E3 2011: Nintendo wowed and disappointed me greatly

6 mins read

I didn’t watch the Nintendo presentation. 2am in Australia is a horrible time to hold a big event, and sleep won me over despite my best intentions. Since waking up I’ve been catching up like crazy though, and now I know everything Nintendo has let on about the WiiU and 3DS plans.

Nintendo has simultaneously wowed me, and deeply disappointed me. To start with the wow so I don’t appear to be too much of an “anti Nintendo” fanboy or some such:

Welcome to the 100000th gadget you’re going to have to carry around now

The WiiU is a good looking piece of hardware. Despite claiming it’s going after the “hardcore” gamers again, from the name and the look of the hardware itself (very much the ‘Wii 2’), to the features of the console – especially its controller, the WiiU is a device designed for the casual market.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. The Wii is unique in that it’s a social console. You take it to your family’s home of a holiday, and everyone sits down and plays some games – in that way it’s like a digital board game. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are beasts of consoles, but they lack the simplicity and elegance that makes them friendly in a social environment – the multiplayer is done online and the game’s collection is M or MA rated (to use Australian classifications).

So the fact that the WiiU looks casual friendly is a pleasant surprise to me given Nintendo had been promising to go after the ‘hardcore’ gamers. The good news for those serious gamers is that in the early days at least, there’s some quality, more adult gaming coming with that casual-friendly package – Darksiders II especially has me all kinds of happy.

WiiU = sold I want this game so badly

It’s worth remembering that both the Wii and Gamecube came out firing (remember how one E3 was all about five “exclusive” Gamecube games from Capcom?) and then failed to deliver, but take nothing away from the presentation, the promise of the WiiU is genuinely there.

The 3DS gets its killer game, too. Smash Brothers in portable form will not just shift units, it’ll shift entire factories. I salivate at the thought of what Nintendo can do with StreetPass, and if any game is ripe for DLC fighters… well, Nintendo, you’ve got the eShop now, use it.

That does bring me to my great frustration and concern with Nintendo, though. Aside from announcing the release of a 15 year old game on the virtual console, and a DSiWare Zelda game, everything Nintendo focused on was retail. Big, blockbuster retail games. Further, aside from video chat (a nice addition to be sure), Nintendo made no mention of additional entertainment services the new consoles have coming.

About time you came back, old friend

Retail’s going to be around a while, no one is questioning that. But the rest of the industry is looking to expand beyond that limited means. Microsoft made a big (and exciting) show of TV services. There’s also the whole cloud message that Microsoft has been drumming into people for the past year. Sony’s Vita is the most connected and featured handheld yet conceived, and the PSN featured strongly in that Vita announcement. Nintendo’s two consoles meanwhile remain self contained gaming machines. They don’t really connect with much, and digitally downloadable games are still an afterthought.

There was no mention of how Nintendo’s going to bring its online services up to the standards of its rivals, just a half hearted promise that ‘it’s going to be better’, and we were given the same promise with the 3DS, and that’s failed to eventuate – the eShop might be an improvement on DSiWare, but it, and the 3DS’ connectivity infrastructure, is still five years behind the rest.

That said. The tablet device housed within the WiiU has potential. A lot of potential – possibly more than Nintendo realises. A Nintendo App store with gaming applications that make use of the physical buttons when attached to the controller could well neutralise the Apple iPad’s momentum as a gaming device.

The worry is Nintendo didn’t make a big deal of this fact – indicating taking advantage of this potential is not high on Nintendo’s list of priorities. So, while Nintendo wowed me with the potential of the WiiU, the presentation itself felt to me to be quite limited.

Fingers crossed at E3 2012, Nintendo finally gets with the digital era.

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