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Flatiron Hot! News | January 16, 2018

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Flatiron Hot! Gamer: Nintendo NX—What Does it Need to Succeed?

Flatiron Hot! Gamer: Nintendo NX—What Does it Need to Succeed?
Flatironhot Contributor

Note: There is no official logo for Nintendo NX (as “NX” is just a codename); the one seen here is fan-made.

Written by Max Shapiro and Edited by the Flatiron Hot! News Editorial Staff

As I established in my previous article, Nintendo hasn’t been in the best place lately. After the commercial dud that was the Wii U, the brightness of the company’s future is hinging on the success of their mysterious new game console, Project “NX.” But what does Nintendo need to do to ensure that the NX won’t fall into the same pitfall the Wii U did? I’m going to run through a few key factors that are integral to the success of this console.

A grand unveiling coupled with strong messaging
As I said before, one of the things that killed the Wii U right out of gate was consumer confusion. When Nintendo finally pulls back the curtain on this thing, they must do so with as much fanfare as possible. They need to make their message loud and clear: it’s not a souped-up Wii U, it’s something brand new. Now if the rumors and speculation are correct, the Nintendo NX should be unveiled sometime next month. And I can’t help but wonder what form this reveal will take. Some think it will be in the form of one of company’s digital Nintendo Direct presentations, but I don’t think that would be a good idea. In order to make this reveal as grand as possible, they need the atmosphere of a live event.

There are a lot of people saying how Nintendo made a huge mistake by choosing not to present the NX at E3, claiming that not nearly as many people are going to find out about it because the event where it’s revealed won’t pull in nearly as big an audience, and that it won’t be nearly as exciting. But that’s really not true. E3 is no longer something that is crucial for getting word out about new games and consoles. We now live in the age of the internet, where information spreads like wildfire within minutes. And besides, there’s no way people aren’t going to care when the reveal happens. Think of it this way: if your parents get you a new car on a day that isn’t your birthday, are you going to be less excited about it? Of course not; all that matters is that you’ve got a brand new car. The idea that people are going to care less about the NX simply because it’s being revealed outside of E3 is just ridiculous, and I know that because if you look anywhere on the internet, you’ll see that people are absolutely dying to see this thing. And the rumors upon rumors upon rumors about the console that constantly pop up on the internet only add fuel to the fire. And people’s the anxiousness to learn something about the NX grows ever stronger with each news-free day that goes by.

I can guarantee you that this is Nintendo’s strategy. They want us all to be like Eric Cartman waiting for the Wii to come out in that South Park episode. So when the console is finally unveiled, the internet will practically break in half. However, at the same time, this hype won’t last forever. If they wait too long, people may just get tired of waiting and lose interest. So they need to time this reveal just right so that it happens at the very peak of this fervor.

A strong launch lineup and consistent release schedule
There needs to be enough exciting games available at launch to convince people that the NX is worth buying. We already know about one big game coming to the system: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But that alone isn’t enough, especially since that game is also still coming to Wii U. It was announced that a new Pikmin is in the works nearly a year ago, and the fact that we’ve still heard nothing about it basically confirms that the game is NX-bound. So it would be ideal for Nintendo to also have that title available at launch. But why stop there? The timing seems right for a new 3D Mario game, and there have even been rumors that a port of the latest Super Smash Bros. will be a launch a title. Having all these games available the day the NX hits shelves would be huge. It would give the console the strong start the Wii U never had. And the good news is that the likelihood of a killer launch lineup seems very strong. Many were baffled when Nintendo announced the NX would be skipping the holidays in favor of a March 2017 release, but they clearly stated why they’re doing this: to have enough software ready for the its launch. And I absolutely applaud them for that decision. Even if the holidays are the year’s biggest spending period, it wouldn’t matter if the NX released with no exciting games like the Wii U did.

But just a strong launch lineup isn’t enough either. Nintendo needs to keep that momentum going throughout the system’s entire lifespan. That means no more droughts the ones the Wii U suffered through (and is suffering though right now). A consistent release schedule is a must this time.

It’s got to be different
“Why can’t Nintendo just make a normal console? All I want is a powerful console with a normal controller and no gimmicks!” You’ll find people saying that on comment sections everywhere. But there is something these people are failing to realize: If Nintendo NX is nothing but a standard game console, very few people will buy it. Anyone who wants a system like that already owns a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One. They’d just look at the NX and go, “Well I’ve already got a PS4/Xbox, so why do I need this thing?”. The only people who would buy it would be Nintendo’s diehard fans, and as the Wii U has shown us, that’s not nearly a big enough group (and this goes for almost any company, not just Nintendo). In order to reach beyond the diehhards, the NX must have something unique enough to really hook people. And what can that thing be? Well, countless rumors seem to point towards the NX being a hybrid of a home console and a handheld. Theoretically, this would allow people to play games on their TV, and then take those same games on the go by playing them on a handheld device. Now that is a game changer.

But of course, there are people who will say any unique feature Nintendo’s hardware introduces is just a dumb “gimmick.” In my last piece, I hinted at my strong distaste for that word. It’s actually not as much the word itself as it is the way it’s used. To many, the word “gimmick” only has a negative connotation. It’s something that is unnecessary and useless and only a hindrance. A gimmick can be these things, but not all the time. Take Mario Kart 8’s anti-gravity mechanic for example. It’s a gimmick for sure, but it’s a great one. The game didn’t need that feature, but it’s a much more fun and creative game because of it. And while a lot of people point to titles on the Wii that were bogged down by motion controls, there are also a decent amount of games that were enhanced by the Wii Remote, including Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Metroid Prime 3. Likewise, there were certain Wii U titles (though admittedly not as many), that benefited from the Wii U GamePad, such as Super Mario Maker, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.

My point being: Nintendo NX needs a “gimmick,” one that’s interesting enough to really grab people.

Relentless marketing
Simply put, Nintendo needs to promote the hell out of this thing. As I said before, they need to get the message out that this is a brand new console as much as possible. I’m not talking about few casual commercials, I’m talking multiple epic advertisements showcasing the system and all the new games. The Nintendo NX ads need to be inescapable. I know this sounds extreme, but after all the confusion with the Wii U, Nintendo’s marketing team needs swing as far as possible in the other direction.

Capabilities on par with the competition
Now I firmly believe that power is not the most important aspect of a console. At the end of the day, what determines overall quality of a game system comes down to—huge shock—its games. But with that said, since the PS4 and Xbox One have been around for nearly 3 years, I do think that it’s important that the NX is overall as technically competent as its competition. I’m aware that both Sony and Microsoft have announced that more powerful versions of the PS4 and Xbox One are on the way, but the NX should be fine even if it’s just on par with the standard models of those systems. But I’m not just talking about power. The NX should also have an adequate amount of storage space. People should not have to spend absurd amount of money on external hard drives if they want more memory like they had to for the Wii U. And the online capabilities should also be more robust. The online options on the Wii U were quite limited compared to its competitors, so Nintendo really needs to overhaul and improve its online infrastructure for the NX (but no fees; that’s the one thing they got right). I’m not telling Nintendo to totally conform to to what its competition is doing, but I do think it’s finally time they stopped playing catch-up and got with the times.

Decent third-party support
Because of the Wii U’s commercial failure combined with the fact that bringing multiplatform title to it was reportedly difficult and time-consuming, third-party support for the system was woefully lacking. Nintendo needs to be able to convince third-party companies that the NX is worth putting their games on. However, even though there’s nothing wrong with the NX having a version of the latest Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or Madden NFL, these aren’t the types of games people buy a Nintendo console for. “Mature” games like these just don’t fit the colorful Disney-esque image that company made for themselves over the years. So what third-party IPs would feel at home on Nintendo NX? Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog, Capcom’s Mega Man, and Ubisoft’s Rayman, to name a few, come to mind. I can easily see new installments of these franchises doing very well as NX exclusives. And when you combine those with Nintendo’s own excellent games, it’s hard to see how the NX can fail.

It cannot once again try to leech off the Wii’s success
With the Wii U, Nintendo tried to emulate what made the Wii successful beat for beat, and we all know how that turned out. If Nintendo wants the NX to succeed, they need to leave the Wii behind once and for all and have a brand new approach. The most obvious part of this is to not have word “Wii” in whatever the console’s name ends up being. The NX needs to hook people in a different way than the Wii did. Instead of just another crazy controller, the new thing it introduces should be an even bigger game changer—and the console/handheld hybrid concept fits the bill perfectly in that regard. And luckily, Nintendo’s comments about the NX having a “brand new concept” and not being “the next version of Wii or Wii U” seem to indicate that they understand this. The Wii was great in its heyday, but its time in the sun has long since ended. The NX needs to break away from that branding and be its own thing.

If Nintendo manages to nail most, if not all, of these key points, the NX should see great success, and the good news is that the official reveal is likely not very far away. I personally have confidence that the NX will deliver, but we’ll just have to wait and see.