Could the eShop be Wii U’s secret weapon?
Today’s 3DS update brought with it not only the usual promise of security and firmware improvements, but a new folder system that allows for a much cleaner, and more logical, ordering of games and applications on the 3DS home screen. There was however another update installed today that went largely unnoticed by both gamers and Nintendo’s advertising campaign alike. Today’s update installed a simple, yet incredibly effective update to the eShop, taking what was becoming a cumbersome interface and streamlining into a far more user-friendly system.
The interface update allows for a far easier sorting of the now numerous collection of games and applications that fill the eShop, showing a clear intent from Nintendo that the eShop isn’t just another Wii Shop Channel – it is Nintendo staying with the ever-evolving downloadable market and making sure that the games you want are always accessible. The update is a strong signal of intent from Nintendo that the eShop is a big factor in the life of the 3DS, but what about the Wii U? Could the eShop be one of the Wii U’s secret weapons?
The life of the eShop on the 3DS has been troubled at best. After missing the launch by a considerable margin, the eShop struggled with receiving regular releases in its opening months, with DSiWare games becoming the only stock to sell. While Nintendo began to pick up the release pace with its Virtual Console service and impressive 3D Classics range, third-party support continued to be absent. That was until mid-way through the 3DS’s lifespan, when all of a sudden, third-parties jumped on board.
Since then the eShop has seen regular updates alongside Nintendo’s first-party offerings, meaning that no matter the retail situation, there is always something new and interesting coming to the system. Games like Pushmo and Dillon’s Rolling Western proved to be surprisingly deep downloadable titles, rivalling the likes of Mario vs Donkey Kong: March of the Minis in terms of quality. It showed the potential of the eShop, and now, finally, developers are beginning to use it.
The other side of the eShop is in applications, and it is this area that has only recently started to improve. While DSiWare has a wide range of calculators and notepads, Colors 3D is arguably the first real paid application for the 3DS, allowing you to take advantage of the 3D effect and paint in 3D. It’s a full artistic suite too, and with the stylus, something that is perfectly suited to the 3DS.
With all this software (I haven’t even mentioned the demos) and much more to come in the future, the eShop is currently one of the many strings in the 3DS’s increasingly thick bow, and that’s not something any of us expected to be able to say this time last year. So with Wii U on the horizon, could this new-found attachment to downloadable titles be passed on? If Nintendo have anything to say about it, the answer will be yes.
The rise of the eShop shows one thing – Nintendo are finally getting used to the online era, and are getting it right straight away. With Wii U, Nintendo need to correct the faults that the Wii Shop Channel, and let’s face it, the faults are numerous. Beyond the clumsy interface and the nigh impossibility of actually finding anything new and interesting, many of the games that appeared in the shop were either useless, or just simply bad. This could be attributed to the wider WiiWare memory limits, but the fact remains that WiiWare software was largely limited to games – applications were mostly absent except for a few examples such as Netflix.
Based on the eShop experience though, this will all change. The eShop presents a constantly updated and user-friendly interface throughout the shopping experience, merging together the Nintendo Channel and Shop Channel for one simple gaming guide. This is something Nintendo need to capitalise on, and with the Wii U tablet, this should be very easy.
The two screens afforded to the player with the tablet should not only allow an intuitive and simple interface, but also allow screenshots and videos to be played on the larger TV screen while the player is browsing the shop. It’s an interactive way of advertising new games, and it is something that could make the Wii U eShop a must-visit destination.
But of course all these design ideas are nothing without software, and once again the eShop experience paints a bright future for Wii U. While the pricing structure may still be debateable, the eShop has seen a rise in quality software, but also in the regularity of delivery. WiiWare often had a problem of random releases, but this is something the eShop has so far avoided, and something Wii U also needs to avoid. There’s also the fact that the Wii U tablet is just that – a tablet. This means that anything the iPad can do, Wii U can do, creating a new source of simple, yet addictive software.
One of the other areas that has improved on the eShop is the introduction of demos, something that have so far only been available for WiiWare titles on Wii. Full Wii U demos are crucial for selling new software, and with Wii U potentially being Nintendo’s biggest launch ever, would be an important seller in the traditional slow months just after launch. Add in DLC and the eShop is right where it needs to be.
The final area the eShop has improved is in application delivery, and this is something Wii U needs to capitalise on. Apps such as Nintendo Video are superb free downloads, putting the Wii’s News Channel to shame, while on the paid front Colors 3D proves to be a wonderful painting app, something that would easily be at home on Wii U. These are all things Wii U needs, and ideally at launch. Be they free apps or paid, Wii U needs to be a console that demands that it is used rather than passively supplying weather updates. Social media integration could be the key here, although not necessarily, especially given the hugely promising Nintendo Network.
It is clear then that lessons have been learnt since the Wii Shop Channel and DSi Shop were launched all those years ago. The eShop is a huge step forward for Nintendo, and continues to impress at every update, with the latest addition of allowing patching a big step in the right direction. Nintendo may appear slower than the rest, but they are embracing the digital age, and with Wii U, they have a chance to get it right from day one. The Wii U eShop is a huge opportunity for Nintendo to do what every other console manufacturer has so far failed to do – make downloadable software a key part of the gameplay experience. Achieve that, and Wii U already has one big advantage over the competition.