The launch of the Wii U is in full swing, and there’s plenty the debut of Nintendo’s latest console can teach us about the gaming market that awaits any new hardware Sony and Microsoft might be working on.
– Don’t waste our time with a massive release day patch. I don’t know about you guys, but if there’s one thing I can’t wait to do whenever I bring a brand new console home, it’s watch it update itself for several hours. Lately it seems like nothing says next gen quite like a progress bar; developers have learned that releasing hardware and software in need of a patch is a great way to move release dates up. I’ll gladly trade fifteen minutes of my time if it means I can get my hands on the new hotness a month or two sooner, but asking me to wait an hour or two is just an asshole move.
– Skip the updated versions of games we’ve already played. Sure, familiar titles can build buzz, pad your launch lineup numbers, and provide a solid base for showing off your console’s new features, but they don’t sell particularly well. As of this writing, the Wii U versions of Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mass Effect 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed III, and Darksiders II have combined to sell approximately 230,000 copies worldwide according to the numbers available on vgchartz.com. That’s less than half of what New Super Mario Bros. U pulled in and just a smidge over ZombiU. Granted, it’s still early in these games’ lives, and it’s possible that Nintendo owners’ preference for jumping on goombas instead of saving the galaxy or helping birth America is skewing the numbers, but I think it’s safe to say you need new exclusives if you want strong game sales at launch.
– In that same vein, bring out your big franchise guns. Although no character in the catalogues of Sony and Microsoft have the overwhelming star power of the iconic Mario, but they’ve got a few studs in their respective stables. For the next PlayStation, that likely means Kratos. For MS, it’s got to be the Master Chief. And if Valve’s plan to invade our living rooms is to come to fruition, it’ll need Gordon Freeman.
– Include a strong social component. I’m about as antisocial a gamer as you’ll ever find. I’m happy to stalk everyone I know on Facebook and Twitter, but I’m not going to pretend to understand the attraction to MiiVerse, the Wii U’s cute-as-a-button social networking platform. That doesn’t mean I’m going to condemn it. Wii U owners like MiiVerse–a lot. It’s got gamers sharing quick comments about in-game events and drawings created on the Wii U pad. A strong moderation system that keeps things clean makes it basically the antithesis of Xbox Live. It’s a reason to fire up Nintendo’s console without starting up a game, and that’s going to be a tough feature to match.