Time will of course tell whether or not the WiiU launch has been successful. It’s barely been 24 hours, and there isn’t anything close to actual data in terms of availability, sales numbers, attach rates, etc. However, in reading a lot of the anecdotal reports from other journalists as well as consumers, it seems as though Nintendo has made some missteps along the way. They have also, however, seemingly done some things right. For better or for worse, these are the 5 things that Sony and Microsoft can learn from the launch of the WiiU.
1) Release a complete system: In what must be some kind of strange meta commentary on the state of post-release support in the games industry, Nintendo’s WiiU is the first console to my knowledge to ever receive a day one patch, and in this case that patch activated the online services for the system. Think about that for a second. Gamers will need to connect to the internet in order to download something that will allow their console to connect to the internet. The patch is said to be very large, at least 2GB in size, taking most people around an hour to download. For Sony and Microsoft to have a similar situation at the launch of their respective next-generation systems is unacceptable. There’s no impression like a first impression, and I can’t imagine what parents are going to think about Nintendo and the WiiU when most of Christmas morning is spent downloading a giant update for their kids’ brand-new console. My 4-year-old daughter can’t even make it through a 2 minute commercial, so I can’t imagine what that agonizing first 60-90 minutes are going to be like.
2) Give the system a reason to exist on day one: Nintendo has ensured that this is the case by packing NintendoLand in with the Deluxe model of the system (a game that, by all accounts, really shows off the potential for the WiiU) and ZombiU, the clear leader in terms of third-party releases. It’s important to have at least one game at launch that serves as a mission statement for what gamers can expect. In NintendoLand, Nintendo has demonstrated to families and fans of the Wii that there is a reason to upgrade, and for the hardcore gamer, the Dark Souls-esque ZombiU provides some genuine terror to go along with its interesting take on death and its standard-setting usage of the WiiU gamepad.
3) Be nice to developers: I’m not sure why Sony and Microsoft’s patching and online certification systems are so restrictive and expensive, but I’m glad to see that Nintendo understands that platform holders need to work in concert with publishers and developers when it comes to post-release support and DLC. If Nintendo winds up being the only company going forward with an open policy when it comes to releasing content over its channels, there is a chance that Sony and Microsoft could lose some of the market advantage in these areas.
4) Figure out your storage solutions: the WiiU’s handling of storage appears to be a disaster. Other than the 8 or 32 GB of internal storage (depending on which version of the console is purchased), the only way to add large-scale storage is by using external hard drives which must be formatted to work with the WiiU and are hardware locked, meaning if that hard drive is ever brought to another WiiU, it will have to be wiped clean before it can be used.
5) Ensure that your system is open enough to be consumer friendly: The hard drive restriction isn’t the only strange issue the WiiU faces when it comes to portability. Nintendo IDs as well as Wii Store points don’t travel from system to system, meaning that if you want to go to your friend’s house to play, you cannot download games purchased from the eShop on his or her system, nor can you access any of your saved data through any type of cloud networking. Sony and Microsoft already have a more open system than what the WiiU is demonstrated, but the launch of the WiiU should be held as a testament to what can happen if you have too much of a walled garden.
Obviously the WiiU is in flux as a platform, but first impressions are important. In this case, while Nintendo has seemingly done some things right (having at least one game for families and core gamers that highlights the system is a good start), other aspects of this launch have been mismanaged beyond belief. Sony and Microsoft won’t be demonstrating anything for their new systems for 6 months, give or take, so there is a chance still to make sure that these next-generation systems have smoother launch than Nintendo has seen here. Sure, Sony and Microsoft have a much better track record when it comes to fulfilling expectations of today’s “next-gen” audience, but it has been quite some time since either had a launch of the magnitude that they will have next year. They should take notice of every mistake that Nintendo has made so far and ensure that they don’t repeat them. It’s the best way to continue to grow as an industry.