Why Nintendo must “up their game”

I’m a huge Nintendo fan, and have been since the 1980s. Nintendo gaming has given me an abundance of wonderful memories: from my first race on Super Mario Kart on the SNES, via Mario’s groundbreaking first 3D outing on the Nintendo 64, to the wow-factor of swinging a virtual tennis racket using the Wii Remote.

I’m remained fiercely loyal to Nintendo over the years, and despite occasional flirtations with other consoles, Nintendo’s uniquely quirky style of gaming has always been my preferred leisure companion.

Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo Wii U

So, it’s with regret that I feel compelled to have a bit of a whine about the current state of play in the world of Nintendo. I own both of Nintendo’s current consoles: the 3DS and Wii U, and I’ve enjoyed many hours with both. But certain things need to improve, or Nintendo’s in danger of being left behind in the next round of the console wars.

Here’s what I think Nintendo must do:

Invest in user interfaces

I said myself (above) that I love Nintendo’s quirky style, and it’s something that’s strongly in evidence within their console menus, right down to the cute download animations.

I don’t have a problem with this, but I do have a problem with the slow UI on the new Wii U. In a world where people are used to the instantaneous nature of their iPhones and tablets, long waits to access system features on a “next gen” console don’t look good at all. Nintendo-haters have, for a long time, referred to Nintendo consoles as “toys” and “kids games,” and slow cutesy menus are hardly going to change their minds.

Improved retro game support

Nintendo’s extensive library of retro games forms an impressive heritage, and is one of the strongest trump cards the company has to play.

Why, then, was there no Virtual Console service ready when the Wii U was launched? Why do people who’ve already downloaded retro games on their Wii have to go through a horribly unintuitive process to migrate them to their Wii U? Why is the Wii integration on the Wii U so clunky, and almost as much hassle as using an emulator?

Most importantly, where they are available, why are Nintendo’s retro games not priced in a way that reflects the fact that they are, in the main, decades old? Many people downloading them will have already purchased them at least once in another format – and the prices should reflect this.

Nintendo could make so much more of their back catalogue by making it easier and more economical for people to actually play the games.

Recommit to first-party game development

Some of the my most significant Wii U launch memories come from third-party games. That’s not good.

I would have been one of the first people to defend the choice of a 2D Mario launch game. Now that I’ve played actually played New Super Mario Bros U, though, not so much. This game should have been huge and varied, and not what is essentially a game of the same size and structure as all the other New Super Mario titles that have gone before, albeit one hidden behind an attractive world map.

Nintendo Land has been fun, but hardly shows off the new hardware and is, essentially, a mini game collection. What has truly impressed me? Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, a third-party game, and a short demo of Rayman Legends. The latter is truly inventive, in the way that New Super Mario Bros U really should have been.

I appreciate that it’s early days for the Wii U, and that more first-party content is imminent, but Nintendo need to work fast. This year’s E3 conference is only 5 months away, and will probably bring news of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720. If Nintendo haven’t brought many more people on board by then, they could have a difficult time in the coming years. As yet, they haven’t done quite enough to persuade this loyal fanboy to start persuading the haters.