Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How the iPhone and Android can save the Wii U


 It's no secret that the Wii U has not taken the world by storm. It's suffered from game designer ambivalence, lack of first-rate games, and a general lack of consumer awareness from the get-go. Designers don't want to build for it, because no one has bought it. The games at launch were strong, but few. And then we had nothing for the longest time. Games were tweaked and then re-tweaked while we waited. We're only just now starting to see the fruits of our patience -- Wii Fit U, Zelda, Pikmin, Mario Kart have shipped or will ship soon. But what does that matter if the world doesn't know what a Wii U is?

I bought my Wii U a month after launch. I follow the blogs and knew what I was getting. Folks I talk to aren't as tuned in. They think the Wii U's Gamepad is just a peripheral for the Wii. It's not. It's what sets the Wii U apart from current AND next generation gaming. And maybe not for the reason you might think. Sure, it makes some games more complex -- you often view maps or player info on the second screen while moving through games with your Wiimote. But it's real genius is in how it's used as an off-TV component. Playing Super Mario Bros. Wii U and your dad comes in to take over the TV? Fine. Finish the game on the Gamepad. The same goes for nearly any game. And it works on Netflix and Hulu Plus too. A key press moves the movie or tv show from the big screen to the Gamepad. In fact, my kids often take the game pad into the adjacent room and watch movies there. It's genius. So how do we people to buy more of these things? I have an idea.

First, let's acknowledge that games on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices have come a long way. The screens are vivid, the games are cheap, and the devices are more than powerful enough to drive them. So what if we used that set of strengths to promote Wii U games?

Picture this: Mario Kart comes out early 2014. We'd like to show the world how awesome it is -- but it can only be played on a Wii U. Most Best Buy stores don't have working Wii Us, so they try-before-you-buy route doesn't work here. Or does it? What if Nintendo put together demo versions of their games for Apple and Android devices? A few levels or tracks or missions  -- and they'd give them away. Tell me a demo of Super Mario Bros. for the iPhone wouldn't shoot to the top of the charts?

Yes, I hear you. You don't get the feel of the Gamepad -- you don't feel its benefits -- when playing games on these other devices. No, you can't. But within these games you can add targeted advertisements that show the Wii U in action, that demonstrate why it's worth the $299. You'd increase your exposure exponentially. And I'm confident that this exposure will lead to a dramatic surge in sales.

What do you think?

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