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Nintendo's uphill battle for Wii U success with developers, consumers
Nintendo's uphill battle for Wii U success with developers, consumers Exclusive
June 8, 2012 | By Christian Nutt

June 8, 2012 | By Christian Nutt
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    36 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive, E3



Talking to Nintendo's Charlie Scibetta, Nintendo of America's senior director of corporate communications, it's clear that the company realizes that it has to start from scratch and do what it last did in 2006 -- convince the world that its controller innovation is important.

"It can appeal to people all ranges in terms of their gaming ability," he tells Gamasutra, in an interview conducted at E3, but admits that it's "hard to understand the system until you get your hands on it."

"A big part of our strategy has been and will continue to be trial, getting it in as many people's hands as possible," Scibetta says.

The company seems particularly excited by the concept of "asymmetric multiplayer", in which players with the screen-bearing gamepad have different information and a different role than the players with standard Wii Remotes. This came into play in its multiplayer Nintendo Land demos at E3.

While he was unwilling to talk about the company's specific marketing plans or budget, he does suggest that Nintendo will be trying to get the system recognized by consumers much as it did with the original Wii -- which included spots on mainstream TV shows such as Good Morning America as well as aiming for the traditional hardcore Nintendo gamer. For whatever Wii U "feature we want to push", he says, Nintendo will be selective of the specific audience it's targeting.

He also says that the company will continue its recent strategy of going direct to consumers with announcements, as it did with its E3 conferences, which it streamed on nintendo.com. "What people are most interested in, they can tune in to," he says.

Was he satisfied with the company's E3 showing? "We are happy with the way people are responding to it, but it does take some cycles on our part... to make sure everybody understands it."

"We tried to do as many things as possible during our presentation and videos to explain it to people," he says.

What the company strangely did not do was focus on all of its first-party titles in its E3 conference; for example, the Platinum Games-developed Project P-100 was absent from its E3 press conference, despite being one of only a handful of titles the company had ready to show.

"We're really excited about" P-100, he says, "but we had to make some hard decisions."

Working with Developers

Some of those hard decisions clearly came because the company felt compelled to showcase the lineups of third party partners -- particularly Warner Bros. and Ubisoft. Does this mean the company getting better at communicating with third parties?

"A combination of first and third party games... will make this system have a good launch," Scibetta says. "All these developers and publishers are making games that really take advantage of" the system's unusual new gamepad.

"When a publisher creates a game experience that is custom... that's when you really see the magic happen," he says.

Scibetta is also happy to see ports of games such as Batman: Arkham City and Mass Effect 3 -- "The most important thing is if it takes care of what the system is doing" by using the gamepad, asymmetric multiplayer, and the Miiverse online functionality.

However, Scibetta admits, "the best games are custom-built," so "we give a lot of support" to developers and publishers.

"We want to see their ideas come to life on the system," he says. "And they're excited, because if you're a game developer, you want your game to come to life on the best system possible." The Wii U "gives them options they've never had before," he suggests.

But just as with consumers, it's a bit of an uphill battle to get developers on board, he admits. "It's our job to try and get them to understand why it's cool, it's exciting, and it's new," he says, regarding its Miiverse social online functionality. "And it is new."

What Nintendo Does Have

If there is an advantage for Nintendo, it's that it is Nintendo. More than either of the other platform holders, the company is by developers and for developers (its president, Satoru Iwata, is a former game developer.) The company really believes in its mission to bring innovative fun.

"What the competition does does not influence what we do," says Scibetta. "We really have our own North Star about what we want to create, which is, 'Is it fun, and does it focus on games?'"

When you work at Nintendo, he says, "you know you're a gaming company, you know you're about bringing fun to people, and everything around that is peripheral to it. As long as we stay focused on that core principle, we know we're on track, because that's what the company is all about."


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Comments


David Holmin
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I think it's a bit strange that they don't put more emphasis on the versatility of the system when they're marketing it. The fact is it can do everything the 360 and PS3 can, having the same input options, but also more, using the touch screen and motion sensors. Everything in one package. I guess they want to make people understand the new aspects of it first, but they're failing to remind people of the "standard" capabilities in doing so.

Joe Cooper
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Maybe they don't want to frame the discussion as it being a competitor to the 360 and PS3 right before their successors come out.

Sega brought out the Dreamcast very early and set it up as a competitor to the PSX and '64, and when the other systems came out it was basically forgotten by most.

Luke Quinn
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@Joe Cooper (real name or Baseketball fan?)
You take that back. The Dreamcast is alive and well :)

David Holmin
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@Techni Myoko

"Except games cant stream from the harddrive"

True, but since it's only an optional feature on PS3/360, no games are designed to require it, thus the Wii U will in practice have equal capabilities.

"There is no trophy system"

I didn't know this (is it confirmed?), but I'd almost argue gaming is healthier without a forced trophy system, anyway.

"Older gen games are not upscaled"

Can this be expected? Do PS2 games run on PS3 look better than on PS2??

"You can't use the wiiu gamepad to connect over the internet like RemotePlay"

I don't even know what this means. Care to explain?

"Dont start the trolling trolly"

I'm not trolling. I stated the fact that, from an input & horsepower perspective, Wii U can out-of-the-box do everything PS3/360 can and more, and questioned Nintendo's failing to mention that.

Jonathan Murphy
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The Wii U as far as I know has no internal HDD? Ever try 1080 through an external USB 2.0? It shts the bed. Don't forget the low adoption rates of a $100 HDD right after the $300-$350 console launches. What are next gen digital developers supposed to do? 8gb limit is a joke! My 2002 HDD has more space! Pirates are going to annihilate this console. Look up modded Wii's using external HDDs on youtube.

This is your last chance Nintendo. Put in a HDD. It won't hurt you year 1-2. But year 3-4 you will cry. MS and Sony are aiming to crush you in 2014.

Andrew Maroni
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There's no need for a HDD. Flash memory is faster, uses less energy, makes no noise, and is cheaper to purchase and manufacture. 8 gigs +an expansion slot are more than enough for a disc based console. HDD is slowly becoming an outdated technology as SSD's take over.

Pirates won't annihilate this console any more than they do to every other console on the market.

The 720's specs are only (according to ign) 20% more powerful than the Wii U (aka very little noticeable difference), and SONY is stuck recovering from their PS3 losses and are still on their "10 year PS3 plan". This generation won't be a graphics war, it will be a library and gameplay war, and as we've seen in the past (with the exception of the PS2) Nintendo has always been topping the sales charts. The Wii was a grossly underpowered system yet it outsold the 360 and PS3 by an embarrassing amount.

Point is, Nintendo's not going anywhere, and aren't going to get "crushed" by anyone in the near foreseeable future.

Corey Kay
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"Wii U uses an internal flash memory. It also supports SD memory cards and external USB storage."

Now, the external USB storage part is kind of a mystery, but from what I've read the rumors say this means anything from USB memory sticks to any old external hard drive. That's pretty damn good for storage space. The XBOX 360 doesn't have a hard drive as part of every configuration and yet somehow Microsoft is doing pretty well. If there's one thing everyone should know, it's to not underestimate what Nintendo is capable of.

Jonathan Murphy
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You are underestimating the amount of data 1080p anything pushes through USB 2.0. From someone who uses external HDDs they just aren't reliable for anything other than storage. The adoption rates are going to be low.

You could download Ninja Gaiden day one from the store, hack it to an external HDD to save $50-$60. I predict 10% of all HDD owners will be severely tempted to save thousands of dollars downloading games for free. I agree with other posters. They Dreamcasted themselves.

Merc Hoffner
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The speed thing is patently illogical. Regardless of how slow or fragmentary a user HDD may be, there's no way it would be slower than a bluray disk under just about any circumstance.

Harlan Sumgui
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Nintendo talks a good game, but when it comes down to it they don't deliver.

multiplat devs aren't going to support a console unless it offers a similar feature set to the other two. Currently, the wiiu does this (disc based game streaming is still the norm, hdd not necessary); but serious development is ending on those two systems, and the wiiu cannot keep up with the next sony/ms consoles. That is why Nintendo's big 3rd party announcements were a couple of old games, a gameplay free zombie shooter trailer, and a 2d sidescroller.

Which makes me scratch my head when people defend Ninty as being special or better than other corporations. They pull the same shit. Whether you call it marketing or lying, telling people one thing and doing the opposite is nothing but a cynical business practice. ('we're going after the hardcore gaming, we're going to do what it takes to get 3rd party support").

If E3 is any indication of how they are going to approach things, audience reaction to a Good Morning America/Oprah demo of the WiiU is going to be abysmal.

Cordero W
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" but serious development is ending on those two systems, and the wiiu cannot keep up with the next sony/ms consoles."

What new consoles? They haven't announced anything. Everything is speculation right now. Even the current ps3 and xbox owners do not want a new console. They already invested a bunch load into what they have right now.

"Which makes me scratch my head when people defend Ninty as being special or better than other corporations. They pull the same shit. Whether you call it marketing or lying, telling people one thing and doing the opposite is nothing but a cynical business practice. ('we're going after the hardcore gaming, we're going to do what it takes to get 3rd party support"). "

I think you missed the quote. They said they're going to make the console more core friendly. That still doesn't mean they cater to little kids cursing across the internet and encourage negative feelings that reigns through most violent games.

"If E3 is any indication of how they are going to approach things, audience reaction to a Good Morning America/Oprah demo of the WiiU is going to be abysmal."

E3 is full of mostly the male demographic between the ages of 21 and 40. They don't represent most of the audience that Nintendo is going after.

Nintendo doesn't put bloody screens of death and women moaning on their game promos. They feel that players other than young males need a system they can share with their friends and family without the embarrassment of something like CoD or Uncharted. When kids (the actual core audience), go to pick up a system, Nintendo will be the best bet for parents that are mostly concerned about what their kids watch and use. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of parents still care about their children.

Harlan Sumgui
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-what new consoles?
dev kits are out
-e3 reaction:
the audience I was writing about was the one at the the Nitendo reveal; you know vip's, journos, and Nintendo fans.
-children.
so your advice to Nintendo is to make and market a device for children, which is what they have done. I have no problem with that. My problem is when they use deceptive marketing to target other demos. But that is de rigueur amongst public corporations today: if you can't provide true value to your customers, bump up the marketing budget and use more aggressive PR.

Joe Zachery
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Reading some of the anti Nintendo comments is laughable. People most have witness a entirely different last 2 generations. Even though Sony's PS2 out sold the Gamecube by almost 7 times world wide. Nintendo still made more money in the generation than Sony. Their decision this generation once again made Nintendo the company with the most market share, and money made. Look at the best selling games this generation all by Nintendo, and some of the most successful new IP were on the Wii. Even if the so called core at E3 once again want to shone Nintendo. Nintendo knows that their audience will still get what they are doing.
Last time I checked 3rd party companies are going bankrupt left and right. More games are flopping year after year. If developers really feel that they can survive with out bring their games to the Wii U. Then I hope they have already applied for food stamps. Nintendo is the only company that could survive in the market by depending on themselves. Ask Microsoft and Sony how great their market share would be with Call of Duty, and other 3rd party games. Just like the DS, and 3DS once you get the games out that show what your trying to do. I believe Nintendo's Wii U will find it's place in people's home as a great gaming console. Something that the others haven't wanted to design at all.

Isaac Chandler
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Companies can survive without bringing their titles to the Wii U, just like companies survived without bringing their games to the Wii. The idea that a developers wont survive without a specific console is ignorant at best.

Raymond Grier
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"Look at the best selling games this generation all by Nintendo, and some of the most successful new IP were on the Wii."
"Ask Microsoft and Sony how great their market share would be with[out] Call of Duty, and other 3rd party games."

You touch on a point I like to share with people sometimes. Nintendo has a lot of self-owned IP, much of which is highly successful and can sell sequels easily even when they don't live up to their predecessors. What IP does SOny and Microsoft own? Do they own their own equivalent of Mario that can do action/puzzle games and then race a car (most kart knock offs aren't good) then play golf or go to the Olympics and still spawn multiple sub-franchises (Yoshi/DK/Warioware). They don't have that and it's intuitive that they should try to have such rich IP. They need their equivalent to Mr.Miyamoto but they don't have one yet.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Adam Bishop
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And the DS, for that matter. When I first heard about the DS I thought it was a terrible idea; why would I want to play games with a stylus instead of buttons? But it turns out that the DS was a fantastic handheld with a terrific library of games. So yeah, I've also learned not to underestimate what Nintendo can do with new hardware.

Kenneth Wesley
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I really hope third-parties just put their best content on a Nintendo console only for financial reasons. The Wii wasn't just a challenge to traditional console games, it was an avenue for developers to make their games without having astronomical budgets-a challenge many third-parties never wanted meet.

How many talented studios were shut down to rising costs? How many would've stayed opened if they decided to focus on porting up from the Wii. Look at what succeeded financially: super big triple-A titles, free-to-play and browser based games, and Nintendo. The Wii had some extremely entertaining niche titles, showing there's still a market for studios for don't need a million copies sold to break even and stay afloat. I just hope the industry doesn't lose more studios due to a need to take from the same expensive pie.

Leon T
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I think the writing is already on the wall. Third parties will just use the " game has to be unique" excuss for not supporting the Wii U. You can already see that with the Wii U not getting the new Tomb Raider.

Rodrigo Dotto
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Yes, that's why DS and 3DS have no support, right?

Kenneth Wesley
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@Rodrigo-article's not about the 3DS/DS-its about the WiiU

Rodrigo Dotto
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@Kenneth Wesley
I think you missed my point. I was answering to Leon Terry that it's not because a system is unique that developers are not going to support it.

A W
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@Leon,
I don't think the New Tomb Raider is ready for prime time yet. Also, there is still nothing to say that at some later date it won't be on the Wii U.

Leon T
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I'm going by what is said and shown now. From the recent news it seems third parties have more titles to announce. I'm still not expecting strong support. I hope to be wrong.

Samuel Batista
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Not a single person commenting on the potential of the "asymmetric" multiplayer gameplay that Nintendo was lauding at E3. I'm personally very excited about this, one of my favorite games for the GameCube and Gameboy Advance was Zelda 4 Swords, which allowed each player to play together, but not sacrifice any TV screen real-estate. Each player had a full experience, and could see where everyone else was at all times. I'm hoping at some point players with a 3DS can all play together with players using the WiiU gamepad. Local multiplayer is where Nintendo has always been superior to their competitors, and I'm hoping they push that advantage as far as they can and provide gamers and their friends with games everyone can enjoy together.

I'm completely tired of the toxic community of immature and egotistical young kids that have flooded the Xbox LIVE in the past few years. Microsoft and Sony aren't interested in making great Local multiplayer experiences, they just want to get as many people as possible to sign up for their premium online subscriptions: Xbox LIVE and PSN Plus. Microsoft in particular is all about the online these days.

I loved the idea of connecting with random strangers that share my love for games back when Halo 2 came out. Now everyone seems interested in fragging all the noobs and filling up their ego by making others have a terrible experience. Nintendo has a chance to reclaim my allegiance and my business if they put out great games with great multiplayer experiences.

Ardney Carter
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Dictionary.com is your friend. He's referring to the potential of only a single user with a Gamepad and the rest using Wiimotes/classic controllers.

Justin Nafziger
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What stops Xbox, Playstation, Windows, or iOS from offering "asymmetric" multiplayer? Or even the existing Wii?

Now you can argue that a second screen helps with "asymmetric" multiplayer, but that's only true for a subset of "asymmetric" multiplayer games: ones that want to provide one player with information that the other players don't have access to.

John Flush
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I was really looking forward to having an amazing local-multiplayer experience, but unfortunately the device only supports 2 tablets, and they are 'dumb' tablets at that, just screens that you stream data too. This isn't the multiplayer experience I was looking for.

I think the barrier of entrance is still to high for true "asymmetric" local multiplayer and the console surely isn't powerful enough to handle 4 or so people at a time with that architecture design.

I wish they would have passed the computation to the device and let us use the 3DS as another controller. The reason it hasn't taken off in the past (which they have tried to do with the GC GBA connection) is it didn't come standard with the console, so it was hard to justify developing for.

Maria Jayne
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That controller bothers me, the console is only shipping with one, as far as I can tell. That means from a childs perspective, you or your friend, are going to be using the "crap controller". Secondly, with that lcd screen it would appear to be expensive and easy to step on.

I can't help feeling, if you have to teach your consumers and developers why your product is exciting after 2 E3 shows and little enthusiasm. That would be a concern for it's future. The Wii was popular with kids and adults who did exercise or drunken games in groups. Most of those consoles are now packed away somewhere gathering dust. This would seem to be more aimed at traditional gamers, however traditional gamers seemed to distance themselves from the Wii so getting them back might not be that easy.

Ian Uniacke
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Here is some purely anecdotal data for you: Last night my 2 kids were playing a video game with my son controlling the mouse and my daughter controlling the keyboard. They were having a blast. In fact this wasn't even an "asynchronous" game but they made it so. Seems to me like you may be jumping the gun on this.

Rodrigo Dotto
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It's incredible how a supposed specialized media can't understand what wii U is. People have been living together with DS for years and can't understand the concept of gaming with 2 screens (one touch sensitive) and the possibilities it creates? It's even worse, there has been having 2 screen games since game and watch!

This is the first generation launch I'm following more closely and it's ridiculous the amount of payed articles that have been circulating around mistreating wii U and the comparisons microsoft and sony have been making with its smart glass and ps3 + ps vita bundle to wii U or even comparing wii U controller with tablets, which is something completely different.

kevin williams
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The best exemplar of corporate failure are the following:

-accusation
-denial
-anger

At present we see after the abysmal E3'12 press event Nintendo exhibiting the first; claiming that the trade needs to "wait and see" or that there is nothing to the questions being raised. The denial is also starting, taking two forms - the first the denial of information, hiding the information regarding the online structure of the new console, as well as the denial of information to their journos that did not give glowing coverage of their E3 farce.

So now we wait for the anger - and we know that Nintendo PR can be vindictive and petty - I feel for those writers that brave to speak their minds about the reality of what the Wii-U stands for. Remember how few reported the problems with the original Wii motion control that forced the development of the Wii-MotePLUS!!

Ian Uniacke
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It must be wonderful to be able to travel from a parallel dimension to offer your views. I for one am curious about a world in which any of the things you said were reality.

A W
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What are you talking about? Vindictive Nintendo? Really!? Enlighten use all what is the reality of the Wii U stands for? I saw a gaming console, so I must be a dunce to the reality.

Jr Hawkins
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I feel like Nintendo has a lot of good ideas, but is defiantly lacking execution. The WiiU defiantly seems to be suffering from feature creep at this point in time.

As far as success in next gen Nintendo is in a good place. The current generation has been long and consumers are showing signs of wanting new consoles despite the economy. Typically in this situation the first out the gate has the best chance of being the dominant console. There are a few areas though where Nintendo could stumble and it would be devastating. First off is the price point. If Nintendo prices the WiiU too high it could scare off gamers, and basically put them behind Sony and MS when they release their consoles in 2013 (assuming). The other thing is Nintendo has to predict what consumers want next gen better than their competitors. For example MS bet big on online for the 360 and it payed off. While Nintendo has the ability to create something novel they don't really have the ability to assess it's value to western gamers so it tends to be a crapshoot more than anything else.

Raymond Grier
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The original Wii still has a lot of fans. The Wii U can do everything the Wii does and more, and better. All new TV console games using Nintendo's own IP will be for Wii U. Touch screens add lots of potential to games. If you don't compare to XBOX or PS then it sounds pretty good and the Wii proved you don;t have to compete with competitor's specs to win market share. The Wii U is awesome and I was really happy to see that Pikmin 3 demo, YAY!!! :D


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