The last of the Big Three takes to the stage. And wins. Again.
The final big press conference comes from the venerable Nintendo, who’s been at this game longer than almost everyone else in the industry. If there was one company that people were expecting things from this year, Nintendo is the one. They got things rolling in consummate style with a full orchestral prelude performance—complete with choir—to imagery from various Zelda games.
Legendary developer Shigeru Miyamoto then appeared to welcome the press, reminding attendees that this was the 25
year for the Zelda franchise. He said that the reason for the orchestral performance was because of the importance of music to the Zelda series, from musical cues to actual mechanics like the ocarina. The orchestra then demonstrated, playing various musical cues such as puzzle solving and getting items. He then announced that a new Zelda game was going to be available for every Nintendo platform including Link’s Awakening on the eShop today, the Ocarina of Time on the 3DS would be on shelves by the middle of the month, the much talked about Four Swords DSi game was also incoming, and Wii game, Skyward Sword would be out for the holidays with a gold wii-mote available. Miyamoto also mentioned that there would be full, orchestral, Zelda concerts in every region of the world, starting in the fall, and soundtrack CDs for Ocarina of Time and Skyward Sword. He wrapped up, bringing out some of the key staff that he had worked with on the various Zelda games, before thanking the fans themselves and handing the presentation off to Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo.
Iwata talked about how Nintendo has expanded the gaming audience, but there is still a division in gaming mindset, largely between casual and hardcore gamers. He said a deeper game experience for the hardcore with a wider appeal for casual would bring both audiences together in the form of the new console coming next year. He then turned attention back to the present with the 3DS and a trailer showing old franchises coming to it, such as Mariokart, Starfox, Kid Icarus, Luigi’s Mansion and of course, Super Mario Bros.
When the video ended, Reggie Fils-Aime came to the stage, focusing on the 3DS, and saying the five games featured in the trailer would be appearing on the show floor. More trailers followed, this time of each game. For Mariokart, the game is slated for a holiday release, while Starfox is headed for a September release with camera functionality recording faces of opponents for multi-player. Mario 3D is set for release before the end of the year, and more footage for Kid Icarus: Uprising was shown, with the multi-player component, as well some kind of card-based ARG element. It’s also slated for a “later this year” release. A trailer for Luigi’s Mansion 2 followed, with hints that more mansions would be included, and then Fils-Aime cut to another trailer showing off 3
Fils-Aime then talked about the expansion of the eShop with more content and its functionality, including a new virtual console for the 3DS. Excitebike is going to be offered for free as well as a new, free version of Pokedex, with 16 cards to start, and the ability to get more via SpotPass, scanning and AR markers.
Fils-Aime finally moved onto the main event, starting with the new name. Dubbed “WiiU” it implies that the game is for everyone, but also specifically for you. An image of the new controller was shown, which looked like a portable gaming system with a screen d-pad and buttons and twin analog sticks. The first trailer was shown with a player moving off playing a game on the TV to switching over to the controller, playing mini-games on it, drawing on it with a stylus, using it with regular Wii games as a secondary interface, and even video conferencing.
Iwata returned to the stage and talked about the WiiU controller with its feature set of cameras, microphones, full controls, rumble, gyroscopes and touch screen. It is not designed to be a portable game device, however. A video was then played out with Miyamoto discussing the possibilities for the new interface. Iwata came back to reveal that a Smash Brothers game was in development both for the 3DS and WiiU.
Fils-Aime returned to say that 8 tech demos would be available on the show floor to demonstrate the potential of the system. A trailer showing off some impressive graphics played, and then Fils-Aime announced Super Mario Mii in which player created Miis could play along with Mario, and said that games could be played both with the Wii-mote and the WiiU controller with the new controller taking advantage of new screen. He then confirmed that LEGO City Stories from Traveller’s Tales, an open world game is in development for the WiiU and 3DS exclusively.
A trailer then played with various reactions from developers to the WiiU, with Darksiders II confirmed as a launch title, Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon, Batman Arkham City, Dirt, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Metro Last Light, Ninja Gaiden 3, and Tekken were also confirmed as headed for the WiiU. Iwata then invited Electronic Arts head John Riccitiello to talk about the new console. He talked about HUD free gameplay on EA games, widespread online connectivity and social networking capabilities. Fils-Aime returned to sum up the E3 experience for the press and the Nintendo Network E3 content for fans at home and concluded the event.
All in all, it’s easy to see that Nintendo “won” E3 as they did last year. They brought something new to the table, but this time, they are also getting a head start on the next generation of consoles. It’s still a year away, and there’s obviously a lot more information that needs to be dug up. Nintendo was careful to show off the controller, without revealing any system specs about the console itself, so we still have no idea what it looks like, whether it even accepts physical media or is entirely online. EA’s John Riccitiello talked about the expanded online experience, but again there’s little information at this time about how it will compare to the Playstation Network or the reigning king of online gameplay, Xbox Live.
All that being said, there’s still no doubt that with Microsoft’s almost frightening focus on Kinect, and Sony spreading itself thin across almost too many gaming interests, Nintendo came out on top. The press conference was short, focused, and finally gave the fans the surprise they’d been hoping for. We’re still a year out from the release of the new console, so there’s definitely going to be more to see and hear from the Tokyo Game Show, Game Developers Conference, Penny Arcade Expo and even next year’s E3 about what this new console will be like and how much it’s going to cost.