Of all the press conferences we saw at E3, Nintendo’s was one of the more disappointing. With the first official release of the next generation of consoles in their hands, this was their E3 to reach out and grab by the throat as they wowed consumers with new tech and the promise of new games.
But instead, we got more murky, vague explanations about how gameplay will handle on the Wii U, the announcement of several games we kind of already knew about, and a lackluster showing for third-party support on the new console.
After building up to an ending that never delivered, the conference definitely left something to be desired. But even more than that, it never answered the biggest question burning in my mind:
Why should I buy a Wii U?
The Tech Isn’t Up To Par
With the wide range of rumors and speculation that have been circulating the internet, we’ve heard all kinds of disappointing theories about the power of the Wii U, ranging from slightly more powerful than the PS3 to not even up to par with Sony’s current console. Despite the rumors, one thing is for certain; after Microsoft and Sony unveil their new consoles, the Wii U will be left behind, clutching to primitive tech as the new consoles move the industry forward.
We’ve seen the tablet controller in action, but we’re still not 100% sure of what it does and what its possibilities are. Of course, this is something that will eventually be explored by developers, be they first or third party, but even a tech demo of the wide range of abilities would have been nice to see, just to get a preview. If I have to hold the equvalent of an iPad for a controller, I’d like to know why. Outside of scanning things within the game and using some touch integration in gameplay, they didn’t really hit on this for us.
And why are you only allowed to use 1-2 gamepads for multiplayer, while everyone else has to use the Pro Controller? If the tablet is supposed to be the new innovation for the system moving forward, why not focus more on that and let us experience gameplay as it was intended?
Late to the Third Party
With more iconic characters under their roof than the rest of the industry combined, it’s no secret that Nintendo has solid franchises with a strong fanbase. And every year, they’re more and more willing to give the fans what they want by releasing new installments in these time-tested franchises.
The problem with Nintendo, however, is that they’re not really the go-to console for third party games. Core gamers do not want to play triple-A titles on the Wii, when they can get a much better experience on the PS3, PC, or Xbox 360. Therefore, Third Parties have little reason to go through the trouble of developing for Nintendo’s platform.
As we saw at the press conference, Nintendo is taking steps toward rectifying that issue by increasing their third party support on the Wii U. The problem? Half of the games they announced for the Wii U have already been released, some quite some time ago. Why would I want to purchase Batman: Arkham City on the Wii U, when I beat it more than six months ago already? Using touch integration and other new mechanics built for the Wii U isn’t enough to entice me to this, either. Sure, there are a few new weapons and game mechanic changes, but I’ve already had my experience with that game on other consoles, and if the rumors about the tech are true, then that experience was smoother then than it will be upon the Wii U’s release. With the late-to-dinner release of these games, it would serve Nintendo well to try and secure exclusive DLC or other add-ons to help entice buyers into playing through that game again. Then I might have a reason to spend more money on a game I’ve already played.
If they continue to put their core focus on first-party games while giving third-party an afterthought, Nintendo runs the risk of becoming a first-party only console that will have to fit into a very tight niche in order to survive.
Not Enough Love for New IPs
I will beat the new IP drum all day long for every platform and publisher on the market. While established franchises are great for the longevity of a game and its developers, new IPs are the progenitors of innovation and fresh gameplay experiences. Without them, our industry would grow as stale as three-month-old bread in the bottom of the pantry.
Nintendo had an opportunity to capitalize on this at their conference as well. With the new announcement of a mature-looking (not to mention awesome-looking) zombie game in ZombiU, they could have really pulled out the big guns and showed us what to expect from this brand new exclusive from Ubisoft. Instead, we got a short trailer for it that demonstrated some of the tech and gameplay, but didn’t necessarily demonstrate how aweseome the game could be. And with the ability to use the gamepad for interesting mechanics like scanning, we return to the tech’s poor support of 1-2 gamepad controllers for a multiplayer game. Those using the Pro Controller will be left in the dust.
We were also treated to a way-too-long demonstration of NintendoLand, which many consider is likely to be bundled with the Wii U upon release, much like Wii Sports. Sure, it was mildly entertaining, but it still goes back to that same cutesy, safe Nintendo gaming we’re all used to. While this is fine, and is representative of Nintendo’s style and appeal, I’d love to see more footage from third party games that appeal to the core crowd as well. Really sell me on that experience as being better on yours than all other platforms, and I might consider buying a Wii U to play it.
Again, I have nothing but fondness in my heart for Nintendo. It was my third parent as a kid growing up. But a small part of me hurts when I see them lag behind the rest of the industry and fail to capitalize on opportunities such as this one. I want them to succeed. I want the Wii U to be awesome. I really do. But until they can convince me that it’s the platform to beat, I’m going to remain a skeptic.