By Kyle Emch / July 26th, 2013
I know what you’re going to say. “Oh boy, Kyle’s about to complain about how Nintendo’s dropping the ball again with the Virtual Console and the eShop. Better get our bile umbrellas ready.” Well, I’m not going to do that this time. Do you seriously think I enjoy complaining about Nintendo? I’ve already done enough criticizing of Nintendo’s digital efforts by now, and I’m getting sick of it. Instead, I’d like to be a bit more constructive with my criticism and offer up some ways for Nintendo to improve the Wii U eShop.
Make Some Original Games for the Wii U eShop
During their E3 Nintendo Direct as well as their recent Nintendo Direct Mini, Nintendo really made an effort to highlight all the games that are coming to the Wii U eShop later this year. While the lineup is definitely very promising, with games like Shovel Knight, DuckTales Remastered, Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails, Cloudberry Kingdom, and several others, one question sticks out in my mind. “Where are Nintendo’s offerings?”
The 3DS eShop didn’t become hugely successful until they released Pushmo, which several critics called the best game on the eShop. Third-party games are all well and good, but Nintendo games have a certain quality that cause Nintendo fans to go to a digital storefront in droves (most of the time, anyway). Making new and original games for the Wii U eShop will help improve the platform’s visibility which will, in turn, lead to more people also buying the various third-party games available on the platform. That, and it’ll make people think about it as something other than something that provides Virtual Console games. Speaking of which…
Completely Revamp the Virtual Console
In my previous piece, I went on a rant about how Nintendo treated their Virtual Console services poorly, hoping that I’d be eating my words months later. Well, my words are still on my plate, and I haven’t eaten a bite. Nintendo did bring the Virtual Console to the Wii U eShop. However, not only have they given us a selection even smaller than the Wii’s initial Virtual Console line-up with only two systems to choose from, but if you already have the games on the Wii’s Virtual Console, you have to pay money in order to play them on the Wii U with off-screen play and save states. If this is Nintendo’s way of improving the eShop, they’re not off to a great start.
I know what you’re going to say. “But Kyle, Nintendo finally brought EarthBound to the Virtual Console outside of Japan! This obviously means they’re getting better with the system!” Admittedly, Nintendo’s refusal to release EarthBound on the Virtual Console has been a major point of irritation I had with the company for a few years. But while seeing EarthBound finally available on the Virtual Console makes me incredibly happy like you wouldn’t believe, that is only one game. As I previously said, there are several first-party Nintendo games that haven’t made it to the Virtual Console. With the release of EarthBound, this does open up the possibility of some of these games getting a second chance. I only hope that Nintendo doesn’t waste that opportunity.
I was also going to mention making more platforms available and release games at a much quicker pace, but that kinda goes without saying, doesn’t it?
Put WiiWare Titles on the eShop
Yeah, yeah, I know. WiiWare wasn’t exactly the best place for an independent developer to release their games, given some of their backwards policies at the time. However, that didn’t stop the platform from getting some really cool games. Games like Mega Man 9, Lostwinds, Cave Story, Excitebike World Rally, Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People, the Bit.Trip series, and more. Like the Virtual Console, these games are still available on the original Wii Shop Channel. But what if Nintendo took the whole thing down? Nintendo gamers will have no way to experience these games unless they had another system.
Now, you can argue that several of those games are already available on other platforms, so this won’t be much of an issue. That may be true, but I’d like these games to be preserved so that future Nintendo fans will have access to them. Besides, in my opinion, Nintendo’s made some nice games for the platform (except for Pokemon Rumble and My Pokemon Ranch). And do you honestly think Nintendo is going to keep that Wii Shop Channel online forever? If so, I envy your optimism.
Move to an Account-based System
This is something people have been asking of Nintendo since the Wii U was released. In an age that accepts stuff like the cloud and having all of your files with you no matter what device you use, why are we still stuck with a system where our games are tied to our consoles? Most of you will probably say “Oh, well that’s not a huge problem. Nothing’s going to happen to my game consoles, so I don’t need to worry about it.” Well, let’s say something does happen to your console. Let’s say that it either gets stolen or destroyed in some incident and you end up having to replace it. Now you’re a couple hundred dollars in the hole with your entire digital library gone. You’ll have to repurchase every single digital game. And if you have as many digital games as I do on the 3DS, that’s going to set you back by a lot. I’ll bet you’d be pretty upset about that.
This should not be difficult. Having an account-based system for your digital purchases is standard in every digital distributor to make things more convenient for the customer. Sony, Microsoft, Apple, and every PC game distributor does this. Nintendo shouldn’t be the exception to this rule. Plus, this can lead to a bunch of good things. For instance…
Have a Web-based/Mobile eShop Store
Say I’m away from my apartment, and I don’t have my 3DS with me. I heard about this new game that was just released or about a great sale on a game I’ve been wanting to get. But I don’t have access to either my Wii U or 3DS to buy these games! How can Nintendo solve this situation? Easy. Allow me to access the eShop remotely. Nintendo already brought Miiverse to web browsers, so why not do the same for the eShop? I could access it from my laptop/tablet and purchase the game I want while I’m on the go. Microsoft already lets you do that through your web browser.
In fact, why not take this a step further and make an eShop app for iOS and Android? You can get people to easily purchase games on a phone or tablet. Heck, you could even allow them to manage their downloads while they’re away! What I’m describing isn’t some idea that could theoretically work. Valve already has a mobile Steam app that does precisely that.
Let Us Gift Games to Our Friends Again
You might not have noticed this, but there were a couple functions that were removed in the transition to the eShop. One of those functions was the ability to gift games to your friends. Oh, you can put games on your wishlist, but you can’t show them to any of your friends. Again, this is something that Steam does very well. It’s just one of those advantages of digital distribution that makes things more convenient to all parties involved.
I know what you’re going to say. “Oh, but Nintendo doesn’t have an account-based system yet. You can’t expect to gift a game to someone when you don’t even have unified accounts.” Nintendo did exactly that for the Wii Shop Channel. If they could let you gift games to each other on that online store front, they can sure as hell do it on this one.
Enable Cross-Play Functionality Between Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console/eShop Games
So, the 3DS has NES games available for its Virtual Console. And Iwata mentioned that the Wii U’s Virtual Console would see Game Boy Advance titles come to the platform, bizarrely enough. That led me to ask why Nintendo doesn’t put GBA games on the 3DS as well. In fact, why not allow for the entire 3DS Virtual Console library to be available on the Wii U and vice versa? In fact, why not use the save state functionality in these new eShop titles and send them between 3DS and Wii U versions of the same game?
Again, what I’m describing isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Sony has been doing this with its PSOne library with the PSP and the PS3 for years, as well as with the Vita. And it’s not like Nintendo needs an account-based system or cloud-saving functionality to do this. Just release an app that allows us to link up our systems and transfer our save data between the two. That way, you’re never really away from your classic games. They’ll always be with you no matter where you go.
These are only a few ways Nintendo can improve the eShop. I’m sure you can think of several others. At the end of the day, I want to see the eShop not just be on par with competing console distribution methods. I want to see Nintendo dominate them. While I doubt that Nintendo would reach Steam levels of greatness anytime soon, they have the opportunity to set themselves apart from Sony and Microsoft’s storefronts if they play their cards right.
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