Nintendo’s E3 press conference was at turns defensive and triumphant. Initially defensive because it seemed as though every announcement from Reggie Fils-Aime was presented as an answer to a criticism.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense?
Fils-Aime talked about the “mistaken belief that many Wii owners just play Wii Sports
” and then get bored, noting that what he called “bridge games,” like Mario Kart
and New Super Mario Bros. Wii
have sold millions (22 and 14, respectively). He discussed also the idea that third parties couldn’t succeed on the Wii, but cited Just Dance
as a successful series. His points were valid, but seemed to come from a defensive place, which felt odd for a company on top of its particular market.
The entirety of this conference seemed to be very much an “in group” experience. It was presumed that everyone in attendance was up on all Nintendo news, and perhaps rightfully so given that this is E3, and everyone came to the Nokia theatre to see Nintendo specifically -- but this was a different approach from previous conferences for the company.
In the past, Nintendo focused more on its casual offerings, carefully explaining each title, its intent, and its audience. This showing was much more fan-oriented, with more of the “magical unveils” Nintendo has been known for in the Gamecube days. Fils-Aime noted that this E3 is abuzz with technology, but said that he would like to “adjust that perspective just a little bit. Because technology is only a tool. The end product, the thing that does matter, is the experience.”
He stated aptly that “the best experiences always come when technology and game design are perfectly matched,” which fit amusingly as a live demo for the new Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
was plagued by technical difficulties.
It was particularly interesting to note that the more extremely casual products, like Wii Fit and others, were deemphasized during the conference. The closest to a casual title we got was Wii Party
, an all-ages multiplayer game that uses your Miis. The focus really seemed to be on the core users, or at least the core Nintendo users – is that a tactic for the conference, or a change in direction for Nintendo? I propose that it’s the former, and it’s a good tactic too – most of the journalists and developers at E3 are here to see those bigger titles, not to hear marketing speak on demographics and market expansion. At this point, Nintendo can call market expansion and casual users a given. Now they can focus on giving specific audiences the specific experiences they need.
If the first half of the conference was marked by Fils-Aime responding to criticism and leading with negatives, the second half, which was helmed by Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, was overwhelmingly positive, simply talking about what was new and exciting. The strategy seemed to be to break the audience down, then build it back up.
The unveil of Nintendo’s 3DS, which Iwata called “the successor to the Nintendo DS,” was quite impressive. It has a larger 3.5” top screen, and a touch pad on the bottom once again, because as Iwata noted, fingerprints on a screen will ruin the 3D experience.
The 3DS will be compatible with DSi, and in fact has two cameras so that you can take and view 3D pictures. It also has a “slide bar” for 3D, to turn the effect on and off, which works well, but is a rather unexpected addition. To me this indicates that some 3D may be too much for some gameplay or movie situations, or perhaps adjustments actually optimize the viewing experience.
It really does seem primed to capture a huge demographic. 3D without glasses is really a spectacle, especially when you layer in the fact that it can play movies as well. Details weren’t available, but the company is showing 3D trailers from Disney, WB, and Dreamworks.
And on the game side, as Iwata said 3D gives you a much better sense of height, width, and depth, which gives you better ability to navigate. It’s easier to judge distance in a polygonal environment. Of course, this is the line that all 3D-oriented companies are talking about, including Sony – but removing the need for glasses is a significant step. The 3DS also downloads updates to games in sleep mode, whenever it finds Wifi, or can communicate with other 3DS units.
I got some limited interaction with a 3DS, just viewing 3D models with the new updated processor (which rumor suggest is related to the Gamecube chip), rotating them, and soaking in the 3D-ness of it all. The effect really was quite good, with limited ghosting, and of course, as Nintendo kept hammering home, no need for glasses.
I had predicted that all the 3D would necessarily be going into the screen, but the demo showed that in fact there is some “out” 3D as well, through blurring and whatnot. Very impressive all around.
When it came to games, the announcements were mostly core-oriented. Aside from Zelda
, a new Donkey Kong
from Retro was announced, as well as a new Kirby
, called Kirby’s Epic Yarn
, which has a very charming stitchwork/handicraft aesthetic, and allows your yarn-composed Kirby to interact with the environment in interesting ways, like unzipping parts of the world, and stitching bits of it together.
Demos or videos were shown of Metroid Other M, Epic Mickey, Golden Sun Dark Dawn,
and Goldeneye 007
, coming from Activision.
Even with the 3DS, the major announcement was Kid Icarus Uprising
, a Nintendo-style casual-core hybrid led by Project Sora, the joint venture between Nintendo and Masahiro Sakurai, creator of the Kirby
And on the 3DS side, a few more games were hinted at, including some from third parties – Miyamoto is working on a 3D Nintendogs
, adding cats, Activision is bringing DJ Hero
, THQ is bringing Saint’s Row
- which for some reason elicited laughter from attendees – Capcom is bringing Street Fighter IV
and an original Resident Evil
, and Warner Brothers is bringing Batman
of some distinction.
Nintendo’s Next Steps
The conference left me with the feeling that Nintendo aims to reclaim at least some portion of its core demographic – the company does always say it wants to, but this showing seemed an actual concerted effort toward it, and this time, without explicitly staying “we’re still here.” They simply showed it.
Iwata ended by addressing developers and publishers directly, saying, “I want you to know that I’m truly grateful for the support you are offering. Thank you very much.”