E3 2009 Assessment: Nintendo Conference

NtE30901

A four-player 2D Mario for the Wii was a good start.

As with the other systems, in my pre-E3 assessment for the Wii I broke the console’s strengths and weaknesses down into three categories: Hardware, Software (Hardcore) and Software (Casual).  With the Nintendo press conference out of the way (which should cover all their significant announcements) I’m going to take a look at each of those categories again and see how Nintendo fared (in my opinion).  After that is an assessment of each individual item revealed/shown, and my verdict on the conference as a whole.  Click through for details.

Assessment: Hardware

I said that the Wii had no major hardware problems, and that short of a couple of possible hardware updates there was very little they might do.  Nintendo clearly thought the same, as they announced nothing on the hardware side at all.

Assessment: Software (Hardcore)

I said that Nintendo’s line-up for the Wii is decidedly lacking for hardcore titles and that they really needed to reveal new games for 2009 and 2010.  They did this in part, unveiling one new hardcore title for 2009 (New Super Mario Bros. Wii) and two for 2010 (Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M), but that really wasn’t enough, and the absence of Pikmin 3 was a personal disappointment.  Nintendo seem happy to let third-parties handle the hardcore exclusives, and in their defence there are a few interesting third-party exclusives set to release before the end of 2009.

Assessment: Software (Casual)

I said that the Wii really had no issues with the casual market, still dominating the software charts with old releases.  I expected a focus on Wii Sports Resort and a possible second casual game, and that’s exactly what happened.  Wii Sports Resort and the Wii MotionPlus addon were given a lot of attention and Nintendo revealed Wii Fit Plus, which will likely carry the casual audience for quite some time.

NtE30902

Wii Fit Plus wasn't a surprise.

Individual Assessment

Following is my opinion on every individual item discussed, after which are some more general verdicts for the conference and the Wii’s fortunes for 2009 and 2010:

  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii Good
    • Obviously there’s a bit of an LBP thing with the four player simultaneous platforming (though without online), but in an E3 where both of Nintendo’s rivals revealed their plans to copy Nintendo’s approach to this gen wholesale I think that’s okay. It does look lots of fun too. I don’t particularly like that two of the players are generic Toads though, they could have gone for the full Super Mario Bros. 2 lineup or shoehorned in some other characters, not Blue Toad and Yellow Toad.
  • Wii Fit Plus – Okay
    • It’s going to be huge, but it’s still a fitness game. Presentation was dry and full of nonsense like, “The original game has something for everyone, so with this next one we’re moving in an added direction.” The custom routines is a good idea, I guess, but it’s not really what people were there to see.
  • Wii Sports Resort Good
    • This does look good for what it’s trying to be. Wii Sports was pretty much the perfect launch game for the console and this could do the same with WMP.
  • Third-party WMP Support & Sales Info Good
    • It’s not something Nintendo can ignore, because their consoles have a reputation for being bad for third-parties. Obviously for certain games it’s true (particularly mature titles), but pointing out that third-party games have sold well on Wii is worth doing. The WMP support is good.
  • RPG Reel – Good
    • I don’t think there’s any need to do them separately. They look like a bunch of decent RPGs that will probably get good scores, but the DS ones in particular will be largely ignored.
  • Women’s Murder Club: Games of PassionPoor
    • There was an oddly stilted voiceover to the trailer, like it was cobbled together from old voice samples. From the trailer it looks like the game has almost no animation and uses minigames for gameplay. It’s essentially Games For Women Who Don’t Like Games But Read Mystery Novels.
  • C.O.P.: The Recruit – Poor
    • The trademark for Driver: The Recruit was registered before this, so I don’t know if they’ve scrapped the Driver association or if this will be connected in some way. The story is typical action movie fluff – expert underground racer is caught by police and recruited to stop terrorists – and the gameplay looks vaguely GTA. I can’t help thinking that this looks set to be mediocre or awful.
  • Style SavvyPoor

    • This had no real place at the conference. If they had time to spare they should have just finished earlier. Yes, the Wii and DS have expanded but I’d guess that nobody attending or watching the conferences gave a damn about Style Savvy.
    • “Today it’s my day off, so I want to buy a dress that matches my footwear.” That’s a quote from a game in the E3 conference. Their point – that it will likely further expand the pre-teen and twenty-something female audience – is a good one, but none of them will be watching E3 or reading the articles in the gaming press reporting on it, making Style Savvy‘s inclusion just dull.
  • DSiWare Bits – Okay
    • Flip Notes looks vaguely interesting, but the trailer doesn’t suggest it’s anything more than you’d get in a basic freeware animation program on PC. I know nothing about the Mario vs DK series. Calling WarioWare DIY the closest any game has come to essential game design seems a bit of an exaggeration.
  • The Legend of Zelda – Spirit TracksGood
    • It looks like a good DS Zelda game, making good use of the stylus.
  • Wii Vitality Sensor – Poor
    • Nobody really understood its purpose, Iwata just seemed to ramble on, and then he left.
  • Super Mario GalaxyGood
    • It’s the sequel to one of the best games of this generation, bringing back Yoshi and adding new abilities.
  • Mature Games Reel – Good
    • Admittedly, in part this was needed because Nintendo have done a poor job catering to this audience, but it is a selection of mature, exclusive games, and I’m hoping for good things from both The Conduit and Dead Space: Extraction.
  • Metroid: Other M – Good
    • I have some reservations about what they’re doing with the game, because it looks like a Team Ninja game with a Metroid skin more than it looks like a Metroid game by Team Ninja, but it does look to be an intense action game and was a big surprise.
NtE30903

Nobody in the audience seemed to understand the gaming possibilities of having one finger stuck inside a 'stapler'. Had this not been followed up with a 3D Mario and new Metroid Nintendo would have come off much worse.

  • The Press Conference itselfOkay
    • There was clearly an effort made to make up for last year, but there was still lots of focus on the expanded audience and time spent discussing games that likely didn’t appeal to almost anybody watching, and of the three new ‘hardcore’ Wii games revealed only one was for this year.
    • As far as I can tell everything discussed was exclusive, which neither Sony or Microsoft managed.
    • The absence of Pikmin 3 seriously disappointed me, as did the subsequent revelation that they haven’t even expanded the team working on it yet.
  • 2009 Verdict (Wii)Okay
    • New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the only main first-party hardcore game, with Wii Fit Plus boosting the casual end and Wii Sports Resort sitting somewhere in between (though closer to the casual end). Technically though there are a bunch of third-party exclusives in the pipeline between now and Christmas picking up Nintendo’s slack.
  • 2010 Verdict (Wii) Okay
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M are a good start, but they need much more.

Image Sources:

New Super Mario Bros. Wii screenshot: Flickr (torontothumbs)

Wii Fit Plus Conference Photo: Flickr (popculturegeek.com)

Wii Vitality Sensor Conference Photo: Flickr (popculturegeek.com)

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