With multiple listings popping up on internet retailers it appears that Nintendo Land might be headed out to stores not as a pack in with the Wii U hardware but as a full retail title. The reaction to this news appears to be one of indifference, the sentiment that seems the most repeated is that people would gladly play it for free but would never put one red cent towards its purchase. While I understand that Mini-game collections are not the preferred genre of most inhabitants of the internet gaming community, I do see a large value in Nintendo Land for both the consumer and for Nintendo as a company. In fact I think it could be the most valuable game in Nintendo’s arsenal for the upcoming Launch of the Wii U.
Do you know where you were on the Morning of November 19th 2006? I was standing outside of a Target praying to God that my number 19th spot in line would secure me a Wii. Luckily it did and the last few hours I had spent in a mildly chilly Arizona parking lot was not a waste. As I was walked single file inside and across the store I only had one thought running through my head, getting home and playing Twilight Princess.
Arriving to my house I made a mad dash to my room to set up camp for an extended play session. I was immediately blown away by playing the game with the Wii controls. It felt so natural to swing the remote like a sword and line up hook shots with by pointing towards my television screen. After a couple hours of intense immersion in the land of Hyrule there was a knock on my door. I thought it would have been my brother, finally waking up to see if I was able to obtain my new toy, instead I was greeted by my parents.
They informed me that videos of people lining up for the console and people talking about how it was different from other video games had been all over the news that morning and that they wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was surprised by their interest, I don’t think that my parents ever really got the appeal that I found in games, it was just something that they tolerated as they waited for me to grow out of them. I continued my game of Twilight princess explaining the controls as they watched. After a few minutes I turned back to gauge their reaction, they seemed generally unimpressed.
In retrospect I understand my blunder. I started with extremely exaggerated motions until I moved into how I played most longer Wii games, lazily. Tiny swipes of a sword that just registered as good enough for the console was not going to show this as a revolution, nor was a game where all the focus is on the television and not the player. Before my parents left totally unimpressed however my father asked if I had bought the tennis game that was shown on the news.
I put in Wii sports, a game I had feelings for that I think the majority of fans now have for Nintendo Land, and started a tennis match. As I served the ball and started to go back and forth on the court I looked back once more to gauge my parents reaction, and much to my surprise they were now impressed. With a simple demonstration of Wii sports they were able to understand the differences between the Wii and what had come before it, and not only did they see these differences but they were also interested in playing video games for the first time. I passed the controller and they immediately understood how to play and have fun.
The Wii U’s big draw, much like the Wii’s, is the new controller and the abilities it has to make a change on how we interact and play games and like the Wii these changes need to be demonstrated in a way that anyone can understand in a limited amount of time. My parents understood that playing a game of tennis in your house is fun and told their friends, creating a word of mouth about a product in a group that would have never mentioned a Nintendo product before.
I believe the Wii U could create the same word of mouth within the same groups but it needs a showpiece for the controller to highlight the differences between it, the Wii, and everything else. The only currently announced game that can fit that bill is Nintendo Land. Games like New Super Mario Brothers U and Pikmin will surely be fantastic but they don’t effectively demonstrate the differences between the Wii and the Wii U in a way that will get people like my parents excited about playing games. Games that feel unique and can be played in short bursts are the key to getting those players to migrate away from their Wii.
A round of Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, or Zelda: Battle Quest are the perfect way to introduce people to asymmetrical multiplayer. The rules to these games or easy to grasp while providing a healthy level of competition and cooperation between players making a new experience to be shared together. They also introduce new players to the worlds that Nintendo has created.
While most of these worlds are Iconic to gamers many people still don’t know them or have possibly forgotten. A former coworker of mine informed me that she had bought a Wii for her family. When I asked her what games she had purchased she responded by asking me “what other games?”. When I informed her it was a Nintendo console and they make lots of games like Mario, she admitted that she had no clue that Nintendo still around today, even just after purchasing a Nintendo console.
Introducing buyers to their brands could greatly help Nintendo in creating a buzz about future titles. They may not know anything about Animal Crossing besides that it was their favorite Nintendo Land title and purchase the iteration. While some might walk away disappointed it isn’t an action game, others will surely enjoy the time they spend in their new town and become a fan of the series.
The Wii U needs a Wii Sports, an easy to play game that everyone can put in to show someone new to the console what’s new and what’s different and I believe Nintendo Land to be that game. In a few short minutes you can pick a game and demonstrate how this is different from what they have played previously while also introducing them to the world of Nintendo. If Nintendo didn’t pack in Wii Sports with every Wii people like my parents would have continued to live their lives without giving a video game a chance and lifelong gamers like myself would have missed out on a fantastic game. I hope Nintendo can continue what they started with the Wii, Introducing people to video games that were previously uninterested. That’s why when I go to the store on launch day to pick up my console that I hope there is also a copy of Nintendo Land inside the box.