UPDATE: I feel like an idiot. In my exhaustion-ridden state last night, I completely forgot to add in a paragraph to my conclusions at the bottom of this post regarding the misplaced sentiment from many that Nintendo are just playing it safe and taking no risks. This was one of the most important points I wanted to make and I completely forget. Yep, major derp moment. I’ve added that part in now so check the last section to read it. Sorry, I is fail.
Sorry, I know this is super late. Unfortunately, work was crazy busy today and I had to do a bunch of stuff when I got home but hey, this is an experiment so better late than never right? As you probably know, Nintendo decided to skip out on doing an E3 press conference this year–something I cautiously defended–and elected instead to do one of it’s Nintendo Direct presentations, hosted by Satoru Iwata from one of the big board rooms at their headquarters. One benefit to being late is the video’s up on YouTube so check it out first if you haven’t:
This was a shorter presentation than either Microsoft’s or Sony’s by far, clocking in at less than 45 minutes but it was tight, to the point and strictly on message which I like. Despite the length, there’s still a lot I took away from it. Off we go:
Presentation As A Whole
-I still think Satoru Iwata is a fantastic executive and a great spokesperson. He always comes across as humble, kind of lovably shy and that he really cares about what he’s saying to you. Even when Nintendo was riding high, he always addressed people as if he had to prove himself to them and never comes across with the kind of fake confidence or arrogance so many other executives do. This is a man who runs a big company but came up from developing games and still clearly both plays them and respects the craft behind them. I also respect that despite his poor English, he presents without a translator. That takes more guts than you might think.
-He wasted no time and jumped right into games. The entire presentation was one game after another.
-Despite being a bit up against it, he announced the several anticipated releases are going to be facing delays or just a further out release date. I understand, respect and appreciate that Nintendo doesn’t ship product before it’s ready and that they take their time to get things right. I don’t mind that but a lot of other people do and more delays means even longer the Wii U has to suffer weak sales while the Xbox One and PS4 continue to gain hype and momentum. The Wii U needs games and it needed them yesterday.
-There was a decent amount of 3DS love shown but this was primarily a Wii U affair, as it should be. E3’s the time to build hype.
-I wish there was more to talk about here. Nintendo is clearing interested in pleasing indies (though they really need to actually start calling them indies, not the “eShop Community”) and getting them interested in the Wii U but they needed more exposure here. Instead, all we got was a quick sizzle reel of a bunch of titles, some of which looked cool but which were also lumped in with downloadable releases from bigger companies. The indie titles should have been given a special showcase all to themselves, like they got during Sony’s press conference. Like on Vita, good indie content could drive a lot of interest in the struggling Wii U. We should have seen more than we did.
-Nintendo’s lack of third-party content is stunning and very worrying. There were only a handful of big publishers on deck during this presentation and nothing that was shown is Wii U exclusive as far as I know and most of the games don’t even take advantage of the system’s unique features, with the exception of Rayman Legends and possibly Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
-We got sizzle trailers for Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, Watch_Dogs, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Batman Arkham Origins, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Disney Infinity, Just Dance 2014, Skylanders Swap Force, Scribblenauts Unmasked and Rayman Legends. Every one of these games (again with the possible exception of Rayman Legends and also Scribblenauts Unmasked) will look better on other systems and the Wii U version of most of them will probably be stripped down and lacking features compared to the larger counterparts. This isn’t good enough to make people buy a $250 Wii U when the PS4 will be $399. I know this isn’t their style but it might be time for Nintendo to buy itself a few exclusives.
-As usual, Nintendo is bringing some compelling first-party stuff. This all excites me and good Nintendo content often sells their hardware but I don’t know if that’s enough this time around.
-Pokemon X & Y I’m sure are a big deal to a big group of people. I’ve never gotten Pokemon.
-Super Mario 3D World. Hell yes! I think 3D Land is still one of the best 3DS games and this type of Mario game is what we need, not the increasingly boring and samey “New” series. It looks like this will have co-op which is awesome! Appears they’re adopting the 4 unique characters like in Super Mario Bros. 2. This will be a day one buy for me.
-I haven’t been into Mario Kart since Double Dash!! (which was the last really good one and the best in the series, shut up and stop being wrong and stupid if you think otherwise) but this one looks pretty rad. The gravity manipulation mechanic could be super fun and it’s supposed to have a robust online mode. I’m interested to try it out. The only problem is that my friends and I used to love this in local multiplayer and I don’t know how they’re going to work the GamePad into that.
-Wii U Party is a big meeeeeeh for me. Maybe families will like this, it looks boring to me.
-Art Academy isn’t for me because well, I’m not an artist but I think it’s both very cool and very smart of them to start this project because of the frankly incredible drawings people are making with MiiVerse, especially given how comparatively weak the Wii U’s touch screen is. I bet this will do very well and I hope I’ll be able to see what people make with it, even if I don’t own it. It looks like they’re bringing more advanced drawing tools into MiiVerse in general too which is great.
-Disney’s Planes got about 5 seconds of footage but it looks an awful lot like Digital Reality’s SkyDrift to me. Not a bad thing, it’s just a weird little thing for Disney to put out.
-Shin Megami Tensei IV for 3DS is another thing I’m sure is a big deal to some people. I’m not a big JRPG guy but it looks neat.
-I’m actually interested to hear more about Sonic Lost World. As I understand it, this is supposed to be a Sonic game but done in the style of Super Mario Galaxy, one of the best Wii games and one of the best Mario games ever made. I don’t care who the character is, I just want more of that game play.
-The updated Wind Waker looks very pretty indeed. I’ve actually never been a hardcore Zelda fan and didn’t get very far into Wind Waker on the GameCube. I have to admit, this has me thinking of trying it again. Linking the Tingle Bottle message thing into MiiVerse is cute and clever but I don’t see it adding much to the experience for most players.
-The Wonderful 101 looks like Pikmin but more badass. A lot of what they showed in the video involved controlling your units entirely with the touch screen which looked intuitive and could be a very intriguing way to play. I was excited for this when it was first announced and that hasn’t abated at all.
-Speaking of Pikmin, how was that not discussed at all during this presentation? I know they apparently talked about it a lot today during their press briefing in their booth but man, this is one of the most anticipated Wii U titles, I expected them to spend a lot of time on it. Nope.
-After releasing Donkey Kong Country Returns on the 3DS, I didn’t expect another one of these for a while but now Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is coming to the Wii U. It looks good but pitching that it’s biggest feature is a “dynamic camera” isn’t really filling me with confidence that we’re getting a lot of innovation here. I could definitely see playing this in co-op with my girlfriend, assuming it isn’t curbstomp-to-the-soul ridiculously hard like the last one was. I also really hope this isn’t Retro Studios’ unannounced title. Those guys need to be working on something amazing. Please say they are.
-Bayonetta 2 still looks awesome and this alone makes me glad I have a Wii U, even if it isn’t coming until next year. I loved the first Bayonetta and as weird a fit as this is for Nintendo to pick up (especially since the first one didn’t sell well), I’m very happy it exists and PlatinumGames is getting the chance to bring their unique brand of insanity to the Wii U.
-I know very little about MonolithSoft but apparently the untitled game they showed today could be a new Xenosaga? I have to say, it looked very cool. If it doesn’t play like Monster Hunter, I may be interested in trying it out. I fell out of love with JRPGs many years ago but I always felt I could get back into them if the right game came along. Maybe it could be this. Maybe.
-A new Smash Bros. is a huge deal and it’s pretty much universally thought that it will move lots of copies and probably a few units of hardware too. I’ve never gotten the appeal of this series but lots of people love it and it’s great that Nintendo has a new iteration coming. That it’s launching simultaneously on Wii U and 3DS is a pretty big deal as well. This is clearly Nintendo’s megaton.
-Where the Hell was that new Yoshi Yarn game for the Wii U? My girlfriend and I want that right now!
Like I said, there certainly was a lot to talk about but not as much as from the other two platforms. I’m pleased with what I saw and continue to be happy that I own both a Wii U and a 3DS but honestly, I think Nintendo needed a lot more than this. The Wii U is tanking hard right now. It can still be saved but it needs software right now. Not tomorrow, not at Christmas, not in 2014, now and what we got were largely promises of stuff coming later. Nintendo should also be terrified at how third parties are quickly abandoning the system. They need to start selling hardware or using their still impressive cash reserves to buy support for the Wii U. I so want this machine to succeed, it has incredible potential and can bring many unique gaming experiences, despite what the trendy cynics in the “enthusiast” press keep saying. I have nothing but respect for Nintendo’s vision of doing their own thing their own way and taking as much time as they need to polish things but shareholders will only tolerate that for so long and I think their patience is approaching it’s end. I don’t want to see Satoru Iwata booted from his job to be replaced by some snack cake executive who doesn’t play games and will just make shitty iOS cow clickers out of Nintendo’s IP but I think that’s a real possibility if they can’t step things up soon.
I do believe they were right to skip a formal press conference though. If they brought this presentation to a large, public space full of journalists, all anyone would be taking about was what a flub it was and how they wasted everyone’s time. Instead, they spoke to the fans, the ones who will evangelise the Wii U and 3DS to their mainstream friends and held more targeted press events in their booth, focusing on getting people in front of the games rather than just talking about them. I think this was the smartest strategy for them to employ but I think it also says a lot about the position they’ve put themselves in that this was in fact the best thing for them to do. If you’re the desperate underdog in a hardware generation and don’t have enough stuff to talk about to fill a press conference, you have a lot to worry about.
I will say one thing about the reactions to this show too: The people who are saying that Nintendo is just “playing it safe” and relying on old franchises is clueless or pushing an agenda. Don’t get me wrong, I saw a lot to be excited about in the Microsoft and Sony shows but how many games are not just sequels but in some cases, the third, fourth or even fifth iteration in those series. Nintendo may use a lot of the same characters and IPs but many of the newer games in those series are radically different than those that came before. There is a certain amount of “playing it safe” as well but to claim that’s all they’re doing or that it’s somehow different from what everyone else is doing is ridiculous. I personally saw more innovation and new ideas (in terms of game play, not gimmicks) in this Nintendo Direct presentation than I saw in either of the other two shows and I say this as someone who pre-ordered a PS4. Sure, you rely on what works when your back is against the wall but Nintendo has always understood that relying on only that is not how you get new people interested. Even if the Wii U doesn’t pick up steam, there will still be new things on it that you won’t get anywhere else.
I’ve always said people should never count Nintendo out. Those who have done that have historically been almost universally wrong. However, I will also say that Nintendo’s never been more vulnerable and I dare say it, is running the risk of losing a lot of relevancy. They have some of the smartest minds in the gaming industry on their payroll. It’s time to tap them for all they’re worth. I have your hardware Nintendo and will pay a lot of money to put games in them. Don’t let me down.