Don't count Nintendo out just yet - one would be foolish to, given the company's history and resources.
Admittedly the situation for the Wii U is looking bleak at the moment, with dire sales of its first year on the market, to the point where the lack of store presence almost made it look as if it never happened. That moment where the final boss is defeated and players zip back to the save state prior to the end credits? That's the feeling that's come about after a fumbling year of trying to make things work.
As demonstrated with the Nintendo 3DS, and to an extent the Nintendo GameCube, the company do have the ability and resources to bounce back. The Super Mario Bros card has already been deployed in spectacular fashion, Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit have been spread on the table in a bid to rally in the casuals, but the flame is still luke-warm.
The problem appears to be rooted in awareness and purpose - what is the Wii U's intent; its audience and what can consumers do with it compared to the original Wii? Nintendo has answered those questions in part, but there's a still a lot of things the company should and needs to do in order to truly get the console off the ground.
Here are just fifteen things Nintendo could and definitely need to do when it comes to both the Wii U and 3DS.
1) Mobile Taster Games, Dedicated App and Payment using eShop Credit
Having a separate, more specific set of studios to produce mobile-driven content would seem the next best step, and perhaps one of the more immediate routes Nintendo could take, and at this stage, almost has to take. Bringing full ports of 3DS titles would probably not be in Nintendo's best interests, but having demos or mobile-optimised tasters could help drive potential consumers to at least think about buying into a 3DS or 2DS console to get their full fix.
Nintendo could well start with more basic titles and concepts, perhaps a stripped back version of popular DS hit Brain Training, offering a house to decorate in an Animal Crossing demo or perhaps capitalising on Pokémon through a breeding app. The key, though, is bringing what isn't available on mobile platforms already - Nintendo franchises - Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda - but ensuring there's enough push to drive mobile players towards dedicated Nintendo consoles.
To bring it all together, Nintendo would be wise to have a dedicated mobile app for accessing these games - with the ability to pay for mobile content using Nintendo eShop credit, at the same time using this app to promote 3DS and Wii U games with minimal expense. Throw in integrated Miiverse support and a unified Nintendo Network account and we're set.
2) Virtual Console on Mobile Devices, Extra Features on Console
Perhaps Nintendo could consider additional features for Virtual Console releases that are specific to the Wii U and 3DS versions to entice mobile players to try out these classics on Nintendo's own consoles as well. The Wii U edition could boast online-play and enhanced sprites, whilst the 3DS versions could be mixed-up through stereoscopic 3D. Both could add additional stages and new content not present in the original - Nintendo's own approach to NES Remix proves that this could be an option.
Having the original, un-modified versions on mobile and enhanced editions on Nintendo hardware is one thing, but Nintendo would need to really sell the advantages - have subtle advertising that appears when starting/ending the game, and throughout a dedicated Nintendo app.
3) Cross-platform Game Sharing - Mobile, 3DS, Wii U
Buying virtual console and eShop titles like Super Mario Bros or F-Zero should be a one-time fee, with the game available on 3DS, Wii U and possible mobile support without having to buy for each device. It seems bizarre that fans have to shell out again just to play the same game on the move or on the TV - it's like being charged to pop an MP3 on stereo and MP3 player.
Having the now joint Nintendo Network account should help aid this and Nintendo should certainly try to encourage more fans to migrate to the one user, multiple system approach.
4) Apps, Apps and More Apps - Living Room Computing for the FamilyIt seems bizarre looking back that Nintendo Wii had a plethora of media and news apps, yet the Wii U and 3DS are lacking these sorts of extra tools to serve as multi-purpose hardware. Both consoles have access to YouTube and other streaming apps, but where are the drawing tools, video playback, gaming spectating apps and the almost obligatory social networking apps?
Read: 20 Ideas for Wii U Apps
The Wii U seems the perfect base to run social tools and multimedia, yet the console itself hasn't, at time of writing, gotten the focus beyond pure gaming that it deserves. Nintendo could and should partner with a company that has more experience to potentially open the door to either creating a Nintendo-driven operating system or bolt onto an existing one. Being able to officially boot into say, Google Chrome OS or Ubuntu, could expand the console from being a gaming, browser and YouTube player to allowing users to also run the Wii U as a computing system.
Nintendo already has the key components to make this happen: A small hardware unit with HDMI support, USB ports, expandable storage, USB reader, Wi-Fi and of course, the Wii U GamePad itself. It could be another selling point for the family-focused consumer: It plays games, has a second screen, and can act as a multimedia computer.
With a separate mobile/app team, the potential is there - it's up to Nintendo to leap onboad - the original Wii, released in 2006, certainly showed that it's possible. Not everyone would use all these apps, but it'll at least give players options and another selling point.
5) Physical and Digital Media Playback on Wii U
Traditional CDs and DVDs have always been a struggle to play on Nintendo hardware - GameCube fans had to invest in a Panasonic Q and Wii players had to use unofficial homebrew apps. The functionality does seem to be available, so it would be a case of Nintendo acquiring the licensing, possibly absorbing the cost, and providing Wii U players with a standard media application.
6) 3DS to Wii U Cross-Platform Initiatives and a 3DS Reader for Wii U
More games, especially those available on both platforms, should support cross-platform play, given that the 3DS console offers a fairly similar setup in terms of buttons available and the secondary touch screen.
Nintendo could easily develop a Wii U edition of some popular 3DS games, and an attachment that allows save data from the 3DS cartridge to be read, to play in the Wii U version. For example, having Animal Crossing: New Leaf or Pokémon X / Y available as graphically revised versions on the Wii U, as well, with the option to read and write save data to the 3DS cartridge on the fly. Play on the move and continue the experience on Wii U.
If that fails, simply having the peripheral read and play 3DS games on the big screen would be an added bonus, opening the door for a wider catalogue on Wii U and income from the device itself.
7) Scrap the Wii Menu on Wii U and Fully Integrate Support
Nintendo need to also promote the fact that existing Wii titles can now be played off screen. The company has already attempted to entice Wii players with Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit U, and these should really be promoted more and potentially bundled with Wii U. Wii Fit U is already getting a physical release, but almost a year and a half after launch maybe too late. Perhaps pre-installing a graphically enhanced Wii Sports Resort and Wii Sports Club could be a means of attracting those players who queued up for hours on end just to grab hold of the original Wii console.
8) Sub-Studios to Port Key Third Party Releases
Other major publishers like EA and Activision have outsourced Wii U titles to other smaller studios, so Nintendo could step in and take a more hands-on intuitive into bringing key titles like Grand Theft Auto, FIFA, Madden, Battlefield and more to the Wii U. If Nintendo based teams do the hard work, maybe there's some chance of these big sellers driving new fans to the essentially first-party-only system.
9) More GamePad-driven Gaming Experiences
Aside from a few games like Rayman Legends and Nintendo Land, there really hasn't been a true display of what the GamePad can bring to the table. Even Super Mario 3D World has very small snippets of GamePad functionality isolated to a handful of levels across the landscape.
Going forward, the controller needs to be shown off more - just why Wii U owners are paying over the odds for better graphics and a second screen?
10) Unleash more Virtual Console titles at once
At least five to ten should be pumped out on a weekly basis, as many as possible with additional enhancements that could come with features like online play or adding multiplayer to an otherwise single-player outing. The Nintendo 64 and GameCube, at time of writing, are still missing and the Nintendo 64 could easily be brought across with minimal fuss. There's a big market to use the back catalogue as easy wins, yet Nintendo are being incredibly conservative when it comes to using this weapon to their advantage.
There is an opportunity, just like Nintendo took with the European release of Earthbound, to finally launch games that may not have ever appeared in a particular region - those more obscure Japan only games or content that may have been deemed too risqué for European audiences back in the day.
11) Partner with More Japanese and Western Third Party Studios
Capcom lent a hand towards Nintendo during the GameCube era, and right now could be invaluable in aiding the Wii U resurgence - any exclusive games that take advantage of the Wii U hardware certainly wouldn't go amiss, including Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Street Fighter or better still, a hypothetical Capcom vs Nintendo moment would be gaming gold.
Next to Capcom would be Namco Bandai and Square Enix, with exclusive entries in the Tales and Final Fantasy franchises having the potential to draw in potential Wii U owners who might be sitting on the fence. 3D remakes for classic Final Fantasy games helped the DS, so a similar approach could aid the Wii U through enhanced ports of past entries, an exclusive new Crystal Chronicles, or better still, exclusivity on a main numbered RPG entry.
Even if Nintendo doesn't necessarily opt for full projects with fellow studios, at least outsourcing work to companies could ease some of the load and the pressure that the House of Mario has in producing top-notch HD content. Capcom, SEGA, Namco Bandai, Square Enix and more all have many more years in HD gaming than Nintendo, so their advice and help would be invaluable going forward. With Namco Bandai helping put together the next Super Smash Bros, it's the first steps to expanding Nintendo into the HD realm.
Outside Japan, studios like Retro and Next Level Games have helped put together some stellar exclusive titles and Nintendo would be wise to expand their second-party relationships with newer teams around the globe. Western developers could learn from Nintendo's practices and vice-versa, bringing together a wealth of knowledge and of course helping introduce more exclusives to the Wii U's very thin line-up so far.
12) More First Party Franchises on Wii U
By handing out some of these titles to third party developers, as Nintendo has done with Retro, Next Level and SEGA so far, fans can finally have a fix and some who are waiting for these titles before buying a Wii U can finally have reason to.
13) HD Remakes to Fill the Wii U Gaps
Given the appeal and speed of development for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Nintendo could bring Super Mario Galaxy 1/2, Metroid Prime, F-Zero GX, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Sunshine, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and much more to the Wii U as part of a "Nintendo Classics" range. It's been done before on the Wii and more recently with The Wind Waker HD, so a similar approach could help ease off the development times for newer entries.
14) Greater and Clearer Advertising Push
At time of writing, there's still a lack of Wii U advertising - particularly in the UK - with a handful of promotions during the festive season, but not as much as Sony or Microsoft by any means.
15) Ditch the Wii U Branding in Favour of Wii 2
Nintendo need to really consider keeping the Wii U name going forward, and perhaps settle for a re-launch under the name "Wii 2" to make it absolutely clear that it's the successor console. Just pop on a "Formerly Wii U" on the box and they're set.
What can Nintendo do to bounce back with the Wii U and 3DS over the coming year? Be sure to share your thoughts in our comments section and poll below.