E3 2006. The stage was set for Nintendo as it was make or break time on what was going to happen to the future of the company. The GameCube was winding down and a new system was set to debut in full at the show. A “Revolution” so to speak using motion controls as the foundation behind their new games. The GameCube was deemed a failure for Nintendo, only selling over a measly 20 million units despite having heavy hitters on the system such as Metroid Prime, Zelda: The Wind Waker and Resident Evil 4. How would Nintendo fare with their new system, the Wii, for going into the future. It didn’t offer HD graphics, the games Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 had and was even considered the laughing-stock of the internet for a while from the ridiculous name but it offered a new way to play. We all know now that not only was the system not a failure, it is one of the highest selling home console the company has put out. The year is now 2012 and we are seeing a familiar trend, will lighting strike twice?
Nintendo has the spotlight fully on them this year as they are poised to be the only one showing off hardware in full with the new system, the Wii U slated for release this holiday season. While we saw the system debut at E3 2011, it was only shown off via tech demos and offered very limited game play with the device. The show wasn’t meant to show you launch software and all its secrets but it was there to show you the message Nintendo is trying to convey, mainly in the use of its brand new tablet controller and streaming technology with the system. Now for this show coming up, its times for Nintendo to fully pull back the curtain on launch software and what other magic the console can do. It’s a big step for Nintendo as they are finally catching up to the PS3 and Xbox 360 in having an HD system that can provide the power many developers have been asking for. Let’s take a look at what Nintendo needs to take home the crown for what could be biggest topic at the show.
Strong First Party Showing for Wii U
Without a doubt, Nintendo needs to be in full force in showing off its franchises in stunning HD for the first time.We got a tease of Zelda last year with the very limited tech demo and we know that Pikmin and Mario will be shown off to the world at the show, but its time for Nintendo to bring the full party. One of the greatest strengths Nintendo has is its unparalleled amount of quality IPs from Mario to Zelda, Metroid, Pokemon and even Star Fox, gamers want to see these games in glorious HD for the first time like we saw for Zelda last year. Retro Studios has been very quietly working on a new project since they completed Donkey Kong Country Returns back in 2010 and if rumors are to be believed, we may be visiting the Lylat System again after 6 years with a brand new Star Fox being made from the ground up to use the new tablet controller. Or perhaps they are returning back to Metroid again after their brief stint with the Kongs. Either way, its most likely that their new title will be shown in some form and whatever it is, most likely it will be glorious.
Miyamoto has been teasing for quite a bit of time that he has begun working on a new IP for Nintendo for quite a while. Whether that ends up on Wii U remains to be seen, but since the last new core IP Nintendo created was Pikmin back in 2001, the company has been long overdue for a new hero or heroine to come rub shoulders with Link, Samus and Kirby. Hopefully we finally get details on this project at the show floor next month.
Back at E3 2006, Nintendo teased fans of Smash Bros by unveiling Super Smash Bros. Brawl to the world with newcomers Pit from Kid Icarus, Wario and even Snake joining the fray. This was 1 year after Nintendo CEO, Satoru Iwata, said that a new Smash Bros will be available on the Wii at launch in Fall 2006. While we did not get Smash Bros. Brawl at launch as promised were shown the game and the excitement for a new Smash Bros was sky-high. Last year at E3 2011 Satoru Iwata teased a new Smash Bros will be available not only on Wii U but also 3DS and they two would link up in some way. Is it possible we might see another pattern and that Nintendo will pull back the curtain to show what Smash Bros Director Masahiro Sakurai and his team have been working on in the past year? I know that will be one of the most talked games at this year’s E3 if they do announce it officially.
Original 3rd Party Support
Nintendo is best friends with many third-party developers and it’s not uncommon to see some of these third parties make games with their first parties such as Team Ninja making Metroid: Other M or Capcom when they developed the Zelda Oracle titles over a decade ago. Ubisoft, Capcom, Team Ninja, Activision and EA have all pledged Wii U support but so far only Ubisoft has shown some original Wii U support by announcing Killer Freaks from Outer Space. Whether that game actually turns out to be good or not will remain to be seen but they are making the effort to take advantage of what the system capabilities are and run with it. Nintendo needs to have this type of presence from everyone else to make people want to buy a Wii U.
While it is cool to hear games like Aliens: Colonial Marines and Assassin’s Creed III will have specific Wii U controls, it’s not what most people want. Third parties have been doing a pretty decent job at stepping up to the plate to offer 3DS titles that offer original and worthwhile experiences such as Resident Evil: Revelations and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. This is the kind of support we need to see. Exclusives from major franchises that show what companies can do with a brand new tablet controller are necessary for the Wii U to succeed. The Wii suffered from poor third-party support mainly for having a different control scheme developers were not familiar coupled with less than stellar horsepower. While Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 had Resident Evil 5, the Wii had to make do with Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles, two Resident Evil light gun games that did not offer the deep Hollywood action feel that the HD Twins had. Give me a brand new IP from Capcom that takes full use of the system like the puzzle game Zack and Wiki on Wii did or a brand new exclusive Castlevania game that utilizes 3D on your TV and 2D on the tablet simultaneously.
Strong Online Presence
Nintendo is notorious for not having a strong online presence even saying gamers don’t want to play online. While that may have passed in 2006, that will not fly in 2012 and Nintendo knows this. Nintendo has already stated in one of their past investor meeting that they are looking to completely rebrand its Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection into a completely new unified online platform called Nintendo Network. In fact, they already have started implementing it as I write this, with Nintendo Network logo’s appearing on Kid Icarus: Uprising and it’s infrastructure powering the online portion of Mario Kart 7. What that means for gamers in the long run is that we will finally have that profile system in place where we can tie our purchases, downloads and friends lists into one cohesive package. Now Nintendo needs to show how serious it is by showing what Nintendo Network means toe everyone and why they should care.
The first big step into this new world brings us the confirmation that Wii U software and 3DS will have digital releases, sometimes day and date with their retail brothers. Starting in August, New Super Mario Bros 2 will be the first game to offer this glimpse of the future by offering the game both digitally and to retail. This is the direction Nintendo should be going in and it is exciting that will be going down that path but it is only one part of its online machine. Xbox and PlayStation gamers are already familiar with an online system where you have access to demos, bite size games in the form of Arcade or PSN titles and friends lists at the touch of a few buttons. These needs to be there on Day 1 to show that the Wii U is not a laughing joke when it comes to gaming online. Not only that but it needs to also bring something that Xbox 360 had from day 1, and Sony quickly followed in 2008: an Achievement system.
While it may sound like little, a study was shown that games that offer achievements tend to sell better overall than games that do not offer them. Those little goals sprinkled throughout a game bring extra life and enjoyment to a player and really shows how much of a fan someone is of that particular game or series. Nintendo fans are rabid and they like to show their pride, myself included. I would love to show off to my friends a difficult Smash Bros. achievement I earned from beating the arcade mode on Very Hard. I would love to show that I can finish the new Zelda HD game that will inevitably come out with only 3 hearts. While Nintendo has been vocal that they do not see achievements as a positive idea, as it tends to grab enjoyment away from the player to do menial tasks for invisible points, they have already implemented a smaller system in with the 3DS’s Mii Plaza. Called Accomplishments, these little goals range from Street Passing 5 boys in a row, to finding every hat in Find Mii, so the idea of a larger scale “Accomplishment” system wouldn’t seem that farfetched. I am crossing my fingers that this is one of the things announced at E3 in a couple of weeks.
Show Us the Tablet Controller Matters
When I got to get my hands around the controller last year at E3 2011 I had my fun with the tech demos presented. While Chase Mii was fun and Shield Pose showed how the tablet screen could interact with the television, my mind wasn’t on the games I was playing that day but more on the possibilities of what we could see for the future. I had the ideas of a new Metroid title where you scanned with the tablet by facing the controller at the screen to look around the environment. I thought Mario going into a tube on the TV screen and reappearing in the underground zone on the tablet screen. Nintendo has been pretty keen on working on the Fatal Frame games lately, so a brand new HD Fatal Frame is beckoning to be made using the tablet controller as the Camera Obscura. Speaking of cameras, don’t even get me started on a Pokemon Snap sequel. The controller opens up a multitude of different way to play games and Nintendo needs to show some of these genius ideas to the public to show them why they need a Wii U.
The tech concept video that Nintendo showed off last year had a lot of really neat ideas that work well with games today but we need to see smart ideas from third parties as well. We need to see this same kind of creativity from third parties as well. While Aliens: Colonial Marines will be cool to play on the new system, I will not be very happy if all the game has to offer on the tablet screen is weapon switching, a map or the famous motion tracker. Nintendo practically revolutionized motion controls into the game industry and time after time have come up with brilliant ideas that others have copied. To show me the tablet matters, let me have the ability to pause the game, send a message to a friend, pop onto a Facebook app and update my status, watch a new video of a new Zelda game coming to the Wii U, write a note about the release date, and then jump back into the game without having to close anything. I am eager to see what kinds of ideas the company has come up with its launch titles and how they are played on the new controller.
It’s no secret that I am a Nintendo super fan, I am because the company likes to constantly innovate and try something new with each of their consoles. It’s that excitement that drives me to purchase a Nintendo console on day 1 with the realization that I will be investing 5 or more years with this system, playing games that I never thought were possible when it came out. Nintendo’s press conference is slated for June 5th at 9 AM PST, and t3chniq will be reporting on everything that Nintendo plans to show. I will be on the show floor and be updating with game impressions, videos and information as I can. Stay tuned!