E3 Day One – Nintendo

Posted June 12, 2012 in
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Microsoft and Sony's press conferences left murmurs on the lips of all those in the stadium seating for Nintendo's big show. Some nodded approvingly about specific games that had been announced for each platform, while others appeared nonplussed at the lack of strong first-party titles. All gathered seemed to agree that so far, this was a software year at E3 – where third-party developers would outshine the major platforms even in their own presentations. A few held out hope for Nintendo's continuous hyping of its new platform, the Wii U, to overtake the tepid showing from its competitors, and a throng of photographers gathered around its new tablet/controller, lying on a pedestal at the front of the stage.

The lights dimmed, and the central screen switched from cycling inane Nintendo trivia to a video of Shigeru Miyamoto and his Pikmin creations. He stepped out onstage with Bill Trinen, a product marketing director at Treehouse, and explained the features and philosophy of the Wii U. Leading off with a demonstration of Pikmin 3, the same franchise which had begun the life cycle of their Gamecube console, the Wii U's main feature appears to be an update to high-resolution graphics. The system uses both the tablet and wii-mote controllers to create what Miyamoto called “asymmetrical gameplay,” where two levels of interaction of the game lead to unique multiplayer options. In one demonstration, the holder of the tablet controller is a ghost who can see the entire map, and could sneak up on and scare unsuspecting Miis. The ghost hunters had to use teamwork and limited vision to track that player down and defeat him.

It seems kind of cynical to put it that way, but as the game demos reeled on, progressing through Scribblenauts Unlimited, New Super Mario Brothers U, and a remake of Batman: Arkham Asylum, everything felt like a sequel, an update of existing franchises. Even the Wii Fit U felt like another reason to dust off your Wii Fit pad and pull it out of storage. It's nice to see Nintendo so fully embracing its menagerie of Wii peripheral products, but without any new IP, the whole demonstration felt like an indignant “me, too!” from Nintendo, desperately vying for a piece of the HD pie. Yet, in the middle of Nintendo's conference, much like Microsoft and Sony before it, Ubisoft took the stage. These guys have always been a major player in the software development scene, but they stole the show from all three of the major press conferences. At the close of their presentation, Nintendo unveiled what they called NintendoLand, an amusement park-themed collection of 12 mini-games themed around games and characters loosed from Nintendo's stable. Yet, even that felt like a hollow imitation of the popularity of Wii Sports. I still have hope for the third-party support for Nintendo's new console, but it feels like gaming's old console dogs have shed innovation for presentation, leaving their software development to outside studios.