Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Thoughts on Nintendo's E3 Conference

Like I said yesterday, the schedule for this week is going to be off due to E3. That's why this article is about two hours later than normal. Also, no pictures with this article today.

Going into Nintendo's E3 conference this year, I think everyone had some decent expectations. The launch of a new console is always exciting, and it provides a company a unique opportunity to blow us all away. Nintendo even held a pre-E3 conference to get Wii U features like the Miiverse and online out of the way, that way they could have an entire hour dedicated to Wii U games. That must have meant they had a great lineup of games, right? Plus, Nintendo needed to redeem the Wii U after last year's underwhelming reveal. All signs were pointing to, at the very least, a decent conference with a couple big Wii U games.

Sadly, that never happened. Their conference this year started out on a great note, showing off footage of the highly anticipated and long awaited Pikmin 3 for the first time. The environments looked great, albeit it was nothing that couldn't have been done on the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, and the controls seemed interesting enough. The next few minutes were decent too, with Nintendo of America's president, Reggie Fils-Aime, reviewing some of the aspects of the Wii U that Mr. Iwata covered in Nintendo's pre-E3 conference.

Next up was New Super Mario Bros. U. It wasn't where the show started to go downhill, but it was slightly underwhelming. There's already another New Super Mario Bros. game coming out this year on the 3DS, and it feels unneccessary to have two 2D Mario games with essentially the same gameplay come out within a few months of each other. Although, from the footage we saw of the game, it seems like there are a couple interesting ideas in the game.

And after that is where everything started to go downhill. The games they started showing were ports of games on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, but with a touch screen gimmick tossed into the mix for good measure. There are very few people who are going to spend the extra money on a Wii U to play a game that's coming out for a console they already own, and there are even less people who are going to buy a Wii U to play a game they've already played. As much as Reggie and the crew at Nintendo want to say these games are different and worth the extra purchase, they aren't.

I've said before that if Nintendo wants the Wii U to be as successful as the Wii, they need exclusive third party content that will attract the more traditional gamer. Unfortunately for Nintendo, they only showed one third party game that's truly exclusive to the Wii U and attractive to Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 owners, and that's ZombiU. While it may turn out to be a great game, Nintendo needs more than one game to sell their upcoming console to the more hardcore gamer.

The other third party games that weren't ports of Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 games weren't the kind of games that attact the people who buy consoles at launch. Sing, Wii Fit U, and Lego City Undercover weren't the right games to focus on when Nintendo is trying to convince the audience to buy the Wii U around launch. Those three games feel like they should be on the Wii instead of Wii U, and many gamers don't want to see certain similarities between the Wii and its successor.

Nintendo did touch on the 3DS a bit during their conference, which was somewhat of a highlight. The games they talked about for the 3DS -- Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, and New Super Mario Bros. 2 -- are the kinds of games people wanted to see throughout the conference. Instead, they were relegated to an insignificant five minute section that felt like more of an afterthought than anything else. There is another conference tomorrow focusing on solely the 3DS, which is promising, but for this conference, I wish we would have seen more of it or more of those types of games.

For the grand finale, Nintendo revealed a minigame collection entitled Nintendoland. While it looks like an interesting enough game, it's not the kind of game you end a conference on. The fact that Nintendo spent more time demonstrating a random minigame from Nintendoland than they did Pikmin 3 is extremely perplexing. Nintendo had to have realized that Pikmin 3 was their biggest game shown at E3, so why only talk about that for three or so minutes, but then spend over ten minutes on Nintendoland? For the life of me, I can't wrap my head around Nintendo's thought process this year.

When the conference ended, it felt like Nintendo didn't show anything that will sell the Wii U. Sure, Pikmin 3 and New Super Mario Bros. U are nice, but two games aren't enough to sell a console, especially when one of them is losing its appeal to the type of people who buy consoles near launch. Their conference left a lot of questions unanswered. When is the Wii U's release date? It's supposed to be coming out in the coming months, and we still have no idea when it's going to hit store shelves. How much will the Wii U cost? The last time Nintendo didn't announce a release date or price of an upcoming console at E3 was the 3DS, and that ended up being 250 dollars. It's starting to worry me that the Wii U will be over 300 dollars, and a 350 to 400 dollar console isn't appealing when your only two noteworthy games are Pikmin and New Super Mario Bros.

In addition to all that, there were multiple franchises that were completely left out. Where was Super Smash Bros.? Or Star Fox? Or Metroid? Or Donkey Kong? Or a 3D Mario game? Or Zelda? Or F-Zero? Or Kirby? Or a brand new IP that appeals to Nintendo fans? And what's Retro Studios working on? I'm sure at least one of those franchises is being developed for the Wii U as we speak and is far enough along in development to be presented. Considering The Legend of Zelda: Skwayrd Sword and Kirby's Return to Dream Land were the only two big internally developed Nintendo games released for the Wii since the end of 2010, I think it's fair to expect something other than Pikmin and a 2D Mario game.

This was Nintendo's last major opportunity to sell the Wii U to gamers, and sadly, Nintendo didn't do that. Here's to hoping that they manage to show us some convincing games over the next few months.

So, what do you think? Was Nintendo's E3 conference as underwhelming for you as it was for me, or did you think Nintendo knocked it out of the park?

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