Right around E3 of 2010 Nintendo wowed the world with talk of a handheld, 3D capable gaming system that wouldn’t require the use of a cumbersome ocular aid. From that point in time, crazy rumors and speculation such as “ZOMFG IT’LL BE LIKE HOLOGRAMS RIGHT?!” littered just about every social media feed and forum that pertained to gaming. Most gamers seemed to feel that the 3DS would truly change the face of handheld gaming, but the console went through a pretty rough launch and had disappointing sales figures. This has a lot of people worried about the success of the upcoming Wii U, but there are five little things Nintendo can keep in mind when the time comes.
1. For the love of all things good and holy, ADVERTISE.
I don’t know about your city, but here in Chicago games get advertised everywhere. For example, when Portal 2 was being hyped up there were entire buses covered inside and out with a giant ad. Games get advertised on billboards, subway platforms, taxi cab toppers — everywhere. Yet in my nearly five years in this city I have never once seen a large-scale ad for any sort of Nintendo product.
A 3D image without the aid of glasses sounded magical, and unheard of. For some inexplicable reason, Nintendo thought the best way to show this feature off to people would be with 2D images. Imagine if flying cars were suddenly going to be mass produced, but car manufacturers said “Go ahead and drive this regular car, but imagine it’s fyyiinnnggggg! OoooOoOoOoo!” That would be a ridiculous way to market such a product, right? With 3D movies being so insanely popular these days, a pre-movie ad would’ve done the trick. Sure, it would have been expensive, but so is a huge stack of homeless 3DSs and a 32% price slash this close to launch.
It’s an unconventional approach, but putting the interactive units in stores BEFORE launch so people could see exactly what the 3DS was capable of would have been a huge help as well. If people were able to get their hands on an actual Wii U tablet controller and see a Nintendo system running true HD graphics for the first time — before launch, and with enough time they could plan for the purchase — then Nintendo would probably have an instant success on their hands. Whoever came up with the concept of Nintendo’s most recent and upcoming consoles sure thought outside of the box, it’s just a shame that the marketers have yet to do the same thing.
2. Play to your strengths — first party titles!
People like to clamor for more third party support on Nintendo consoles, but the company took that idea to an extreme with the launch of the 3DS. None of their flagship IPs like Mario or Zelda were seen, and this ultimately crippled their ability to hit the ground running with this console.
Zelda was so close to the 3DS’s launch window, that it should’ve just been a launch title. In a parallel and more perfect world, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D would have been the focal point of Nintendo’s pre-launch ad blitz. Imagine the aforementioned 3D ads, featuring the title screen for Zelda. It fades to black, and white letters shimmer into view reading “Ditch those goofy glasses and experience Zelda in 3D, only on the Nintendo 3DS.” BAM! There you go…this thing could’ve been printing money just like the Wii did.
At E3 this year, all kinds of wonderful and established third party franchises like Batman: Arkham City were said to be making their way to Nintendo’s new home console. This is all fine and dandy, but if they ignore the fact that people buy Nintendo systems to play first party games then Iwata’s money pool is likely to spend yet another year being empty.
3. While clever, “3DS” isn’t the best choice of names. Does “Wii U” make any more sense?
Nintendo has conditioned us to think that each handheld they release will have several incarnations. We had GameBoy Advance, GameBoy Advance SP (even this got upgraded screens), and the GameBoy Advance Micro. The DS got the same treatment with the DS, the DS Lite, DSi, and the DSi XL. By sticking a “3” in front of the already established “DS” brand, people that don’t follow video game news pretty regularly could easily think it is just another, slightly different version of the system they already have.
The name “Wii U” could work, and it could leave consumers scratching their heads. It sort of sounds like a college one would go to learn about all things relating to the Wii. With the rampant success the Wii had it could’ve been a very smart thing to carry the Wii brand forward into their next console line, and it could be just the shot in the foot Nintendo doesn’t need right now.
4. Flaunt what’s under the hood!
At least until the PSVita launches, the 3DS is the most powerful handheld gaming system on the market. However, Nintendo is taking their tried-and-not-so-true-anymore approach of talking about all the fabulous games that will be playable on the system instead of what the hardware is capable of doing. With such an incredibly lackluster launch line-up a different approach should’ve been taken that focused on the specs a “hardcore gamer” would love to hear.
During the big Wii U reveal at E3 this year, a lot of people were confused. The presentation left a lot of watchers wondering if the Wii U was just an add-on to the existing Wii console, because they focused primarily on the controller. In fact, the console was not even shown during their press conference. If there is any hope of re-capturing the hardcore audience Nintendo lost in the flood of waggle-centric mini-game collections that besmirched the Wii library, then they need to talk about the console itself and how it’s specs compare to the competitors.
5. Embrace this little thing we like to call “the internet”.
For some reason, Nintendo seems reluctant to get up to speed in terms of internet connectivity. While its two major competitors were offering online multiplayer, achievements, downloadable content, friends lists, and more Nintendo was clunking along with a handful of games that supported online multiplayer, and only about half of those games did it well.
The 3DS took an itty bitty step in the right direction with the Friend List feature. Now instead of having a Friend Code for every online game you play, there is just one friend code for each 3DS system. Registering someone let’s you see what game they’re playing….and that’s it.
With the Wii U looming just over the horizon, Nintendo has a chance to finally do more than dip its little pinky toe in the pool of internet connectivity. They need to give us the features from Xbox Live and Playstation Network, and then some. While they’re at it, a system update for the 3DS wouldn’t hurt either. Features such as the ability to send pictures to registered friends like you can do with the Wii would be incredibly well received. This would be especially useful considering 3D pictures that are only viewable on the 3DS. Also, a simple text or voice messaging system would be helpful. If you see one of your friends is playing Super Street Fighter, you could send them a quick message to challenge them to a match. The possibilities are endless, and the online infrastructure is there, just begging to be used on both the Wii U and the 3DS.
These five things aren’t the only things that could’ve helped make the 3DS the success it deserves to be. It truly is an innovative product that could’ve benefited from a lot more support on Nintendo’s end, and hopefully that level of support will be seen during the Wii U’s launch in 2012. We are in the midst of worldwide economic turmoil, so maybe it just wasn’t the best year to launch a new system. Hopefully the big N hasn’t totally fallen asleep at the wheel and will learn from their mistakes and doesn’t rely on their brand alone when launching the Wii U next year.
How would you handle things if you were head of Nintendo’s marketing campaign? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below or by visiting the forum!