Could Nintendo make a comeback with the Wii U?

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If you'd asked me this question six months ago, I'd have said you were crazy, of course Nintendo can't. I'd have told you the Wii U was dead and all I was doing was waiting for the call to go out and I'd pick one up and a bunch of games for cheap, like I was channelling the HD DVD opportunists of years gone by. But today, the question is much more interesting.

It's not because suddenly Wii Us are flying off the shelves, or because Nintendo announced some new big property, but on the eve of the release of Mario Kart 8, a game that's received some mighty fine reviews and with the current climate of the Xbox One and PS4, things could get very interesting with a few key moves and a bit of luck on Nintendo's part.

So do I think Nintendo can turn it around? Yes I do and here's a few things that could happen in the next few months which would really help that happen.

Have a successful Mario Kart launch

Mario Kart 8 is only about the second game that Nintendo has released since the start of the Wii U's life – the first being the New Super Mario Bros and maybe Zelda: Wind Waker HD if you're being kind – that you could really call a system seller. As a long time fan favourite and one of the company's flagship franchises that has continued to deliver year on year and generation on generation, it's bound to shift a few Wii Us for longtime Nintendo fans.

It's also likely to sell a lot of copies to existing Wii U owners. While there's only about 6,000,000 of them worldwide, a few million copies sold would certainly help retailers feel like stocking Wii U hardware and software is a good idea again and that can easily snowball. Added exposure means more sales, more sales means more exposure and so on.

Mario Kart 8 isn't going to turn things around on its own, but if the launch is a big one that shifts units of the game and the console, it could be a tipping point in the Wii U's lifecycle.

Be the most competitive on pricing

As it stands, the Wii U is the cheapest of the three big home consoles. While that's not enough of a selling point on its own to get people to buy a Nintendo console instead of Microsoft's or Sony's, it should be enough to make it the second system of choice, especially when the other two are basically the same (though one is more powerful than the other) with very comparable features and games. The Wii U on the other hand, is just different enough with its usual Nintendo exclusives, to make it a viable second machine – and the lower the price, the more people will see it as such.

Currently you can find the low end Wii U at $245 on Amazon, or the Deluxe Mario and Luigi version for $272. That's pretty good considering each of its competitors are at least $400 a piece. If Nintendo can get that price down to $200 with a game, even at a loss, then I think it would really start to shift some systems, just because HD gaming at that price (which let's face it, neither of its competitors are able to do reliably) is almost a must have for any gamer, especially if you've ever had a drunken Mario Kart session, which if you're in your 20s you undoubtedly have.

With Nintendo's big cash reserves, I think it should consider taking a bit hit on the Wii U while it brings the cost of development down, just to get units out there. A $200 price tag would go a long way to doing that. Hell it's better to sell consoles cheaply than not sell them at all.

Make a big, headline grabbing announcement at E3

One of the big problems with the Wii U, is no one is talking about it. Mario Kart 8 is one of the best reviewed games of the year and its release is a week away and nobody cares. It did well in the press when the embargo lifted the other day, but other than that, unless you're visiting Nintendo specific sites, no one is talking about the Wii U.

Which is why this year's E3 needs to be a big one for the company. There's a few expected announcements it'll make, like perhaps show off some more Smash Bros (not set for release until later this year) and chances are it'll announce a new Metroid game because that always sells, but it needs something bigger and surprising if it's going to really grab headlines for a week or two, which would help people remember the Wii U exists and get them thinking of it as a viable purchase option instead of anything but.

But what could that big announcement be? Clearly I'm not the only one hoping Nintendo will go all in and give us the Pokemon RPG/MMO we've always been after, especially since the company has finally nailed the online experience, at least compared to its previous efforts on the Wii.

Pokken Fighters could be a nice middle ground, which for those who've not heard, is a rumoured Pokemon beat'em up Nintendo is apparently working on.

What else? Hell I don't know, what about that Dungeons and Dragons style game that Penny Arcade dreampt up way back when?

A few killer games like that to get people talking, a price drop to make it too attractive a purchase to miss out on and a decent kickstart from a game like Mario Kart and Nintendo could very well be back in business. It's unlikely to be the big generation king like the Wii was last time around, but it stands a good chance of playing second fiddle to the PS4, which looks likely to snowball its way to victory this gen.

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Comments

Interesting but doubtable

Good article, interesting read. Can't say I agree though. Mainly to me is hardware, everyone knows now that the Wii U is the weakest hardware on the market, just look at the huge show taking place between Sony and M$ just over the small power difference between their consoles, the Wii U isn't even in the same ball park as those two hardware wise. However I do agree that Nintendo has a habit of pulling fantastic titles out of the hat. I have no doubt there will be a mountain of Mario titles which are going to be great. However I doubt Nintendo will have something mindblowing at E3, they'll have their usual show but don't forget Nintendo is putting a lot of emphasis on actually withdrawing from E3. Not in the sense of not being there of course, but from what I've been reading they want to conduct their own Nintendo expo which would imply they're more concerned with putting on a show of their own. Price is where things get complicated in my mind, but it seems to be just me. It seems to me a LOT of people have already forgotten Valves Steam Machines. Which is sad because I think there's a lot of potential there. If Valve hits the console market Price competition will be brutal because Steam sales will come to the console market, not to mention that the Steam Machine will be more powerful than ANY console on the market. So you'll have the most powerful piece of hardware, the only 'console' truly able to tackle 4k gaming, AND it will have some of the lowest software prices on the market. Pit that against the weakest console on the market and it comes down to what people can afford I think. Better hardware or lesser hardware, mind blowing bleeding edge gaming or out dated hardware with Mario. I'm not saying that as a bad thing honestly, Mario is typically so good it doesn't NEED bleeding edge technology. However, a single franchise or even five isn't enough to carry a console for me, that's why i don't own a Wii or Wii U now. It will be interesting to see where things go, especially since I'm hearing rumors Nintendo might be presenting new hardware in the next year or so because they're already considering abandoning ship. In the end what saddens me is that people seem to have already forgotten about Steam machines, even though they pose the greatest gain for consumers over all the other options in terms of bang for your buck. The initial high hardware investment actually leads to serious savings when you look at the price of software on Steam, the more you game the greater the savings on Steam. But we will see, I have a feeling this console generation will not turn out how anyone predicts. Xbox has dropped the ball entirely, PS has done well but they aren't stellar, after all Watch Dogs will only run at 900, and Nintendo has all but sunk at this point. This gaming generation is pretty weak, we have just started and we're already running in major limitations. Entering into HD with a stumble was LAST generation, I'm really really disappointed that this one has just started and the list of non-full HD games just keeps growing. Feels like a step backwards to me just because we don't seem to be much further along than the last generation, the last few generations felt like major leaps in technology but this one feels more like a side step. I was expecting this generation to be all about 4k gaming since it's just around the bend, but instead it isn't even a solid 1k performance, we're already running into resolution walls and memory limitations. However Steam Machines will remove all of those problems.

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