Nintendo is evidently rethinking their console strategy with the Wii U. Ever since the console failed to capture the hearts of the millions of original Wii owners like The Big N initially hoped for, the company has searched high and low for ways to market their next-gen offering. Following announcements like enhanced NFC integration and a retooled digital distribution strategy, Nintendo is reportedly also getting into the market of smartphone software compatibility. This news comes courtesy of The Japan Times, who cite company sources for the interesting tidbit of information.
If reports are accurate, Nintendo is offering professional-use conversion tools to software developers, with the intention of making smartphone applications compatible for use on the Wii U. Ideally, this would make popular mobile games playable on the home console with presumably the potential for additional Wii U-specific support. (i.e. Gamepad support so that games could be played on the tablet-sized controller in addition to the TV screen.)
If Nintendo manages to pull this off, I think it could be a really great move on their part. It’s no secret that the console is currently struggling in the games department due a distinct lack of both first and third-party support. Opening up compatibility with mobile games could turn into additional console sales from those sitting on the fence about whether or not to buy a Wii U. Consider this: Developers have been trying to get their mobile games onto TV screens for a long time now. We’ve seen this trend with the advent of Smart TVs (which still lack considerable support) and with mobile-minded consoles like Ouya and GameStick. Early reviews for the first batch of Ouya consoles were less than stellar, and even if they weren’t, it’s a real tough sell convincing console gamers they should be interested in a device that mostly supports casual titles. Now, if the Wii U suddenly provides the solution to a market the likes of Ouya and Gamestick are so desperately attempting to capture, it’s a whole new ballgame. The Wii U suddenly becomes the only home console that provides hardcore first-party titles, which Nintendo is obviously working on, and access to an entirely extra catalog of mobile/casual games. That’s of course, in addition to the eShop and Virtual Console which aim to provide even more content. That’s a triple threat of retro-gaming nostalgia, casual fare, and hardcore first-party goodness.
The second reason this move makes sense is it will hopefully result in additional positive third-party relations. Since the Wii U has done so poorly moving units, big name third-parties like EA and Activision have opted out of supporting the console with a few of their blockbuster titles. Coming off the recent news that Madden 25 won’t be coming to the Wii U, the first time since 1991 a Madden game won’t appear on a Nintendo console, it’s become increasingly apparent that developers don’t see developing for the Wii U as a profitable expenditure of resources. If Nintendo manages to convince mobile developers to make their games compatible with the Wii U, it might bolster console sales, which in turn will bring the larger third-party developers back around. It would be the catalyst in a chain reaction leading to stronger support for the currently game-deprived console, not to mention potentially opening up doors for exclusive casual or indie experiences on the Wii U; and we all know that supporting indie devs is something the next-generation of consoles are all heavily investing in.
Of course, all this is speculation and educated guessing until Nintendo actually makes something tangible out of it. The good news is, the ball is in their court and they’re on the right track. They’ve clearly shown a willingness to make amends and are attempting to fall back into the good graces of once-loyal Nintendo fans who feel spurned after the Wii turned their backs on the hardcore crowd. It’s a long, windy road to redemption, but as I’ve said before, Nintendo is only ever a handful of software announcements away from winning back their audience; and this decision is one that can ultimately help them achieve that goal.
What are your thoughts about Nintendo opening up to mobile developers for software support? Would you enjoy playing some of your favorite casual/mobile games up on the TV screen or on a Gamepad? Would you like Nintendo to take this one step further and have mobile games add extra Wii U functionality? Let us know in the comments section.