Despite record sales for the Wii in 2008, last year’s Nintendo E3 briefing didn’t exactly fire up the masses with Wii Music and Animal Crossing. This year Nintendo was determined to please the hard-core and appeal to its expanded audience. That’s not an easy balance to strike, and I’ve publicly wondered if Nintendo even needs to focus on E3. I mean let’s face it: Most Wii owners who pick up Wii Fit don’t even know or care about the trade show.
So how did Nintendo do? There’s no question there was much more for the hardcore Nintendo gamer at E3 2009, including the shock announcement of Metroid: Other M — probably the best kept secret in any of the first party briefings. Add in Mario Galaxy 2, the first hints at a new Wii Zelda (which was mentioned the next day at a Miyamoto roundtable), and a 2D Super Mario Bros for Wii, and Nintendo certainly has a lot of games in the pipeline.
Here are my thoughts on the briefing:
STAGECRAFT: The cramped Club Nokia stage combined with high-placed teleprompters made it look like the Nintendo executives were talking to the heavens for most of the briefing. Still, Nintendo always delivers the quickest (75 minutes) and most polished E3 briefing. This year’s show was no exception.
GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT: For most of the briefing hardcore Nintendo fans were up in arms. Half way through the presentation I was getting Tweets like “This is worst than last year!” But then, in the final 10 minutes, Reggie saved the show with Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M. Before I knew it, the positive Tweets were flowing, such as “Give Reggie a bear hug for us hardcore guys!”
CHECK YOUR FACTS: When discussing Wii Fit, Cammie Dunaway said that with 15 million sold, the Balance Board now ranks alongside other home systems in terms of worldwide installed base. What system is she referring to? While the Wii Fit numbers are impressive, both the PS3 and 360 are beyond 15M sales worldwide.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: You have to give props to Reggie and Cammie for actually playing games during their briefing. Rival execs just read prompters, but the two Nintendo figureheads actually picked up controllers and played their products.
STRANGEST SEGUE: From Cammie Dunaway: “We admit we haven’t quite figured out how to move [Mario] into a fourth dimension. But that number, 4, that’s the key to Mario’s next surprise.” Is this a hint that the next Wii will include a water sprayer to add 4D effects to your Mario experience?
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Nintendo spent ample time hyping up the multiplayer in New Super Mario Bros. for Wii….but conveniently forgot to mention that there is no online multiplayer support.
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, PART 2: Reggie said, “”Third party publishers are drawn to opportunity. And right now there’s no opportunity larger than Nintendo.” The only problem? Third parties can’t seem to crack the opportunity and make non-Nintendo games a blockbuster hit on the Wii or DS.
BIGGEST OMISSION, PART 2: When Iwata revealed the Wii Vitality sensor he only showedphotos. But apparently there is a video of a Vitality Sensor demo, which Iwata showed to some European press behind closed doors. He edited the video himself on the plane trip over from Japan.
MOST OVERSHADOWED GAMES: Nintendo is getting into user-created content in a big way. Both Minis March Again: Mario vs. Donkey Kong and Warioware: DIY encourage user creativity, but the message seemed to be lost during the briefing.
BEST LINE: “I’ll be honest, I read the blogs too.” — Reggie, as he began to introduce the “hardcore” section of Nintendo’s briefing with Dead Space, The Conduit, and Metroid: Other M.
WHAT NINTENDO DOESN’T WANT YOU TO CALCULATE: Sure there are some big first party Wii games in the pipeline, but the vast majority are coming in 2010 like Sin and Punishment 2, Endless Ocean, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and Metroid: Other M. The second half of 09 looks very light for hardcore first-party games.
MOST QUESTIONABLE GREENLIGHT: C.O.P THE RECRUIT from Ubisoft for the DS. With GTA: Chinatown Wars off to a slow start, does Ubisoft really think it can be successful with a new original GTA knock-off on the DS?
ONLY IN JAPAN: Where’s the news on new Wii Channels for the US? Japan has been rolling out new content like the Wii No Ma video channel and even a channel to order Pizza online. But Reggie didn’t even mention Nintendo Channels during the briefing.
BEST REVEAL OF E3: The setup for the Metroid: Other M trailer was brilliant. Reggie didn’t give up the surprise with his introduction, and it took a good 10-15 seconds of the trailer before it was clear a new Metroid game was afoot. Bravo!