Nintendo fumbles its second chance
Following last year’s mess of an E3 showing, leaving industry watchers rather confused as to what the Wii U was, Nintendo got the second chance at this year’s E3 to correct the mistake and properly introduce its upcoming Wii U controller console. Did it though? Nope.
Nintendo started off E3 nicely with its pre-E3 conference video on Sunday, revealing the Wii U’s menu system/social network, called Miiverse, and its core features for the first time. Also pleasing was the reveal of Wii U’s planned integration with not only 3DS (a no-brainer, yes), but mobile devices and PC as well. The only downside here is that this cross-device integration is to be implemented some time after Wii U’s launch later this year. Just before the end of the pre-E3 conference, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata assured us all the great Wii U games will be shown two days later at Nintendo’s proper E3 conference.
Showed they were, just not the kind that would make people camp in front of stores come launch day. First-party titles that were showcased were Pikmin 3, Nintendo Land, and New Super Mario Bros. U. While the anticipated Pikmin 3 roused the Nintendo core fans and raised hope for the same kind of excitement, if not higher, to follow on throughout the rest of the conference, the other two Nintendo offerings disappointed. New Super Mario Bros. U looked strikingly similar to the Wii original and failed to show what makes this Wii U iteration better than its predecessor. Nintendo Land was an even bigger disappointment. Aimed at casual gamers and positioned as the Wii U’s “Wii Sports” title, the party game made little sense when demonstrated on stage. The more Nintendo talked about it, the more confused the audience got and if know-it-all industry professionals didn’t get it, how will the casual market? Nintendo certainly needs to work on presenting their games better. One thing was for certain: this is no Wii Sports for Wii U.
Seeing as how New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land, and Wii Fit U are geared more towards casual gamers, that leaves only Pikmin 3 on the core gamer’s plate in Wii U’s launch window. That’s it? No Zelda? No Metroid? No Pokemon? When probed on the matter, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said that all the fan-favourite Nintendo properties are being worked on, it’s just that they won’t see the light of day in the launch window, but will follow later on in the console’ life cycle. Starting to sound a lot like what went down with the 3DS in its first year.
If first-party doesn’t satiate the core gamer’s hunger, surely Nintendo made sure the third-party line-up will, right? Nope, wrong again. Although LEGO City: Undercover and ZombiU looked very solid, they don’t exactly have the trappings of a killer app that moves units. The rest of the third-party line-up consisted of uninspiring re-releases, like Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Mass Effect 3, and Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, and new upcoming multiplatform titles, such as Darksiders 2 and Assassin’s Creed 3 for the core, and Just Dance 4 and Rabbids Land for the casual.
If Nintendo showed off all the note-worthy titles not in trailer form, but real-time gameplay demo form with all the Wii U’s exciting features, we would be having a different conversation right now. Also no live demo of Miiverse and its integration with the announced titles. It was all shown in the form of concept videos. With some five months before Wii U launch, this is simply unacceptable. We instead got unnecessary live demos of Just Dance 4 and Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition. Wow.
All in all, Nintendo’s E3 showing was a disaster. E3 matters most to the core, one half of Wii U’s target market, the other half being the casual (questionable strategy business-wise), and Nintendo simply didn’t deliver. Unhappy core fans remain sceptic. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them already lost hope for Wii U. And if the price won’t be $250 or below, Nintendo can kiss goodbye casual gamers as well. As 3DS nicely demonstrated, even with a fuzzy hardware proposition, the audience comes when the right games are available and the hardware is priced right. Neither of these two crucial factors are determined yet.
With Nintendo skipping this year’s gamescom, meaning no further new game announcements are in store for launch day, the core gamers are already off the ship. They will sit this launch out and wait on the sidelines until the right moment (read: killer apps) comes. Nintendo’s only hope now lies in the indifferent and unpredictable hands of casual gamers – only one half of Wii U’s twofold target audience.