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Width vs. Depth: Nintendo's New Interest in Fans

If you're to believe Satoru Iwata's rhetoric, Wii U will be for the core. Mostly.

There were plenty of terrific consoles games released for Wii I’m guessing most people never played. I accept that.

Zach & Wiki. LostWinds. Bit.Trip. Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. Kirby's Epic Yarn. No More Heroes. Donkey Kong Country Returns. Rhythm Heaven Fever. World of Goo. Xenoblade Chronicles. Little King's Story. Nyx Quest. And Yet It Moves. Swords & Soldiers. Cave Story. Fluidity. Many came to other platforms, but they were on Wii first.

Once Wii became known as a console for the masses, it was tough for Nintendo to shake that perception. Of course, Nintendo didn’t do enough to push back against it, either.

If you believe Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, that lesson has been learned, as Wii U's launch unveiling looms. Iwata outlined his feelings on the future of Nintendo in a Q&A session with investors, published today in English.

With Microsoft and Sony's next hardware likely set for 2013, all eyes are on Iwata at E3.

“Regrettably, what we prioritized [on Wii] in order to reach out to the new audience was a bit too far from what we prioritized for those who play games as their hobby,” said Iwata.

Nintendo announced Wii U at E3 last year, and while I found the machine promising, the overall reception was muted. It wasn’t a technological showcase, there wasn’t much more than demos (albeit interesting ones), and it seemed to have a little too much in common with an iPad. It will be introduced again at E3 next month.

If we’re to assume the overall industry tide is turning against Nintendo, one way Nintendo can hang on is by doubling down on its fans. That wasn’t Nintendo’s strategy when 3DS launched, a symptom of the company’s arrogance with the platform. When 3DS experienced a slow start, who did it appeal to? The fans. And that’s going to be the same strategy with Wii U, except it’s going to happen much faster this time.

It will be a balancing act, though.

While Iwata admitted it lost devoted fans over the last few years, expanding the games to a wider audience is important to Nintendo. 3DS' launch lineup consisted mostly of a gimmick, and it created momentum through placating to the hardcore. It has not, however, found itself the same mainstream gold that was Brain Age or Wii Fit.

“We are making efforts so that we will be able to make several proposals even from the launch period that can eventually become evergreen titles for the Wii U,” said Iwata. “We have learned the lesson that we have to make that kind of preparation for the Wii U, or the Wii U will not gain enough momentum to expand its sales.”

Iwata explained this balancing act as width and depth. Width represents the expansion of possible consumers, the kinds of users who wouldn’t call themselves “gamers.” Depth is the realm of the gaming hobbyist, the player who will happily spend dozens of hours engrossed in game worlds. There wasn't enough depth on Wii, he argued.

“With the Nintendo DS and the Wii,” said Iwata, “the approach of ‘width’ was well accepted by many people; however, what we did in terms of ‘depth’ was not satisfactory for some consumers.”

Nintendo has not produced a Wii Sports or Brain Age equivalent since, but Iwata says it's on it.

Nintendo reached more customers with DS and Wii, but that came at a price, especially when it came to perception with the devoted.

“Once consumers have a notion that ‘this system is not for us,’ we have learned that it is extremely difficult to change their perceptions later,” he said.

Many of those players never came back, and allowed their Wii to collect dust. But it's safe to assume they remain Nintendo fans.

Cue the hyperbole, right? Wii U will launch with a new Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Super Smash Bros simultaneously! Probably not, and Iwata cautioned against expecting too much right out of the gate.

“There is always a limit to our internal resources,” he said. “The company now has to develop software for the Nintendo 3DS, has to prepare for the Wii U launch and has to finalize the hardware functionalities. With these circumstances in mind, if I said that an overwhelmingly rich software lineup would be prepared from day one, it would be too much of a promise to make.”

Hopefully, he's just tempering buzz. Nintendo needs a thunderous, excited fan base coming out of E3.

3DS has become a bit of a rolling thunder, especially if you’re paying attention to the eShop. In short: quality software on a regular basis. Whether Nintendo can find phenomenon-level repeat success with Wii U won’t be known for months, but we do know Nintendo can still make terrific software, and it appears prepared to unleash that weapon.

E3 is just a few weeks away.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek

There were plenty of terrific consoles games released for Wii I’m guessing most people never played. I accept that.

Zach & Wiki. LostWinds. Bit.Trip. Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. Kirby's Epic Yarn. No More Heroes. Donkey Kong Country Returns. Rhythm Heaven Fever. World of Goo. Xenoblade Chronicles. Little King's Story. Nyx Quest. And Yet It Moves. Swords & Soldiers. Cave Story. Fluidity. Many came to other platforms, but they were on Wii first.

Once Wii became known as a console for the masses, it was tough for Nintendo to shake that perception. Of course, Nintendo didn’t do enough to push back against it, either.

If you believe Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, that lesson has been learned, as Wii U's launch unveiling looms. Iwata outlined his feelings on the future of Nintendo in a Q&A session with investors, published today in English.

With Microsoft and Sony's next hardware likely set for 2013, all eyes are on Iwata at E3.

“Regrettably, what we prioritized [on Wii] in order to reach out to the new audience was a bit too far from what we prioritized for those who play games as their hobby,” said Iwata.

Nintendo announced Wii U at E3 last year, and while I found the machine promising, the overall reception was muted. It wasn’t a technological showcase, there wasn’t much more than demos (albeit interesting ones), and it seemed to have a little too much in common with an iPad. It will be introduced again at E3 next month.

If we’re to assume the overall industry tide is turning against Nintendo, one way Nintendo can hang on is by doubling down on its fans. That wasn’t Nintendo’s strategy when 3DS launched, a symptom of the company’s arrogance with the platform. When 3DS experienced a slow start, who did it appeal to? The fans. And that’s going to be the same strategy with Wii U, except it’s going to happen much faster this time.

It will be a balancing act, though.

While Iwata admitted it lost devoted fans over the last few years, expanding the games to a wider audience is important to Nintendo. 3DS' launch lineup consisted mostly of a gimmick, and it created momentum through placating to the hardcore. It has not, however, found itself the same mainstream gold that was Brain Age or Wii Fit.

“We are making efforts so that we will be able to make several proposals even from the launch period that can eventually become evergreen titles for the Wii U,” said Iwata. “We have learned the lesson that we have to make that kind of preparation for the Wii U, or the Wii U will not gain enough momentum to expand its sales.”

Iwata explained this balancing act as width and depth. Width represents the expansion of possible consumers, the kinds of users who wouldn’t call themselves “gamers.” Depth is the realm of the gaming hobbyist, the player who will happily spend dozens of hours engrossed in game worlds. There wasn't enough depth on Wii, he argued.

“With the Nintendo DS and the Wii,” said Iwata, “the approach of ‘width’ was well accepted by many people; however, what we did in terms of ‘depth’ was not satisfactory for some consumers.”

Nintendo has not produced a Wii Sports or Brain Age equivalent since, but Iwata says it's on it.

Nintendo reached more customers with DS and Wii, but that came at a price, especially when it came to perception with the devoted.

“Once consumers have a notion that ‘this system is not for us,’ we have learned that it is extremely difficult to change their perceptions later,” he said.

Many of those players never came back, and allowed their Wii to collect dust. But it's safe to assume they remain Nintendo fans.

Cue the hyperbole, right? Wii U will launch with a new Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Super Smash Bros simultaneously! Probably not, and Iwata cautioned against expecting too much right out of the gate.

“There is always a limit to our internal resources,” he said. “The company now has to develop software for the Nintendo 3DS, has to prepare for the Wii U launch and has to finalize the hardware functionalities. With these circumstances in mind, if I said that an overwhelmingly rich software lineup would be prepared from day one, it would be too much of a promise to make.”

Hopefully, he's just tempering buzz. Nintendo needs a thunderous, excited fan base coming out of E3.

3DS has become a bit of a rolling thunder, especially if you’re paying attention to the eShop. In short: quality software on a regular basis. Whether Nintendo can find phenomenon-level repeat success with Wii U won’t be known for months, but we do know Nintendo can still make terrific software, and it appears prepared to unleash that weapon.

E3 is just a few weeks away.

Staff
Edited by Sackmanjones

Still not sure about the Wii-U, but history says never doubt Nintendo (except for that 3ds thing)
 
Shit, didn't even know it was the first comment. I apologize

Posted by GenghisJohn

After years of shit shovel-ware I am super skeptical of anything nintendo

Posted by omfgzell

Being so wary of what you do makes me so sad, Nintendo.

Online
Posted by Morningstar

Yeah right Nintendo.

Posted by alanm26v5

They'll eventually put out a Zelda game and I'll buy one like a sucker.

Online
Posted by Shortbreadtom

I'm glad that Nintendo at least recognise their mistakes with the Wii, with regards to the kinds of people who will spend the most on their games.

Edited by Pr1mus

i'm sure you mean Microsoft* and Sony on that 2nd picture.

Posted by patrickklepek

@Pr1mus said:

i'm sure you mean Microsoft* and Sony on that 2nd picture.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.

Staff
Posted by stalefishies
Posted by RadleyDuder

Youve pretty much sold me on the controller, nintendo, now i just need games, support for a marketplace like the 3ds apparently has, and a way to talk with friends like xbox has, and youve got a day 1 sale.

Posted by Nightriff

Get rid of motion controls and I'm back on Iwata, that's all I want.

Posted by RitzkriegRap

Cave Story on Wii first? themoreyouknow.jpg (lol)

Posted by wigg

Im still butt-hurt after skyward sword being so shit. I'd buy one for a great Zelda game, not motion shit.

Posted by DoctorWelch

“Once consumers have a notion that ‘this system is not for us,’ we have learned that it is extremely difficult to change their perceptions later,” he said.

Well they have pretty much already done this exact thing with the Wii U. I am pretty sure no one thinks that this crazy screen gimmick is going to cater to the kinds of people that they lost and are trying to gain back with this console, especially on a console only as powerful as the ones in the current generation. Obviously there is no way in knowing what the Wii U's future is, but I personally don't think it's very bright, at least not in regards to the "depth" they are talking about.

Edited by LobsterVendetta

The only thing that will guarantee a Wii-U purchase from me will be F-Zero. That said racing games have changed since 2003 with many amazing ones released through the years. Nintendo's past record shows me that they will not adapt properly so my expectations are set rather low at the moment.

Posted by IAmNotBatman

@alanm26v5 said:

They'll eventually put out a Zelda game and I'll buy one like a sucker.

Posted by DrRandle

That specific iteration of Cave Story was on Wii First. What's become known as "Cave Story +" on Steam. So.. not 100% accurate, but not necessarily wrong either.

Edited by Cubic

I don't know, assuming the Wii U is as technologically limited as the rumours say it'll be, it'll probably get overtaken by the next Playstation and Xbox to such an extent that third parties wont be able to just straight port its titles, and then it's in the same hole as the Wii was. The problem isn't so much graphical capabilities, just the ability to create very large detailed worlds, complicated AIs, lots of characters on screen, just more things taking place in games than the last generation, which the Wii U won't be able to keep up with.

I would really love to be wrong. That controller looks like it has potential, Sony is in such a ramshackle state that I bet its next failed home console will be its last, and Microsoft seems more interested in new and interesting ways to monetize its customers than creating a good platform to, you know, play games. I guess 2013 is a good year to become a PC gamer.

Edited by lokilaufey

@stalefishies said:

World of Goo...And Yet It Moves...Cave Story...they were on Wii first.

Uhh, no?

I want to think that he said that about CS because that was the first release of the Cave Story remake, and WoG was confusion because it was released the same day as PC... but there's really no excuse for And Yet It Moves.

It even says this on the GB Wiki

NameAnd Yet It Moves
PlatformPC
RegionUnited States
Release DateApril 2, 2009

NameAnd Yet It Moves
PlatformWii Shop
RegionUnited States
Release DateAug. 23, 2010

Now Patrick, do you mean they came to Wii as their first console/handheld/mobile release? I don't mean to nitpick or come off as rude (I love ya Pat) but I just can't help but chime in xD

Posted by DrDarkStryfe

I'm wondering a bit if showing off the WiiU like they did last year, and have ero follow up, was such a great idea. Yes, they showed off some amazing concepts, but a lot of folks that invest their time and money into this hobby make up their minds the first time they see something.

Posted by ninkendo

Gotta have an equal amount of width and depth to please a woman!

Posted by GenghisJohn

Doesn't it always take developers like a year to figure out how to use new controllers? My point being by the time everyone figures out how to put cool shit on the Wii U controller, won't the PS4 and Next Xbox already be out?

Posted by RE_Player1

I was excited for one second about the WiiU but hearing how it will continue to use Wii Remotes and only one WiiU controller at a time confirms I will never buy one. I'll get my Nintendo exclusives from the 3DS which is already a fantastic system that scratches that Nintnedo itch.

Posted by feargalr

@alanm26v5 said:

They'll eventually put out a Zelda game and I'll buy one like a sucker.

After playing Twilight Princess I swore a blood oath to not buy another zelda game until they really switch things up.

I've also been waiting about 14 years for a full console pokemon RPG a la blue/red/black/white etc. Dude seriously, a proper 3D pokemon game, like colosseum but you can catch wild pokemon and none of the shadow nonsense.... essentially a remake of red/blue (OR ANY OF THEM) for Wii U... it'd make a bagillion dollars...

Posted by Vexxan

@Nightriff said:

Get rid of motion controls and I'm back on Iwata, that's all I want.

Posted by patrickklepek

@lokilaufey: I definitely meant consoles, sorry about the confusion! I've added that clarification.

Staff
Posted by Ravenlight

Width vs. Depth [...]

I see someone at Nintendo has been leafing through Valve's handbook.

Posted by RurouniGeo

I'll believe it when the new smash bros plays like a fighting game and when there's a more obscure franchise like Fire Emblem or Phoenix Wright that starts getting all of its games coming to American Shores. Also how about launch titles that actually interest core gamers. You know what I got at the Wii's launch?

Wii sports. My pre-order location ran out of copies of Twilight Princess & i didn't get it until a few days later. To this day I've never played again or gotten past the first dungeon. I did get games like No More Heroes and after begging Nintendo for a year Xenoblade too and I've enjoyed both but I shouldnt have to beg Nintendo to get popular games in Japan & Europe to come to the US as well.

They don't even really advertise for these essentially blockbuster games for core gamers. Anyone saw any ads for Xenoblade? How many times have you seen that Kid Icarus Uprising commerical these last few months? I invite you to go to Nintendo of America's twitter as well. They push shovelware everyday. Where's the news on real games? Nope let's take a look at the tweets. They are about Wii Fit Plus, eShop, Mii's whateve Mario game is coming out and thats it.

Until they take online play and publishing seriously (for the record there is no excuse for allowing 50 shovelware party games on Nintendo systems a year but being too lazy to localize or bring over from Europe several incredible gaming experiences) then they will always have the "casual" branding on their systems.

I dont need an insanely powerful system from Nintendo. I just need the freedom to buy and play what I want without the restrictions of their aloofness to hardcore games or a subpar online infrastructure & player's online experience. It's nice that the release of the genesis Street Fighter II has online play...but where was that a year or two after launch?

Edited by Sidfiou

Investor meetings are one thing, but we'll just have to see what they show. I know what I'd want out of them is a better focus on their online experience and marketplace. What I'm expecting to get, however, are three things that either say "Wii-" or "Nintendogs+" on it.

I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by zeo12

Hey patrick how could you say that no one ever played kirby epic yarn and donkey kong country returns. when kirby sold 1.2 million copies and DKCR 5.48 million copies more than your precious zelda skyward sword.

Edited by ProfessorEss

I won't comment on the system itself until I've seen it but I will say that I my anticipation will remain at zero until I am thoroughly proven wrong.

Posted by Deathpooky

Really? This is their spin? I don't think Nintendo's problem is lack of first party commitment to making great games. We all know there's going to be some version of all of Nintendo's cast of characters on the Wii U, most well made and a few must have games.

It's complete abandonment by third parties and the terribleness of WiiWare as a service that held it back. Of your list of games, I'd consider at best 4 of them to be third party good Wii games. The rest are either better on another system or simply not great games. Add in that most multi-platform games are either crippled or non-existent on the Wii and you've got only first party to go off of.

Granted, this was a problem pre-Wii for Nintendo consoles. Pretty much from N64 on they've had problems in that regard. Wii just made the console differences stark.

Posted by lokilaufey

@patrickklepek said:

@lokilaufey: I definitely meant consoles, sorry about the confusion! I've added that clarification.

No problem! I assumed it was something to that effect, since that's kind of too big an oversight for you to make. I like to think you're too intelligent for that! :D

Posted by sonicrift

This is good to hear. If the Wii U gets the same number of great games in it's first year that the 3DS got, I'll be happy. They just need to spread them out and start strong.

It would be nice if I could bring my Virtual Console purchases over, like my DSi purchases to the 3DS, but I know not to get my hopes up too high. I think there's a specific demographic that bought VC games, and it would be a nice gesture.

Posted by MEATBALL

I think this is the first time I've seen Nintendo acknowledge this. It'll be interesting to see how they deliver.

Posted by dropabombonit

Nintendo have always done things their way and will continue to do so

Edited by Tennmuerti

Maybe I'm just a PC fanboy (altho i do play on my PS3 from time to time) but current gen consoles are already old as fuck, and everything on them looks subpar to me, i consider them to be stuck in the past. So what does that make Wii U for me? A time travel machine that will continue to be stuck at a tech level of more then half a decade ago, for yet another half a decade into the future?
(assuming the constantly rumored specs)

So far all they have shown that it is exactly like the Wii:
Either appealing to the masses or chasing after dedicated fanbase nostalgia with exact same franchises.
I'm just not part of either target demo.

Posted by Skooky

Make a controller that doesn't suck please.

Posted by laserbolts

@Vexxan said:

@Nightriff said:

Get rid of motion controls and I'm back on Iwata, that's all I want.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@patrickklepek said:

Nyx Quest.

Really? You list that but you completely gloss over Fragile Dreams? I guess you're spent on piano soundtracks, huh?

Online
Posted by GunslingerPanda

Does this mean the Wii U will have an actual controller!?

Posted by Vaancor

I'll believe it when I see it. Nintendo said similar things about the Wii. Now, while I fully understand going for the quick cash grab of the casual audience, a lot of us "core" gamers are left with Wiis covered in dust.

Posted by nail1080

@laserbolts said:

@Vexxan said:

@Nightriff said:

Get rid of motion controls and I'm back on Iwata, that's all I want.

Yes well said

Posted by hollitz

Calling No More Heros a terrific game seems like a stretch. I liked the game a lot, but there are equal parts awesome and terrible in it.

Posted by AhmadMetallic

...Why are they trying to get their devoted "hobbyist gamers" back? They made unprecedented BANK on the Wii by designing it for the casual masses, what do they care about the true fans? 

Edited by ArbitraryWater

And by core they mean they will release games from the same 5 franchises that they have sustained their core audience with for the past 20 years while their more niche stuff gets no love.

Posted by jakob187

@GenghisJohn said:

After years of shit shovel-ware I am super skeptical of anything nintendo

Then you should be skeptical of every console, because they can ALL be accused of having a ton of shovelware. It's just not a mini-game collection every single time.

I think people really gave the Wii more shit than it deserved. It helped to expand the industry's consumer base. It changed the way we look at the world of gaming. It had a ton of good games on it that people ignored because they wanted to whine about graphical power and such pitiful things.

The thing people hate about the Wii is that it was different, and people don't want to adjust to it. Hell, why do you think Sony has used the same controller for three generations?

With the Wii-U, my problem is that I don't understand what market they are trying to go after. Hobbyist gamers aren't going to want to hold onto that huge ass controller thingie whatchamacallit. Kids who want to play a game while their dad is watching some TV are going to say "well, I could be playing on my iPad or my computer or 3DS, etc".

I think the thing has a cool idea behind it, but I just don't understand why Nintendo doesn't let people use the Classic Controller Pro for games on a regular basis unless they use that big controller thing for some specific reason. Moreover, how many developers are going to get on board for programming this "unique device"? People were lining up to do development on the Wii-mote, but that died quickly after. Will it be the same thing all over again?

Nintendo's problem, I think, is that they have become a novelty company more than a game company.

Edited by Shuborno

The 360 has been serving my needs. Even if Wii U is geared to gamers, what exactly is it offering me that I don't have?

It doesn't appear to be more powerful than 360/PS3 and a less comfortable controller is not something I count as an asset (who cares about a second screen when you have to look away from your TV to use it?)

The controller not being multi-touch will also make it feel archaic to a generation that has used iPhones, iPods and iPads.

I concede that they certainly could present software that makes me change my mind but my first impression is not good.

Posted by ZenaxPure

Good article but it should probably be pointed out DKC: Returns sold like 4 million copies, not exactly sure I would rank it alongside the rest of those awesome games nobody played :P

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