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

    The Wii U (mainly controller) looks awesome. Yes everything has been there b4 but not all together; and that is the big surprise. Like Apple and the Wii have a baby with Activision-Blizzard as the surrogate mum.
    This is going to be an exciting 2012 with PS Vita and Wii U, hopefully I have enough money for all of that... <3

    How long before Sony announce the same integration between PS3 and PSVita?

    I OWN both an ipad and an iphone and i didn't come away with a feeling that Nintendo was following anyone at all. My first instinct was that they were developing onward from the DS. I'm not a Ninty fanboy, i don't own a Wii by choice and I have to say that I was impressed. I mean are we supposed to be critiquing the new hardware or the announcement? Because what I saw there was a whole range of possibilities, we don't have the killer app yet but there is potentially 18 months from now til release... I really don't see the problem.

    I mean even the idea of stylus capabilities with more modern tech is appealing. I don't mind that they announced a new console ONE AND A HALF YEARS AWAY and didn't announce an amazing game yet. Remember, there'S ONE AND A HALF YEARS to do that. Geez, if in a years time there's still nothing then we can be concerned, but there were a lot of unrealistic expectations on a product that hadn't even been announced yet.

      I totally agree with you there. I think that no game announced on a console that wont be available until 2012 is not a problem; unless it turns out like the 3DS disaster and there are still no games at launch ^^

        Yes they've learned a lot from that 3DS disaster with all there new game announcements... waitaminute... Luigis Mansion? They got nothing!

      1.5 years to make a well thought out and polished next gen game is really pushing it.

      Especially if they cant even name some of the games they are currently working on.

      Saying they would LIKE to start working on SSBros for example means that there is almost no way on earth that that game will appear in the next 18 months (or say within 6 months of launch).

      Launching next year looks like they are well and truly biting off more than they can handle.

      I really wouldn't be surpised if they end up holding it back to 2013 so that it has something to play on it.

    What a fkin complainer this author is. How is this in any way "just what apple is doing". You do realize Apple dont make games right? This is making a freaking ipad the controller. How could anyone, anywhere, not be on board with that idea??

      Because Nintendo are supposed to set the bar, not follow the others.

      Because some of us don't want to pay over a hundred dollars for a controller ;-P haha

    "A proper next generation Super Mario game instead of a NSMB retread"

    Your opinion, Mark, and I respect that but I really only like the SMB series, not the 3D SM series. Sidescroller/true platforming is where Mario truly shines, IMO.

      Actually - I kinda agree. I think NSMB Wii is one of the most clever games this generation. I absolutely love it. Didn't mean to say that NSMB Wii isn't a proper Mario game - just that it looks like a trussed up demo based on an old game.

      I'd absolutely love to see a new NSMB in 1080p with all new levels. Especially if the design was as good as the first NSMB Wii.

      I agree.
      2D Mario kicks ass!
      3D Mario just meanders around writing down peoples names.

    Hey, got any HD screens of the Zelda tech demo that I can use as a wallpaper?

    Mark, seriously? "However, I am now convinced that the Skyward Sword will be a return to form for the series. Which is a relief.", based on what? There was no demo, no real substance, we know as much about Skyward Sword as we did yesterday.

    As for buying a new console. I've got every one from this generation and the last and am in no hurry to buy another.

      What can I say - I really loved the vibe of the trailer. And I like what I'm hearing from Aonuma about the dungeon design.

    Surprised nobody has mentioned the coolness of using the controller-screen as a rear-view mirror in a racing game

    The Wii started out with 'cool ideas' and a 'crazygonuts controller full of possibilities' too...

    There *are* great Wii games... but my game shelf has very very few of those white dvd cases. I feel like the difference between the Wii and the Wii U is that this time around we'll get more direct-ports of games that were primarily developed for ps3 and 360 and they'll toss in something that only barely uses any of the Wii U's features.

    Controller-screen inventory or maps is going to be the new 'waggle to do what a button press would do otherwise'...

    The crazy 'flicking of ninja stars' and other unique things they show in their marketing will likely never actually happen.

    I'm being a negative nancy and I realize that... but I don't see myself getting a Wii U until I'm positive that there is a Zelda coming exclusively to it. And the price had better not be 'five hundred and ninety nine US dollars' ;-P

    3DS looks neat but my personal rule on handhelds is that I must wait at least a year and a half after release to get one. Ideally I wait for price drops... So all 3DS news to me is kind of 'that's cool, I'll have to try that in a couple years' :-P

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