Monday, March 25, 2013

Wii U Isn't Doomed, But Here's How to Sell It Better

It's no secret that the Wii U's sales haven't been the greatest. Perhaps it's because the huge market of so called "casual" gamers that the Wii and DS tapped into are already satisfied with (or bored with) their Wiis and DSs, or have settled for the mediocre but playable selection of games on iOS. Then there's the possibility that many of the "hardcore" gamers who have been playing games all their lives feel a bit alienated by Nintendo's seemingly "casual"-centric strategy with the Wii (unfairly so, because there were a ton of great games on the Wii, though I can understand complaints of so-so online play). There's also the theory that people are getting confused by the name and thinking that the Wii U is simply an add-on to the Wii. More likely, I think, is that casual gamers haven't even heard of it. Whatever the reason for the Wii U's slow adoption, it's causing many to predict doom for Nintendo [again]. I very much doubt that Nintendo is doomed at all. The 3DS went through the same period of poor sales, but now that it has more games, its popularity and sales have increased dramatically. I expect that the Wii U will do the same once it has more games available at the end of this year. But apart from the obvious strategy of releasing more games, here are a few other ideas for how to sell the Wii U.

Better Demos
15 featured titles and only one playable. That's a problem. (image source: egmnow)
There have been Wii U demo kiosks in stores since its launch, but the only playable demo on them so far is Rayman Legends. Don't get me wrong, Rayman Legends looks to be a fantastic game, but apart from the gimmicky GamePad levels, it fails to show why anyone should buy a Wii U. The graphics are great, but they'd be just as great on a PS3 or 360, and as I said, the segments utilizing the touch screen aren't really that exciting. The reason so many people were eager to buy the Wii when it came out was because of Wii Sports. It was simple, but it showed off what the console could do that others couldn't. There weren't many (any?) demos of Wii Sports either, but once people tried it on their friends' Wiis, its popularity spread quickly. For Wii U, the equivalent is Nintendo Land, and it's even better than Wii Sports. And so it boggles my mind as to why there are no playable demos of it available in stores. Nintendo Land is a system selling game and to sell the Wii U, people need to play it.
My friends and I played Nintendo Land for hours. Why don't more people know about it?

Unfortunately, we can't just stop with a Nintendo Land demo, because apparently there are a number of closed minded gamers out there who will only play gritty shooters that make them feel manly. Just for them, Nintendo ought to throw in a Call of Duty demo or some similarly high profile 3rd party game just to show that they exist and that the Wii U can handle them a little differently. The demo might not show it off that well, but being able to play games on the GamePad while the TV is in use and play local multiplayer with one player on the GamePad and one on the TV are benefits worth considering when buying a multi-platform game and should be advertised as such.

Better Advertising
There has been some Wii U advertising, but I mostly saw it around the console's launch and haven't seen much since. Unfortunately, advertisements can't quite capture the fun factor of something like Wii or Wii U. That fun factor of playing with friends and family in local multiplayer is what will ultimately sell the console (that, and more games). So what the advertisements need to do is raise awareness that the console exists and that it is a new machine entirely, not just a new game or controller; and also show off some of the games and what the controller can do in them. I don't imagine that commercials by themselves will sell many consoles, but once there area few more in the hands of gamers, word of mouth and hands on experience will sell more. 
Miiverse drawings shared by friends are free advertising for Nintendo, and more influential than TV ads.
The power of word of mouth could be further taken advantage of by encouraging Wii U owners to share their Miiverse posts to Facebook and other social networks. For those who don't know, Miiverse is the Wii U's built in message board system which allows you to type comments, draw pictures, and post screenshots in different gaming communities. It's a surprisingly enjoyable feature and showing that and other small features off is also important. One of my friends on Facebook frequently shares awesome drawings that he has posted to the Miiverse and I couldn't help but think that this guy was getting his money's worth out of the console from that alone. So in addition to the console itself, Nintendo needs to show off its many smaller features like Miiverse, TVii, and Google Street View.

Drop the Price
Right now, the Wii U is in a similar place as the 3DS was in the year following its launch. It doesn't have many games and the price is a bit higher than many are willing to pay. For good reason people are waiting to make their purchase. Now, the 3DS is finding much greater success due to its expanding library of games and a price drop. I expect that Nintendo will follow the same strategy for the Wii U as they did for the 3DS. First, early adopters are being rewarded with 30 cent games on virtual console just like 3DS early adopters were rewarded with the Ambassador Program. Second, more games will be released, so that by this Christmas there should be enough games available to make buying the console worthwhile. Thirdly, I expect the price to drop by $50 or so, either before Christmas or in the beginning of 2014. I think that a price drop or more enticing bundles would get a significant number of new customers to take the plunge with Wii U. It would also cause parents who plan to buy a console for their children for Christmas to be more keen on choosing a Wii U over a Playstation 4.

Get Hacked
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I know. Nintendo would never intentionally let their console get hacked and they shouldn't. The hackability of the Wii opened up lots of helpful functionality including custom Mario Kart tracks, New Super Mario Bros. and Smash Bros. levels, and the ability to play foreign games. Unfortunately, it also makes it easy to pirate games. Nevertheless, a hackable Wii U would surely generate some interest and more sales. Admittedly, it would probably hurt software sales and the online community (due to potential for cheating), but this article isn't about software sales, now is it?

The bottom line is that Nintendo and the Wii U are not doomed to failure; at least not this generation. Like the 3DS, sales will pick up once the games arrive, so stop worrying about it and just enjoy the games you have instead of starting console wars.
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