Nintendo’s E3: Disaster Hardcore in Crisis?

After Nintendo’s relatively uneventful 2007 E3, which saw the unveiling of Wii Fit with the Balance Board, and Mario Kart with the Wii Wheel, the Nintendo faithful were ready for a decidedly more hardcore event this year. Whisperings of Pikmin, Kid Icarus and even a potential new Zelda were rife, so expectations were as usual sky high. The unveiling of MotionPlus a day before the conference seemed to give even more creedence to the theory that a new Zelda would be demoed at the conference demonstrating 1:1 sword play. July 15th dawned, Cammie Dunaway threw her virtual dog a frisbee, Miyamoto flailed ineffectually, and rest as they say is history…

On the final day of the show in an Interview with MSNBC, Miyamoto remarked: “For a very long time, E3 was an event where — and certainly Nintendo included — catered specifically to the core gamer. Now we look at more … an opportunity for us to introduce new concepts and new types of play that we intend to bring to the broader audience, particularly because of the media that gathers at E3 now.”

What cannot be escaped is that Nintendo did not show any new software at the conference or the show floor that really excited core gamers. Yes Reggie, this also included Animal Crossing. But what’s most curious is that Nintendo would demonstrate so little traditional software at a time when third-party support for the system is clearly burgeoning. A simple 5 minute montage of some of the upcoming high-profile games for the system would have gone a long way to placating many vitriolic gamers. When Nintendo look back and assess E3 2008, they should ask themselves these questions:

Why was Dead Rising Wii shown first in Famitsu, during E3 no less?

Why was Pikmin confirmed only in a low key, secondary event with no footage or art work?

After Miyamoto practically confirmed the game, why wasn’t Kid Icarus shown in video form at least?

As Miyamoto stated above, E3 has now become a place for Nintendo (and others) to show software with the widest appeal due to the presence of the mainstream media. But what Nintendo underestimated was the way the reaction of the hardcore press would filter back to the mainstream media, to the point where even conventional news outlets began to describe the conference as a disappointment.

Nintendo’s short-sightedness can only be matched by some core gamers who unfortunately inhabit message boards everywhere. Cries of “That’s it, my Wii’s on eBay”, and “Nintendo’s completely forgotten the core gamer” were everywhere during the show. Let’s get things in perspective:

  • Early next year, we will have true 1:1 motion controls. A jump in interaction that can be compared to the advent of 3D graphics in home consoles. The technology may have been debuted with an accessible title, but its implications for hardcore gaming can only begin to be fathomed.
  • Third-party support is gaining traction, especially in Japan. Significant new games seem to be appearing every other day. The Conduit in particular is looking to deliver on the hype, with great graphics, 16-player online and voice-chat through Wii Speak.
  • As Miyamoto stated, the teams that have worked on Nintendo’s traditional games are hard at work on the next iterations. Just because they weren’t shown at the conference, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist; Pikmin and Kid Icarus are practically confirmed.

Nintendo may not have had the best of E3s, but things are genuinely looking up for Wii gamers. The only thing that’s really missing is a typical Nintendo developed core game for the holidays. Though even then, there’s still time for Nintendo to suprise us.