How Nintendo can Craft a Worthwhile Online Service

Nintendo Network Featured (Edited, Wikipedia)

With the conspicuous absence of Nintendo’s Virtual Console at the Switch’s release, fans of the gaming giant have to wait to find out what lies in store. We recently learned about the $19.99/year price, but until Nintendo releases more information, we can only wonder how these new services might take form. There are lots of interesting paths Nintendo might take, but there are some items they really need to address:

1. Give Us a Truly Updated Virtual Console

During the January Switch presentation, Nintendo’s leader of software development, Shinya Takahashi, emphasized how the Joy-Con controller design “inherited DNA” from all the past iterations of Nintendo’s hardware concepts in order to provide a variety of gameplay possibilities. That’s an awesome idea, so why not take it one step further and include software? There’s a wealth of great games and ideas in Nintendo’s catalogue, and they could use those in conjunction with the Switch’s new form factor to create truly unique experiences with older games. And with a bit of programming, Nintendo could easily add cool features to their classic games: seamlessly-integrated multiplayer, motion control support, leaderboards and tournament hosting, and more. But just imagine if you could turn on your Switch, bust out Mario Party 2, set up a group with your old buddies on the Nintendo account app, and voice chat with them so you can trash talk as you smash them to bits in Bumper Balls (easily the best minigame in MP2). Nintendo thrives on nostalgia, and with the Virtual Console as the gateway to that nostalgia, why not add in all the conveniences of modern gaming and make reliving those memories that much easier and more appealing?

Mario Party 10 (Wikimedia Commons).png

“Ugh, who wants to play that one?”

2. Stop Charging for the Same Games

Come on, Nintendo – how many times are you going to make me buy Super Mario Bros. 3? If I have to spend my hard-earned money on the same 27-year-old game one more time, I might lose it. If we’re moving into the modern era of unified accounts, then let’s actually go the full distance. There’s no excuse not to link game purchases to users’ accounts other than the extra cash flow, and at this point it’s just getting greedy. I love you, Nintendo… just don’t take advantage of that.

3. Justify the Phone

Let’s face it – it’s weird that Nintendo is chaining its online services to mobile devices instead of building them into the Switch itself. It reminds me of Xbox SmartGlass, and nobody even remembers what that was all about. Now, Nintendo could do some interesting things here, like try to recreate the dual-screen experience of the Wii U and 3DS, or even implement various minigames during matchmaking like Splatoon did with the arcade game Squid Jump. There has to be a reason Nintendo decided to make us interface with two different devices – let’s hope it’s a good one.

4. Craft a Nintendo-Feeling Service

There’s a unique chance here that Nintendo could capitalize on – taking a tried and true idea (online account services) and putting their own spin on it. At this point, we already have these services from both Sony and Microsoft, so why not make a late-to-the-party splash and do something creative? Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime says that their services will have “Nintendo flair” and “will not look the same as our competitors”, but that could mean just about anything. What they need to avoid is simply throwing on a Mario or Zelda skin and calling it a day, and instead make a bold stroke by reinventing the experience of interacting with their online services as a game in and of itself.

That’s Miitomo’s entire concept – the gamification of social interactions. Though Miitomo missed the mark, Nintendo could still create something unique with this idea; perhaps it could even find second life as the portal for Nintendo’s online services.

Miitomo (Flickr)

“If Miitomo was like Tamagotchi, all my friends would be dead…”

Imagine setting up and hosting an online tournament with all your friends, mixing the (hopefully) modernized abilities of the online services with Miitomo’s charm, customization, and social options. You’d have a rather entertaining approach to an otherwise rather dull task – a rowdy group of Miis interacting with one another in your virtual apartment as they wait for the tournament to begin – a la Ready Player One. Take it one step further by integrating the core concept of Miiverse, and you’ve got yourselves a fully customizable, Facebook-esque matchmaking service and photo sharing site which serves as an online library for your games and a virtual apartment portal to your friends’ digital lives. All of that mixed into one wacky little package – what about that doesn’t sound awesome?

These are a few of the things Nintendo could do in order to ensure that their online services please and excite fans. A bit of creativity could pay off a lot here, and Nintendo is no stranger to trying new things, so let’s hope they keep the ball rolling.

Bumper Balls (mariowiki.com)

“Keep on rolling, Nintendo…”

How do you think Nintendo should handle their online services and Virtual Console? What do you hope to see the most? Share in the comments below!

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