. Nintendo has some code against it, but now that they are about to get crushed, it will be very stupid to continue using it. Nintendo also has some grudge on emulation, but hopefully Steam will get through since it’s more official than other emulation programs. An achievements system, communication in the middle of gameplay, a way further onto mobile devices, and ditching the Wii all together will bring sales up more.

  • Spookyryu

    In nintendo wii trust, let’s hope nintendo read this just like they hear operation rainfall, 🙂

  • TrueWiiMaster

    “The dominant console in Japan was not a console at all; it was the PSP”
    Portables are always bigger in Japan than consoles (except in the case of the PS2), but even still, the PSP was never the dominant anything. The DS outsold it in Japan by over 13 million.

  • Nintendo should consider adding a system based achievements , some gamers do buy games because of achievements, this happened in the early cycle of the PS3.

  • bluefang14

    Didn’t Brian Fargo (InExile) say something to the affect of that he hates working with Nintendo during the whole Wasteland 2 thing and that he wants to stay solely on PC as much as possible? I seriously doubt he’d go back on that at this point with the Torment Kickstarter just barely launching today.

  • jumpity

    I disagree with nearly the entire article.
    1. Fist off, Steam has two generations of gaming catalog to fall back on. Wii U has 4 months. Only time can make an online store platform more robust.
    2. Xbox 360 and PS3 are old news. You can’t compare the success or failure of the Wii U with those old consoles. Well, you can, but perhaps the best comparison would be their own respective launch windows. In that scenario, the PS2 was the highest selling console, and the Xbox 360 and PS3 were doing WORSE than the Wii U is right now. Did the Xbox 360 and PS3 end up failing? The only way to truly see how the Wii U is doing ‘this gen’ is to compare to the upcoming PS4 and Next box launches.
    3. The eShop seems to be the destination for platformers. If you think Wii U needs more, check out the eShop. Mighty Switch Force, Runner 2, Toki Tori 2, etc. In a few months, the Wii U will be flooded with platformers, please don’t say there aren’t enough, you sound like a moron.
    4. Super Mario RPG is already saturated. No more please. And Mistwalker’s games aren’t that amazing, so no thank you.
    5. You contradict yourself when saying you want less sequels, but when giving examples of games you want, you only bring up sequels or ideas or spin-offs.
    6. Speaking generally, because of the past two gens, ‘Western’ devs learned that their games get little support on Nintendo consoles. It doesn’t look set to change this gen, so forget about that. Maybe indies from the west will jump to Nintendo, that’s about it.
    7. Your RPG choices were horrid. RPGs will come to WiiU. Why? Because they can develop them cheaper on Wii U without the need for bloated graphics. While a lot of the generic RPGs and sequels went to PS3 this gen, remember that the most original RPGs were on Wii. We already know Monolithsoft is making something for Wii U. That’s good enough for me.
    8. If Mother needs to release – expect it on a handheld.
    9. For Emblem x SMT. Developed by Atlus. If that’s the tip of an iceberg, that covers every single thing that Nintendo can do to win over this upcoming gen.
    10. The ‘Nintendo’ games haven’t even released yet. You know, the ones that people buy Nintendo consoles for… 3D Mario, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Zelda, Metroid, etc. If Mario Kart and 3D Mario release this holiday, the console will boom. PS4 and Next box will be the new ones with only 5 games on the shelf and Wii U will have two Mario games, Wind Waker HD, Mario Kart, and who knows what else will release between now and holiday 2013.

    While I certainly agree that Nintendo needs to do a bit more to win with Wii U, I think a lot more is marketing and advertising related and has less to do with games. There are a lot of cool games that were announced in January, and no doubt even more at E3. The games are coming, but Nintendo does little to advertise the Wii U off of the internet,where only their most devoted fans can see why the Wii U is a pretty cool console. They need to do a better job of showing it to the world.

  • Just throwing this out there…. Pokemon: Team Rocket Version 😀 Well…. I’d buy it anyway T~T