E3 Conference Report: Did Nintendo Do Enough?

I think it's safe to say that Nintendo's Wii U will be the talking point of this year's E3 and undoubtedly it is the biggest story of the conference - but has Nintendo done enough to stem the tide? We take a look at the announcements from Nintendo and see how it all stacks up.

In our E3 predictions, we said a couple of things. Mainly I believed that Nintendo's new console needed a killer app - a game that simultaneously dazzled and showed us how the new controller would work. Something akin to Mario 64 and Wii Sports. A new, innovative Mario game, I said, was the dream.

I wanted to see a set of games that reinforced the fact that the 3DS was here to stay. That it was a format worth owning and investing in.

I wanted to see a reinvented Zelda - a Zelda I could get genuinely excited in.

I wanted to see games. I wanted to be surprised by games.

On reflection - during the conference at least - I didn't really get what I wanted. But I did get something.

Let's start with the 3DS.

The biggest problem with the 3DS so far is software. The launch selection has been lackluster, and in response Nintendo has shown us what looks like another incredible Mario game in Super Mario 3D and... a new Mario Kart game. Oh, and Luigi's Mansion 2. That's it.

3DS software support was, and seems to remain, wanting. All of these games were already fully expected. A Super Smash Bros. game was announced but not shown and, once again, no surprises there. The third party video montage showing 'unprecedented' third party support was completely impotent. I saw nothing that convinced me that Nintendo will be able to maintain 3DS hardware sales.

That said - Super Mario 3D looks incredible. It's everything the game needs to be: Mario gaming in a 3D environment with accessible controls and what looks like incredibly well designed levels with a unique, bold art style. It looks like the kind of Mario game the console should have launched with.

Now to Zelda.

The show opened with a stirring orchestra rendition of the Zelda soundtrack. It was an amazing display of just how potent nostalgia is when presented in an sweeping, majestic manner. As I said in our liveblog - my tear ducts were ready! It was a perfect way to let us know that Nintendo was serious about pushing Zelda forward in terms of production values.

Then they didn't show the game at all. Not even a trailer! Which was literally bat-shit crazy, since Nintendo did release a trailer later - and an incredible one at that! I was fully expecting a live demo of the game at the very least.

However, I am now convinced that the Skyward Sword will be a return to form for the series. Which is a relief.

Now to the big announcement, Nintendo's latest console - the Wii U.

To begin with, I hate the name - which is probably a good sign - but I understand that Nintendo has built a strong brand with 'Wii' and it would be silly to waste those efforts.

My main concern with the Wii U is this: I was surprised Nintendo didn't surprise me. We knew the controller would be some kind of tablet, but outside of the additional buttons and analogue sticks, I'm not really seeing the Wii U doing anything an iPad can't already do. For the first time in forever I'm watching Nintendo responding to what other companies are doing in the marketplace, and that's never been a good position for them to be in.

Still, it looks like Nintendo has taken a good, long hard look at precisely how they can utilise the new technology and innovated in that way, instead of through technology. The bottom line is that while Apple know tablets, they sure as shit don't know games. Nintendo understand gaming better than anyone, and it looks as though they're really aware of the numerous ways in which this new tablet controller can be used to that end, whereas Apple are happy to coast on that front.

My gut instinct is that the Wii U will succeed. But not on a level anywhere close to the Wii. The tablet controller isn't fresh enough to sell the mainstream - Nintendo would be wise to target the core market, at least to begin with. Folks like you and me are most likely itching to spend money on a new home console. It's been a while.

On a personal level, I'm simply happy to see Nintendo games being produced on the cutting edge of visual tech. Yes, yes, yes - visuals aren't the most important thing, but I miss the days when Mario 64 blew my mind on every possible level, not just from a design standpoint. Right now Nintendo has a grace period - a chance to complete on an even keel with the Ps3 and the 360. Hopefully this will convince third party developers to get on board as well.

But I simply do not understand Nintendo's reluctance to show a proper game on the thing! Tech demos are all well and good - but Nintendo really needed to show a killer app, one that simultaneously sells the device, and teaches us how it can be used - shows us the possibilities. How about a Nintendogs that takes advantage of Augmented Reality? How about a proper next generation Mario game instead of a NSMB retread? I think the lack of concrete software for the device was easily the most strongly felt absence.

Ultimately, when the Wii Remote was first shown, I was completely lost in the possibilities. Whether or not Nintendo ultimately delivered is of no consequence because, back then, I felt like gaming was transforming before my eyes.

This time? I feel like I'm getting a faster, slightly confusing horse. I'm excited, but not surprised. I'm keen, but not blown away. I'm surprised that Nintendo didn't surprise me.


Comments

    I have to agree that I was really disappointed by the 3DS part. Everyone knew Super Mario and Mariokart were coming, so really the only suprises were Luigi's Mansion 2 and the SSB game that was just given a casual mention.

    On the Wii U front though, I think the second screen and the ability to take the controller away and play in a different room have the potential to be game-changers. It's not really fair to compare it to the iPad, the lack of control sticks and dedicated buttons means that hardcore gaming may never really take off on tablets.

    Well said

    Well I am excited..car racing or flight games ( starfox anyone ) where the games on the main screen & you can look 360 degrees around you with the tablet . Or mario kart , where your weapons only show on your tablet screen..ahhhhhh the possibilities

    I don't agree with your statement that Nintendo are following another company's design with the Wii U (in this case you were referring to iPad). Nintendo has had the vision for this type of controller for around 10 years now, going back to the days of GBA/GCN connectivity and then touchscreen/dualscreen gaming with the DS Phat. Just because the Wii U's controller can do things like an iPad doesn't mean that they are following Apple. Yes, I agree that Nintendo need to think of more original applications for the device in order to be competitive. I'm just trying to point out that they are not following in any way. They are just fulfilling the vision they've had for over a decade.

      You make a good point here.

    Highlight for me was Luigi's Mansion 2. How bloody depressing.

      I jokingly said yesterday, "I bet Nintendo don't show Zelda or a New Mario and instead show Luigi's Mansion 2..."

    holy flirking schnit, its a GIANT ENEMY CRAB the internet has come full circle, the end times are near

      Actually, that's a giant spider in the photo.

    The only thing in common with the iPad is the form factor. The iPad is just a single device, it doesn't have the option to have something going on your TV and something else on the tablet in your hand. That is where the innovation is, and where the multiplayer also gets interesting.
    So many, many, many games are spoiled by not having the privacy/secrecy of a second screen, from hardcore shooters, to scrabble and card games.
    Then there is the augmented reality, and the ability to have the tablet be a second info display, like the motion sensor in Aliens, or uncluttering the HUD. I think this thing has amazing possibilities, and as long as the graphics are a step above the PS3 and 360, then it will stay competitive for the next five years. TVs aren't going to go past 1080P anytime soon, and a lot of the current gen games are limited more by the artistic ability of the programmers, than by the hardware.

      "a lot of the current gen games are limited more by the artistic ability of the programmers"

      This made me laugh. I think I got what you actually meant (the ability of programmers to optimise and get the most out of the hardware) but if we were relying on the programmers artistic abilities we certainly would be in dire times.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmer_art

    For this to be a viable option for me to buy, Nintendo need to show some amazing 1st party titles that aren't years away. Launch with a strong Mario, Zelda or brand new IP.

    I have a PS3 & 360 for all the third-party games I want. The only way I'd buy a Wii U for a third-party game is if Aliens: Colonial Marines has the motion sensor on the controller.

    Die-hard Ninty fanboys are already saying that if you don't 'get' the Wii U, you must be trolling. Morons.

    I'm sure Mikolai is out there somewhere dancing on the ceiling.

    now don't get me wrong, it sounds like many of the conferences were a bit lacklustre. But if I read correctly, didn't Nintendo give a launch date or Q2-Q4 2012, and if so doesn't that mean they'll be another E3 before the release of the Wii U?

    If this is the case maybe they're holding all their big gun title announcements for then?

      That's what I assumed as well. I certainly hope that they wait and shore up some good release titles rather than start the 3DS debacle all over again.

        That is the most important thing now for them to consider now, IMO.

        They are up against the established and well supported 360 & PS3 and need to attract the gamers that use them -most of us on here.

        The casual mums who bought the first cheapish Wii don't care about improved graphics and certainly wont be paying for a Wii U to slightly improve the look of their Wii Fit game that has been gathering dust in cupboard.

        Nintendo NEEDS great games. It Needs them in large numbers. It needs Mario, Zelda, and maybe a Metroid or DKong early on. It needs all the big multiplatform titles like CODuty etc. It REALLY needs a comprehensive ONLINE shop and play service. Otherwise why would we buy one?

        Will any of you buy it just for Zelda, or just for Mario, if that's all that they have that stands out at launch? Especially if PS4 and/or the neXtbox is revealed at next years E3.

          Yeah exactly - I think Nintendo are fooling themselves into thinking they can double-dip in the casual market, forgetting that they're hardly the demographic likely to shell out for another whole new console. And by much the same token, there's nothing here for hardcore gamers (who will already have a 360 or PS3 by the time this comes out) EXCEPT Nintendo's legendary franchises - if they don't launch with an amazing lineup of hardcore in-house IP titles, as well as some incredible new games, I don't see how it will do very well at all...

    Nintendo have officially gone bat shit crazy.
    That controller looks like a fisher price toy.

    I have loved Nintendo for 30+ years and this in my opinion is the stupidest thing i have ever seen. (never had the pleasure of playing the Virtual boy, so that doesn"t count)

      Yeah, it looks like something you pull out of your baby's mouth!

    I don't think it's fair to say the touch screen is following in the iPad/iPod touch footsteps when Nintendo was the first to bring touch screens back with the DS and is now building on that, continuing the touch screen input/twin screen display.
    Remember, when the DS came out, touch screens were around but no-one used them.
    The DS made them mainstream and accessible.
    Really, Apple followed Nintendo.
    Considering the multiplayer possibilities the name is really suitable.
    The Wii, because it's still a social system, the U because everyone has their own screen as well as the communal one.

    Even if for third party games, they used the controller screen for the HUD and had the TV with no HUD I would definitely choose the WU.

    What the hell? EB are listing the Wii U at $599! F**k that.

    Could've done more; a little bit underwhelming.

    Excited for Luigi's Mansion 2 (honestly... don't judge me! >_<) and I actually like the Wii U much more than the Wii - hate the name, but the Wiimote frustrates the shit out of me (particularly with games like DKC:R when the controls are a little clunky and you're forced to use 'em) and I just think it's going to be nice and more accessible (from a gaming perspective).

    Wanted to see more of Zelda too, but Nintendo's software line-up hasn't had me excited for a little while now, so... more of the same, I guess?

    I thought it's a giant DS. Which is cool in a way. I'm not sure if I will get one though.

    All I wanted was Wii up-scaling.... :'(

    I agree. The whole time I was sitting there waiting for one game to convince me that Wii U was going to be something cool. At the end of it, I had this odd feeling of neutrality towards the console. And I'm pretty easy to win over with consoles.

    And the fact they didn't even mention Skyward Sword definitely left something to be desired, as it's going to be the Wiis final hurrah.

    As for the 3DS line up, I was actually satisfied. We're getting some cool (albeit unoriginal) titles, and I personally still have a big backlog of DS games to play too, so I wasn't too fussed.

    Actually, that basically describes the whole conference for me; I wasn't really fussed.

    I cant explain how excited i am and dissapointed at the same time.

    this system is perfect for quite possibly my favorite multiplayer game of all time but for some inexplicable reason its existance was not even hinted at.

    4 swords.
    HD 4 swords, no cords, online co-op.
    what more could i ever want.
    its inevitable but it really NEEDS to be a launch title

      You probably won't enjoy the rumours that it can't have 4 of those controllers going at the same time then..

    Personally i think Nintendo played it safe this year. They hoped that just showing the new controller, a few games etc... will be enough for this year and hope to blow out next years E3 with their first party titles and more third-party support.

    I like the idea of Wii U though and can't wait to see how this is going to work with everyday games.

    Reading the live stream of the developer roundtable at the moment, hopefully they shed some more light on things they didn't touch on at the conference.

    In fact I think they did their best there:
    - they can't compete at trying to be a PS3 or 3.5, they would lose the tech battle. Instead they're doing what they did the best: controller innovation. Whether it's a good idea or not, their controller does things that no other console can do. They'll succeed if games use its features, fail if not (or not fail but go on a similar journey as the Wii with its crap third party input).
    - they bring onboard all of their previous innovations that still haven't been exploited as well as they could be: wiimotes with motionplus, balance board (give me more Shaun White Snowboarding stuff!) - these are great peripherals, it was too early to can them. Instead, when you'll look at the release of the Wii U, you'll be able to write off the price to purchase new controllers to have some nice multiplay. This will make a difference, especially for the casual base which will be eager to save on these things.

    I think the leak of the Cafe details made them announce the WiiU. The only games running on it were conceptual, the montage footage apparently came from other consoles, and they didn't show the actual console... just the controller.

    i thought the 3ds part of the show was sadly the best, kid icarus looks sweet as did Luigi's mansion and the new mario so i was ready to get super pumped for the wii u, then they mention SB and I was as giddy as a school girl to see some sick first part launch titles. instead I got lackluster tech demos and nintendo beating there chest screaming "thats right 3rd parties are back. Hear that hardcore gamers??? Take that sony and microsoft". All in all I was thoroughly disappointed with what should have been a stellar conference, all they had to do was show some of there franchise in glorius HD and the crowd would have been hooked like that, all day 1 buyers....oh well theres always next year i guess.....

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