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E3 08 – Nintendo Press Conference impressions

posted on July 15th, 2008 by jay

Nintendo’s E3 conference this year was a big let down for most people. Gamers are even calling it the worst E3 presentation ever and discussing how to best dispose of their Wiis. What could Nintendo have done to have drawn this kind of ire?

Having a mom lead off the presentation didn’t exactly start things off with a bang (insert clever mom sex joke here). She has some fancy position like administrative vice principle of managerial accounting executive advertising president of marketing but that she was a mom was important.

Yes, for the first time ever Nintendo announced their goal of branching out to new kinds of gamers at this year’s E3. And how. Olympic Snowboarding Gold Medalist Carrot Top presented the first fun-for-everyone Wii title. Unfortunately Snowboarderz is being developed by Ubisoft so it will face fierce competition from Baby Party 08.

Next Nintendo showed some crappy third party games we already knew about that were somehow supposed to illustrate something, perhaps that the Wii has shitty third party support. Grand Theft Auto for the DS was the highlight of third party support for Nintendo systems yet nothing was shown beyond the logo.

The new Nintendo games were mostly expected. Animal Crossing Wii looks to be an enhanced port of Animal Crossing DS, which was an enhanced port of Animal Crossing GC, which was an enhanced port of Animal Forest on the Japanese N64. Back off innovation, Nintendo has clearly taken the Mario Kart route for this one.

WiiSpeak, a sort of conference call device will be apparently sold separately but be compatible with Animal Crossing. It is sort of a goofy idea but it does fit Nintendo’s focus on local multiplayer – entire rooms of people can speak to other rooms through the unit.

The big shock of the show was that Nintendo chose to “do the easy” by announcing Wii Sports: Resort, a seemingly random assortment of crap. Three games were shown and the first was by far the lamest: Disc Dog, also known as throwing a frisbee to a dog. The other sports were jet ski racing and fencing.

These games are mostly lacking the appeal of the original Wii Sports. Golf, baseball, boxing, bowling and tennis are all well liked and clearly multiplayer. Furthermore, none of those games felt like mini games. Some were shallow but they were far from Raving Rabbid nonsense. One of the three new games, dog frisbee, seems to be both single player focused and a minigame. Fencing looks the most promising of the games but who fences on beaches? The Japanese apparently.

It’s debatable that Nintendo didn’t take the easiest way out with this Wii Sports sequel because it will make use of the new remote attachment that improves accuracy. I was disappointed to hear only one dongle will come with Wii Sports 2 and more will just be sold separately. If developers are going to actually use this thing, Nintendo needs to get them into as many hands as possible, possibly by giving a free one to anyone with a Wii serial number and packing one or two in new Wii console boxes.

The last game shown was Wii Music and I am conflicted. One part of me says: How can anything that Shigeru Miyamoto himself works on intimately be bad? The other part of me (the one that makes more use of my visual and auditory processing) says: How can this game be good?

It is a music game that you cannot lose. You can’t just not lose, you cannot do anything wrong. The music always plays correctly, all you can do is change the tempo and some other little things but you will not receive any sort of score for your performances. Please games, rate me. Evaluate me. I’m ever so smart, judge me! Even Brain Training and Wii Fit pass judgment, and word on the street is they aren’t games.

Overall I am very unimpressed by the show. To rub salt in our wounds, when asked by G4 TV where the core titles were, Reggie said that he gave them to us with Animal Crossing and GTA DS. That is alarming. It’s hard to believe a company as shrewd as Nintendo doesn’t realize Animal Crossing is not particularly hardcore. And despite the dead bodies, GTA is absolutely casual and has legions of mouth breathing college boy fans to prove it.

Beyond my disappointment, it is likely Nintendo showed three of the best selling games in the next year. Animal Crossing, Wii Sports 2 and Wii Music will all sell millions of copies worldwide, so disappointed or not, gamers should acknowledge that what they may see as mediocre titles will drive the market (insert “yeah, into the ground” joke here).

Finally there is the vindicated hardcore gamer saying, “See, I told you Nintendo completely abandoned you.” This guy is an idiot. If you are him, shut up. Keep reading though, I need the hits.

Nintendo has a huge development team composed of many separate arms (or teams, if you prefer, but I already used that word in this sentence so I wanted to go with some sort of near synonym. You’d understand if you were a journalist like I am.) Intelligent Systems, Monolith, EAD, EAD Tokyo, Software Planning and Development, Retro, HAL and so forth are likely making Wii titles.

Disaster, Fatal Frame 4 and Wario Land Shake are coming soon and Kid Icarus, Punch Out and Pikmin 3 have been confirmed by so many sources that Nintendo admitting they exist seems almost unnecessary. This is probably not enough for a lot of gamers and it may not be enough for me, but Nintendo does have a healthy number of regular games coming for the Wii.

Perhaps most importantly, Iwata confirmed that the Mario team and Zelda team are both hard at work. Sequels to Mario and Zelda. Who expected that?

19 Comments

  1. Christian said on July 16, 2008:

    Part of me thinks that Nintendo more than anyone else, realizes that E3 is dead, and isn’t that big on blockbuster news. Unfortunately, as the Expo wanes, player interest grows. This year I seemed to notice a record number of sites crashing and people following every second of those miserable live blogs. Who won E3? To me, the show indicated that we’re all losing by being a reactionist group of morons.

  2. pat said on July 16, 2008:

    leading up to e3, didn’t nintendo imply that this was going to be a conference to make core gamers happy? if so, they sorely missed the mark. they must be either painfully out of touch or dishonest if they think animal crossing is going to silence those saying Nintendo is abandoning core gamers.

    nintendo’s policy of not announcing games until right before they come out may be some of the reason for the disappointing conference, but i cant imagine they made many gamers happy yesterday.

  3. Christian said on July 16, 2008:

    “nintendo‚Äôs policy of not announcing games until right before they come out”

    This seems right, but I don’t know why. In the past Nintendo loved to announce games that may come out years later. But recently I this seems right. Wario Shake it is out in mere months after it was announced, and Mariokart Wii was out quite soon after we got the first real info on it. It seems like a rather….Apple thing to do.

    Commence Internet speculation!

  4. Matt said on July 16, 2008:

    I was also really disappointed with the Nintendo conference this year. What was so surprising was the complete lack of info on GTA DS, which is coming out this December! I mean, I’m sure a trailer or even a couple in-game pictures would have been possible. And for God’s sake, it’s GTA! Why not bloat the shit out of it? Nintendo missed a huge opportunity to blow me away, or at least entertain me.

    And that quote from Reggie is hilarious. They just don’t get it anymore.

  5. Stefan said on July 16, 2008:

    I think they might have avoided a lot of the negative press they’re getting if they had announced Wii Music with more of a “Now we want to show you something that isn’t a game. Something that makes your wii into a creative platform that everyone can use.” approach.

    From what I saw, it honestly looks more like they were trying to make it into an electronic instrument for the masses than to make a game, and while I might question the long-term fun of an instrument which doesn’t let you control which note you’re playing, I don’t think it would have been slammed nearly as hard as it currently is.

  6. pat said on July 16, 2008:

    i dont really mind if these companies dont speak directly to me in their conferences. i play oddball games and i dont really need to be reached out to; im going to buy and play regardless. my problem is nintendo winking in the time leading up to the show and saying: “dont worry, this e3 we take care of you” and when all is said and done we get: “you got that hardcore gamers delight animal crossing, what more do you want from us?”

    there are enough upcoming wii games to keep me interested (mad world and disaster specifically) i just think this was naive or disingenuous on nintendo’s part. ill pass judgement on the conference and say it was bad, but im not throwing my wii in the trash or anything.

    also, theres apparently hope they announce something in their closed-door journalist-only meeting later on.

  7. bruce said on July 16, 2008:

    I wonder if Nintendo has decided they’ll mine the rich rich veins of casual-gamer-onium and let the third parties scrabble it out over the hardcore base. My impression from what they said going into this generation about working in the ‘hardcore OMG otaku gaming HD grafix!’ market was that it was a slow death march for everyone involved. Not that I agree with that. There’s plenty of money to be made making and selling games to the hardcore. But I do agree with Nintendo’s sentiment that it’s a shit ton of work that ultimately results in a lot of flopped games when a fickle fanbase decides to collectively “meh” at the title you poured tons of cash into. I think they looked at the ever decreasing hit/flop ratio and pulled the ripcord on all that shit.

  8. Wesley said on July 17, 2008:

    Watching Nintendo’s press conference was like watching one of those British comedies that are purposefully written to get the viewer to wince at the awkward situations the characters are thrown into.

  9. Christian said on July 17, 2008:

    Not enough hot mom jokes

  10. Golden Jew said on July 17, 2008:

    I’d show her my Wii, and all the happiness and joy it brings when it’s played with– and how it’s directed at families. Hmm, might want to nix that last part.

    I think Nintendo is playing to marching to their own, lucrative beat. The only hiccup is that the gaming “media” (ourselves included) is just not in their demographic and not really interested, so accordingly mocks them.

    As much as I dislike their power ranger, one trick pony demographic, their P&L says it all.

  11. Wesley said on July 17, 2008:

    Nintendo makes toys now, not games. It makes sense that gamers would not be impressed by their offerings.

  12. jay said on July 17, 2008:

    Their demographic is not Power Ranger, unless my 30 year old sister and 65 year old mother like children’s shows and haven’t told me. It is possible that the games do not appeal to you AND aren’t targeted only at some minority of retarded children.

    For the record, most of the vl writers have a Wii and we are all men in our 20s.

    If by one trick pony you mean these people will buy one game then never touch a second I don’t think you have any data to back it up. The DS was born of the same philosophy as the Wii and is continuing to sell very well both in hardware and software. Additionally, more Wii software was sold in the console’s first 18 month span than games were sold for the 360 in that system’s first 18 months of life. If you want to argue over how many of those games sucked, how many were Nintendo made, fine but these are all different arguments and the idea that Wii owners don’t buy games is still incorrect.

  13. Golden Jew said on July 17, 2008:

    And yet Matt, Pat, Wesley, and myself have all expressed varying levels of disappointment.

    I think my Power Ranger comparison has struck a nerve… someone had a crush on Amy Jo Johnson didn’t they.

  14. pat said on July 17, 2008:

    i would like to make it clear i am disappointed with nintendo’s e3 announcements. my disappointment with the wii itself is no greater than my disappointment with the medium of video games as a whole (write better stories, goddammit!). in fact the wii has provided what i consider some of the best gameplay experiences so far this generation.

  15. Golden Jew said on July 17, 2008:

    I said varying degrees! Power Ranger lovers, the lot of you! A hex upon you and your house! May your children be deformed and religious!

  16. Stefan said on July 18, 2008:

    So out of curiosity I went to check, and according to metacritic and mobygames, the only two of the current generation consoles/portables which doesn’t play at least one power rangers game are the 360 and the PSP. The wii can play Power Rangers: Dino Thunder via gamecube backwards compatibility, and assuming you have a backwards-compatible PS3, you can play both Dino Thunder and Super Legends. The GBA (and therefore DS) sports Dino Thunder, Ninja Storm, and Wild Force. Finally, Super Legednds is out on the DS directly. There’s some correlation there between perceived hardcore status and # of power rangers games in terms of overall company names (sony, nintendo, etc), but it’s not great, and it takes the PS3 down more than the Wii.

  17. Golden Jew said on July 18, 2008:

    Great, now I have to go burn my DS, and I wasn’t even done with Tactics A2.

  18. Stefan said on July 18, 2008:

    It is apparently the platform of choice for power rangers.

    Do kids even watch power rangers anymore? Or does being the power rangers platform mean you’re really targeting the young-to-mid 20-something demographic?

  19. TrueTallus said on July 20, 2008:

    Jay, you said the DS was presented with the same philosophy as the Wii but did it really start out with all the Touch Generation marketing it has now, or was that something that was added later? My recollection of it’s formative marketing approach was as a way to expand gaming itself into a wonderful dream world of new possibilities, not so much leave gaming behind in search of greener pastures. I freely admit that may just be my current appreciation for the system coloring my perceptions of the past, though (with its ridiculously vast library of crazy crap, I tend to think of it as the PS2’s portable successor at this point).

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