Satoru Iwata’s comments that the Nintendo Wii’s casual gaming status was a “misunderstanding”, is a little hard to take seriously. Nintendo’s main man used a recent conference call to claim that hardcore gamers were enamoured with the ageing hub and that there was an “over-emphasis” by outside sources on the success of titles like Wii Fit.
The fact is though, Nintendo must take the lion’s share of the blame for this. It’s policy of using mainstream figures outside the gaming industry to promote its products created huge sales, but has tarnished the brand in many core gamers’ eyes. And now next year’s Wii U is set to suffer. If Nintendo can’t shake off the casual tag, its next-gen console could be in for a rough ride.
Let’s not pretend that the Wii was anything other than a raving commercial success for Nintendo. It’s one of the best selling games consoles ever and is now five years old, so no wonder it’s lagging behind its rivals. But there is definitely the feeling that this is the kind of console that people who don’t buy games get at Christmas. And the Wii U will be no different if Nintendo doesn’t adopt a new approach to marketing.
That means ditching retired footballers and TV personalities when it comes to ads, and drawing the focus onto more hardcore titles that will convince gamers who might be looking to an Xbox 360 or PS3, that that Wii U is the way forward. That’s not going to be easy and will require publishers and developers to create games that don’t simply use the unique, but undeniably casual-focused controller.
Iwata’s comments suggest Nintendo is aware that targeting a casual audience is not going to work in the same way it did with the Wii in 2006. If anything, it’ll play against it. Kinect and PlayStation Move have ended Nintendo’s motion control domination and made its products far less marketable. The Wii U’s casual aspect will be important, but there’s no way that’ll be enough for it to match up to Sony and Microsoft.
Let’s face it, using that chunky screen as a golf tee will become tiring after a while. And once the novelty wears off, there’d better be some decent, hardcore games to fall back on. If there’s nothing to match up to the PS3 and Xbox 360, then why should users shell out more for a new console, when they can buy a sleeker more, rounded old-school one for a lot less?
That casual focus extends beyond games too. The multimedia aspect needs to be whip smart from the get go to prove that this isn’t just for people who want to play tennis or baseball when the family come over, but for digital pioneers who want to stream and watch content seamlessly. The stakes have been raised and Nintendo needs to nail it to ensure it can compete this time round. Blaming others for “misunderstandings” and “misconceptions” is not going to help anyone.