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The difference a year can make

It can’t much be said for the Wii, but the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 underwent radical changes in the years following their respective launches. Motion controls and hardware redesigns were chief among these, obviously, but there were also a number of under-the-hood tweaks that transformed the consoles from mere gaming platforms to holistic entertainment hubs.

Our money’s on Nintendo following a similar course with the Wii U. Now that we’ve had the system for a couple of weeks, here’s a rundown of what we feel Nintendo should get into its latest box by next November.

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Tom: Bring on on-demand game streaming

In my eyes, what’s going to make next-gen Next Gen is on-demand game streaming. Yes, the space has been problematic thus far, what with the flame-out of industry champion OnLive. But the fact remains that once the country’s infrastructure catches up with technology (hello Google Fiber!), game streaming will be the most economical and efficient way to get new games into gamers’ households. Good business = thing that will happen.

Nintendo needs to get on-demand game streaming into the Wii U within the first year largely as a matter of appearances. Already, the common conception of the Wii U is that it will be underpowered compared to the Next Xbox and PlayStation 4. And since we know that Sony for one will be pursuing game streaming (it bought OnLive competitor Gaikai), and we think both the Wii U’s competitors will be announced sometime next year, we’re pretty sure it’s vitally important Nintendo get out in front of the impending game-streaming revolution, lest it appear even further behind on the tech front.

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Ryan: More unique local multiplayer offerings

I was pretty indifferent about the Wii U for the longest time–and then I played Nintendo Land. No, that game didn’t suddenly convince me that Nintendo’s new console is “the future,” and no, I didn’t go drop $300 just so I could play Animal Crossing: Sweet Day for 400 hours straight (because that game is GOTY). But I was impressed that the GamePad allowed for such a wildly different multiplayer experience, in that whoever held the pad had a wholly unique screen that no one else could see.

The Wii U will probably be my go-to machine for local multiplayer, and I’m ecstatic about what the GamePad will allow multiplayer games to do. The most obvious use is allowing two players to play local co-op without having to share a screen a la Call of Duty: Black Ops II. But I’m excited about getting more games like Nintendo Land that allow for tense scenarios without either player being aware of what the other is doing. In the meantime, I’ll head back to Sweet Day for another 400 hours of panic-inducing fun.

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Cooper: Fix up the dashboard

I’m sure my colleagues will talk about the Wii U’s lack of games–and rightfully so, this thing is in dire need of more Nintendo titles–but after spending hours playing with the system, my hopes are for something less tangible. The Wii U’s UI and dashboard are beautiful, perfecting the minimalist design that makes Apple products so alluring, but they fall down when it comes to basic usability. I really want Nintendo to update the home screen in order to make it more user-friendly, instead of letting it rot as the beautiful mess it is right now.

Basic acts, like finding your friend list, is needlessly complicated, there seem to be strange, arbitrary limitations that simply shouldn’t exist (why limit us to 100 friends? Why does the Miiverse limit images to black and white, and a weird, narrow size?). Oh, and hurry up and release TVii already. That’s going to be the thing that keeps my Wii U on almost indefinitely, and I can’t believe it missed launch.

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Matt: Games, games, games

Completely selfish and thinking about no one but myself again, but what I want from Wii U in the next year is, simply, a selection of games I actually want to play. It’s a little thing, but it is fairly fundamental to my enjoyment of any games console.

Right now, I’m looking through Nintendo’s launch window and the only confirmed games I’m seeing which appeal to my personal tastes are Pikmin 3 and Platinum Games’ The Wonderful 101. Besides that, there’s… nothing. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but a few more attractive games in the Wii U release schedule would be lovely thanks very much Nintendo.

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Henry: Hurry up, 3D Super Mario

Look Nintendo, I really appreciate that–for the first time since Super Mario 64–you launched a system with a brand new Mario game. And I truly believe that New Super Mario Bros. U is the best 2D Mario game since the SNES days. All that being said, that’s not the Mario game the Wii U needs at this time. No, what will really prove to the hardcore crowd that Nintendo still has it is a true successor to Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land. And that game has got to be out before the Wii U turns a year old.

The dedicated team of developers behind Galaxy and 3D Land have consistently proven to be among the most creative and able people working for Nintendo. And when they’re given a system with as much potential as the Wii U, I don’t doubt that they’ll have amazing results. I trust they’ll find dozens of inventive uses for the GamePad in Mario’s next adventure, but they can’t keep players waiting too long. If Microsoft or Sony launch a new system next year, Nintendo will have to have a killer app like a new 3D Mario to stay competitive, or they should just give up now.

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Lucas: Smash Bros. or bust

Super Smash Bros. Brawl was the sole reason I bought a Wii, so the next installment in Nintendo’s smash-up is likely the only thing that can make me take the plunge on a Wii U. It’s funny–no single Nintendo franchise can get me out-and-out stoked these days, but when playable characters get revealed piecemeal leading up to the release of the new fighter, I get insanely hyped. The existing Smash Bros. games were always cornerstones in my old college dorms, and their unrivaled fun factor is a near-endless source of entertainment. Something about seeing those frantic four-player bouts, and waiting impatiently for my turn to play, is enough to make me put money down for an entire console.

Super Smash Bros. Melee saw a North American release a mere month after the GameCube hit retailers, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the still-unnamed Wii U entry sooner rather than later. The involvement of Namco Bandai won’t mean much until we’ve seen some actual gameplay–but once we get some in-game footage and character teases to pore over, I’m sure I’ll be excited all over again.

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Lorenzo: Update Virtual Console with upscaled Gamecube titles

I know that the Wii’s Virtual Console basically fell flat in the twilight years of the system (mostly due to lack of updates), but to me the ability to play the old Nintendo games would be a huge draw to Nintendo’s Wii U. Imagine playing classic 8-bit games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Punch-Out!! from the GamePad screen, sitting down with Mario RPG once again, or playing GameCube titles in high definition.

The Wii’s online platform accommodated games from the Nintendo 64, so why not move to the next classic console in line and shove in some of the ol’ purple cube’s games on the Wii U. All Nintendo has to do is guarantee that next year I will be playing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in crystal clear HD, and I would be completely sold on the system. The Virtual Console could be great this time. Come on, Nintendo. Let’s see it.

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Sophia: Redesign the eShop

It’s great to see the Wii U launch with a healthy bundle of games on the eShop and over the course of the next year I’d love to see more. I am starting to spend a lot more time browsing through Xbox Live Arcade games and PlayStation Network games–more so than any other online portal–so I’m sure I’d likely do the same as long as Nintendo gives me some incentive to do so.

However, right now, the eShop is a bit of a mess (why, for instance, is Nintendo showing me games that aren’t even out?), and I’d like to see a total redesign to make the process of buying games more intuitive. It did take a few tries for the competition to get their virtual shops sorted and while I’d still rather see excellent games than no games, I also want to be able to find these games easily.

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Dave: Resolve its identity crisis

The main thing I want from the Wii U is a real sense of identity. While I wouldn’t say the Wii U is exactly in crisis right now, I do feel like it’s sitting in a weird commercial limbo. There’s the shambolic initial reveal at E3 2011; the weak, unclear marketing (in the UK at least); the unconvincing tonal mish-mash of its launch line-up; and the various mixed messages over target audience. I’m still not entirely sure who Nintendo is aiming this machine at or where it wants it to end up.

There’s immense potential in the Wii U. But right now it seems to confuse the casual audience while lacking any must-have appeal for the loyalist fanbase Nintendo claims to be catering to. Nintendo needs to decide what the Wii U stands for, and it needs to cultivate a few stellar titles (both in-house and with third-parties) that make that clear. That’s its job for the next year.

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What do you want?

All of that seems totally reasonable to us. Granted, we aren’t the ones responsible for making it happen, but the brain-work is the hard part, right? So what about you all? What features would you like to see added to the Wii U, posthaste? Let us know in the comments.

And if you’re looking for more Wii U-related musings to help justify your $300 purchase, check out our Wii U review or The Wii U launch awards.

By GamesRadar Staff