Nintendo's Wii U, its next-gen follow up to the hugely successful Wii console, has so far been a tough sell. Limited third party support is to be expected with any Nintendo console, but the Wii U also suffered from a lack of big name Nintendo games for the first year of its life. No longer - Mario Kart 8 was released last month to huge sales, a new Super Smash Bros is on track for release this year, and a new Zelda title has been teased for 2015. If you add in the numerous smaller Nintendo games and the library of classics on the Virtual Console service, the Wii U is starting to look like a capable gaming machine.
But now that the Wii U has sold gamers on the most important part of any home console - you know, the actual games - it needs to bring the console in line with its competitors. Well, only one competitor, really - Sony, the only other console maker with real traction in both the American and Japanese home and handheld console markets. Though Sony's PS Vita handheld system is not nearly as popular as Nintendo's 3DS, Sony has supported it with services such as Remote Play, Cross Buy, PSN, and the soon to be launched PS Now streaming game service.
The two services Nintendo needs to take a closer look at are Cross Buy and PSN. Though Nintendo has its own version of an account system, it isn't nearly as encompassing as users expect or deserve. Though purchases, game saves, and preferences are tied to particular Nintendo IDs on individual machines, there is no way to access them from the cloud. Unlike the PS4 and XBox One, if you sign into a friend's Wii U with your Nintendo ID, none of your games, saves, or preferences will show up. Though some at Nintendo may view this as a pie-in-the-sky idea, it's a standard feature on its competitors' consoles, and makes the Wii U look dated in comparison.
Cross Buy should also be an integral to this updated Nintendo ID system. If you're part of Sony's PSN, once you buy a game, you own it for any system that can play it. For example, if you buy the PSone version of Spyro on your Vita, you can download and play it on your PS4 when you get home. Not only that, but game saves are also synced across systems, meaning you pick up where you left off on your Vita. This simple system not only increases the value of each virtual buy, but increases system lock-in as well. Nintendo would benefit if its Virtual Console service featured a Cross Buy service.
Together, these two features would add an incredible amount of value not only to the Wii U, but to the entire Nintendo ecosystem. At the moment, the Wii U and 3DS systems are barely connected by the shell of a Nintendo ID, but if Nintendo would strengthen its cloud services, it has a chance of creating better gadgets out of its two devices. Once it does that, all it needs to do is to continue releasing games as high quality as Mario Kart 8 to win back fans and move back into the black.