[Note: This is the fourth and final part of a multi-part post. In the first part I looked at the ways the Wii ultimately was a failure, and in the second part I looked at the ways Nintendo failed to capitalize on the Wii, helping to create the situation they find themselves in now with the Wii U. In the third part I looked at some of the mistakes Nintendo has made with the Wii U.]
Nintendo is not in a great spot. Their current home console, the Wii U, is an unqualified failure, and the 3DS, while selling reasonably well, is so far Nintendo’s worst selling handheld system, serving perhaps as a harbinger of handheld gaming’s inexorable decline. Obviously, Nintendo needs their upcoming console, codenamed NX, to be a hit. If the NX puts up Wii U or GameCube numbers, the company may have to seriously consider getting out of the hardware business. So what should Nintendo do with the NX?
With history as our guide, we can safely assume that Nintendo is going to try to do something big, bold, innovative, and unusual with the NX, leaving us all simultaneously scratching our heads in confusion and fantasizing about the new types of games Nintendo’s system will (perhaps) make possible. That’s what’s so exciting about Nintendo, their willingness to take unfathomable risks in an industry built around predictable iteration. As I write this, the gaming world is mourning the unexpected and untimely death of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, perhaps the biggest champion of risk-taking in Nintendo’s history. Under Iwata’s leadership, Nintendo introduced the idea of a touch-enabled, dual-screen handheld – a concept that has sold more than 200 million units across its various incarnations – and the Wii, that runaway success that even your grandparents played. Sure, Nintendo has also had their flops – that’s the “risk” part – but they’ve had tremendous successes and have shaped the modern gaming industry more than any other company.
So what should they do going forward? What should their NX strategy be? The path back to success isn’t clear for Nintendo. Having lost both the traditional, core audience and the Wii’s massive casual audience, Nintendo will have an uphill climb trying to sell the NX to anyone outside the dwindling base of Nintendo loyalists. It might already be too late for Nintendo to reverse their decline. But there are some things they can do that will give them a fighting chance, and at least help them avoid some of the problems they’ve had in the recent past.