Nintendo’s Wii U Online Strategy: Can’t Someone Else Do it?

It isn’t a big secret that Nintendo’s online presence is terrible. While the thrill of watching Mario run across your screen while you wait endlessly for the tiny-ass SNES game to download is compelling, having basically zero games to play online, unless they have the word ‘Kart’ in the title, gets old. Nintendo seems dimly aware that maybe the vast majority of gamers like having the option to actually use online features, which is why the company has been making noises like they’re going to do something about that. Recently, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime cryptically said that Wii U’s online presence would be ‘flexible’. In an interview with Forbes, he clarified that a bit with actual, on-the-record statements about next year’s Wii U console. Unfortunately, it’s a bag of fail.

FORBES: Your online services are very different than what your competitors offer. Isn’t something missing, that you can’t offer the sort of experience I can get on Xbox Live?

I don’t think it is an issue for us, and here’s why. We’ve seen what our competitors have done, and we’ve acknowledged that we need to do more online, starting with the launch of our eShop on Nintendo 3DS, and we’re going to continue to build our online capability. For Wii U, we’re going to take that one step further, and what we’re doing is creating a much more flexible system that will allow the best approaches by independent publishers to come to bear. So instead of a situation where a publisher has their own network and wants that to be the predominant platform, and having arguments with platform holders, we’re going to welcome that. We’re going to welcome that from the best and the brightest of the third party publishers.

FORBES: Would it be reasonable to expect there might be a new or significantly upgraded online presence when the new console comes out?

We’ve said that the Wii U will have an extremely robust online experience. There will be other publishers talking about that as well, and from our perspective, we think it’s much more compelling for that information to come from the publishers than to come from us.

Shorter Nintendo: Sure, we could invest our own money in the creation of a useful online platform for our loyal customers who continue to buy our crap despite the fact that we haven’t released a decent new IP since 2001. But our research indicates that the ‘Internet’ is a fad. Now if you’ll excuse me, I just got a page and I need to call them back.

A little advice, Reggie: when you begin by saying ‘We’ve seen what our competitors have done’, the thing that follows that ought to prove it. Giving all but on-the-record confirmation that Nintendo has absolutely no intention of creating their own online network like PSN or Xbox Live and, instead, plans to force their customers into game-by-game solutions that will make online gaming with a Wii U inconsistent, and probably expensive, proves definitely that the opposite is true. You have learned nothing from the last 6 years and have no interest in doing so.

It’s bad enough that despite protestations to the contrary, we all know Wii U’s graphics won’t be remotely as good as they’re claiming. It’s bad enough that we all know that Wii U will launch with shovelware games whose quality barely surpasses Luigi’s Mansions. Now they’re actually telling us with a straight face that their bold plan for Wii U is to saddle benevolently inconvenience Wii U owners. Awesome plan guys, just super.

And it gets worse. Since the surprise announcement of Wii U earlier this year, a lot of vague and somewhat contradictory claims have been made about the new console. It didn’t help that the Wii U demo at E3 was basically a substance-free proof of concept presentation. Even so, everyone is dying to know whether or not it will represent the significant leap forward in Nintendo keeps claiming. The answer? Who the hell knows:

FORBES: Can a user consume content other than games on the controller? Could I watch a TV show on it?

The messaging comes right from the console. So the programming would need to originate off the console.

FORBES: So if I’m connected to Netflix on my Wii, I could watch Netflix on the controller?

Theoretically, that’s possible.

‘Theoretically’? Way to answer the question. ‘Sure, why the hell not?’ works too. Look, I’ll admit to being a Wii U skeptic. I really cannot see how Nintendo actually manages to make a truly great console again. But I want them to for the same reason I still get kind of excited every time Morrissey has a new record. I keep thinking this time, the old magic will return. But I think we ought to face facts: Wii U is probably going to be a similarly limited, graphically challenged unit that will end up collecting dust on your cabinet the same way Wii does now.

The only difference is it’s going to cost you a few hundred dollars more.

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1 Comment on Nintendo’s Wii U Online Strategy: Can’t Someone Else Do it?

Ron Whitaker

On July 6, 2011 at 6:28 am

Hey Nintendo, we tried the whole “Let third parties do it all” idea back in the 90′s on PC. It’s 2011, and we’re all a little tired of you living so far on the past.