To get the usual introductions out of the way, let it be said that I don't think anyone can't say that the Wii U's first year has been nothing if not a tremendously steep uphill climb. The system saw some moderate success when it first launched, but like with Monster Hunter 3, the sales seemed to plateau pretty quickly. Around half a year later, the Wii U is still struggling with the launches of two new systems now imminent, making its success (or lack thereof) a fairly large question mark.
So I thought I'd take the time to address the issues and hopefully provide what I think would be a quality followup and how it could be more successful.
1. Drop the Wii label.
The casual audience has moved on and the more core/online audience doesn't care. The Wii label was not really helpful when Wii itself was fizzling out, so it begs the question as to why Nintendo felt they really could hold onto that spark and get more juice out of it. Perhaps they felt they could revitalize the brand and get more people into the system. It's not difficult to see they were aiming for some sort of middle ground between core and casual, opting for less Wii-centric games and focusing more so on front-runner titles like Mario and Zelda. In this sense, a new label is in order.
Mega Nintendo? Ultra Nintendo? How about Nintendo 128? Something classic, eye-catching, a throwback to the older days to wheel in the older fans. Something that isn't Wii; because heaven knows that hasn't helped Wii U.
2. Keep the Wii U gamepad tech and keep all previous controllers compatible.
Regardless of what anyone says, I still think the Wii U gamepad is an excellent controller. One problem though; it is one of Wii U's Achilles' heels. The gamepad (according to Miyamoto's words) would jack up the price of either the PS4 or Xbox One by $100 (article is posted below this paragraph). If that's the case with Wii U, then the console's hardware is likely worth $200. Herein lies a problem; the gamepad, while cool, was too expensive. The tech should have been cheaper before implementation (though this theory could reaffirm Nintendo's rush to get Wii U out a year earlier than its competition).
Back to the gamepad itself, the interesting thing is while there are many gamers who believe in the classic style controller (and power to them for it) there are those (like myself) who appreciate the other, more obscure methods of play and enjoy having the option. The Wii U gamepad's most appealing function to me is off-TV play. Being able to move the game over to my controller like a handheld is quite crafty in its own right and while not everyone seems to appreciate the function, you'll notice a lot of fans excited for cross-play/remote play for Vita and some even for the use of Smartglass for Xbox products. Dual screen gaming is becoming as integral to consoles as motion control have become; they are nice and convenient option for those who want them.
Which brings me back to my main point; anything the Wii U does, the new Nintendo console should do as well. Keep Wiimotes, Pro controllers and other such peripherals compatible for the devs who wish to use them. This will offer greater variety in game development ideas and allow players to maintain a sense of comfortableness with the games they play. The gamepad itself should should probably remain optional for those who enjoy off-TV play. Making GCN controllers compatible again would be a nice gesture, but fairly unnecessary because of the Pro controller's availability. With all of this in mind, all of the tech for these controllers will be much cheaper by the end of the generation, particularly the Wiimotes. Keeping them compatible should cost very little for Nintendo and be nothing but beneficial for the next console.
3. Want to make the system $350 again? Focus on the damn hardware!
If there is one thing that's frustrating about Wii U it's that there's a lot of back and forth on its raw power as a console and whether or not it can hold up to the upcoming consoles (and often even the older, much more dated ones).
Obviously the Wii U cannot produce what the PS4 can at max, but it still has the juice to make some decent looking games and even render a few of them at full HD. Zelda WW HD, Mario and Smash Bros. being the notable examples.
But that's the thing here; this time the graphical change should at least be more noticeable, especially if you're trying to mooch off of the Xbox/Playstation crowd. Rather than focus on a controller design that will floor audiences (and naturally create more expenses), Nintendo's next console should have a little more focus on its hardware, making sure that the next time a developer says "We're not releasing this on Nintendo's platform" the reason cannot be because of lower scale technology.
With Wii U, we're not sure what exactly it's capable of because of its custom parts and how no one can seem to make heads or tails of them. Most of what we heard is the GPU is quite strong, but the CPU is lacking. To top this off, the system has about a fourth of the RAM the PS4 and Xbox One have and the Wii U can only use half of that for games to boot.
So here's my solution; focus on keeping all other aspects of the console cheap; controllers, aesthetics, all of those things should come AFTER the hardware. The hardware itself should have an emphasis on not only what makes you (Nintendo) comfortable, but also a way to make development easier for the devs who rely on higher quality CPUs and RAM. These components can be made cheaper and cheaper (slash off the $100 gamepad and you're looking at a fairly decent price for the Wii U), but for the sake of being able to at least have the ability to possess the same game library as your competition (yes, I say competition if you're trying to appeal to us big gamers) then it will be worth what extra you need to pay for it.
So to recap...
1. Drop the Wii label; it's just not appealing to many people anymore.
2. Keep the current controller compatibility. It'll be cheap to manufacture and it gives your customers more options.
3. Focus efforts on hardware if the budget calls for it.
Like with the Gamecube, Nintendo's definitely capable of creating an affordable and yet up to speed machine. Now that the light and fluffy Wii label's appeal is diminished, it's time for a brand new direction. Should Nintendo choose to honor another half decade commitment to their current console, or bail out Virtual Boy style remains to be seen. But I do feel some changes are definitely necessary for generation nine.
Just my thoughts anyway. What are yours?