So, there are lots of things wrong with the Wii U. Marketing has been confusing, the games have come slowly, third party support is gone, the asking price is too high and the tech is too old. Nintendo doesn't have a problem that people need to insightfully boil things down to; they have a large, unlabeled umbrella full of issues collected like so many undesirable Pokemon.
That's the lens the rest of this article and the points I make needs to be viewed though. No one thing being fixed will do all the work.
So, now that that's out of the way, I wanna talk about "wow" factor and how Nintendo doesn't have any of it.
The way I see it there are 3 kinds of positive reactions to seeing a new game.
Reaction #1: High Excitement - or, the Halo effect.
Everyone who saw Mario 64 for the first time thought the same thing, "I want this. Now." We didn't weigh how much we REALLY wanted an N64, how expensive it might be, or how many other things we could buy instead. We needed Mario 64. Plain and simple.
Amazing exclusives can do that. They can make it so you don't care that you already have two other (expensive and current) game consoles. You need to play Halo and it will be worth it. So you save and do without and you get your new system, even if only to play this one perfect game.
This is the best excitement you can have in the whole hobby; the kind that promises you'll remember why you started playing in the first place.
Reaction #2: Medium Excitement - or, the games that end up on my best of list for the year.
If games like Super Mario Bros. and Grand Theft Auto III are the reasons you play in the first place than these games are the reasons you don't stop in between. These are great games and for some people they may even encourage the same level of excitement that the very best do.
Mostly though, you might agonize over it from time to time, you'll be a little envious of your friends who play them, but you won't buy a new system to do it yourself. Maybe one day, when the price goes down on the machine, then you'll get them. But until then you'll play something else.
Reaction #3: Low Excitement - or, I hear it's good but...ehhh.
This is the ugly one. These games are from a series you generally like or from a development studio that usually comes through. These games may even get good review scores but you can't help but feel tired just looking at them. You might even swear you played them already. You know that you'll probably pick them up. Someday, sure, but definitely not at full price and definitely not while you have so many responsibilities and other games you're excited to play.
And that brings me to Nintendo. All of the games they have made for the Wii U, fall into the second and third categories. Games that people will play if they have already picked up a Wii U or may play someday when it costs 100 bucks to get one.
This is what the general populace thinks when they are shown why they need to get a Wii U:
- New Super Mario Bros: U "Didn't I just play that?...and did I just spend 400 bucks to play a DS game on my big screen HD TV?
- Wind Waker HD: "Isn't it a game I played years ago?."
- Mario 3D World: "May be great but, at first glance, it's every Mario I've already played since Mario 64 . And the Cat suit? Nice try Nintendo but I'm pretty sure he had that already..."
- Donkey Kong: "It's an HD version of a game that could be done on the 3DS."
- Mario Kart 8: "My friend with the Wii U says it's awesome but I definitely played 7 like, a year ago."
- Pikmin 3: "What's that? It's a gardening strategy game? Oh ok. Yeah, I'm probably good actually."
Nintendo needs to ask themselves, not what great games can they make, that they will pretty much always do, but what angle (even gimmick) can they use to entice people to them. Pokemon X/Y were really good games but they had a great excitement generator in being 3D. It was a "wow" factor moment for the series and the system. So people bought it and if they needed a 3DS they bought that too.
Fixing one thing won't fix everything but showing off games that make people really excited for a system they don't have will do wonders.