Hear that? That’s the sound of Nintendo breathing a huge sigh of relief. After the disappointment of last year’s showing and the threat from not one but two competitors homing in on the motion controls market, E3 2010 needed to be something truly amazing to show that Iwata et al, were still on the ball. Did they pull it off? Most definitely. Even with the pre-show expectations of Zelda and the 3DS ramped up to 11, no one could have anticipated just how superior Nintendo’s conference really was.
It’s safe to say the big N owned E3 this year. Although Microsoft and Sony unveiled their advanced Wii-style machines to expectant crowds, the result was something of a letdown. This is not simply fanboy bias; read any gaming website and the majority of the Xbox crowd seem rather jaded by the former project natal, now rather unimaginatively named Kinect. Despite the obvious technological superiority over the little white remote, the demonstrations were far from innovative. Kinect Sports? Kinectimals? Aside from the obvious plagiarism of Wii Sports and Nintendogs, it’s difficult to see how these games are supposed to appeal to the “hardcore” gamer on which the Xbox relies. After all, if you’re a casual gamer, chances are you already own a Wii. Why fork out all that extra money to buy a console which still comes across as daunting to many non-gamers? Not only is Microsoft’s sudden campaign to chase a wider demographic embarrassingly transparent, it may also be their greatest folly; with no clear aim on how to target or market this to an alternative audience, like a novice fisherman, they appear to be putting this out there and hoping for the best.
So what about Sony’s Move? Well, it’s a far more feasible sell than Kinect and retaining a controller means it can be implemented in a far wider variety of games. That being said, the similarity to the Wii controller and nunchuk is painfully obvious and without a unique SP they too face the challenge of distancing themselves from the competition.
That just leaves Nintendo. Based on the past few years, it would not have been unreasonable to expect a gamut of party based games and a reiteration of the now trite maxim, “anyone can play.” Yet despite all my fears, Nintendo astounded all by re-embracing the hardcore crowd. With only a fleeting reference to the casual gamer in the form of the surprisingly fun-looking Wii Party and the frankly ugly looking Mario Sports Mix, Nintendo was all about the core gamer.
How much of this was deliberate is hard to say; some people have theorised that the number of news leaks prior to the show was an intentional ploy to build excitement, whilst others have claimed that Nintendo actively pursued the casual crowd in the hope that Sony and Microsoft would follow suit, making the big N’s return to hardcore even more messianic. Such an idea is a bit too omniscient for my liking, but who cares when the reveals are this good? Zelda, Goldeneye re-make, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn and the 3DS, alongside Epic Mickey and Metroid: Other M. Yes folks, dust off that Wii - Nintendo is back!
Over the next few days I’ll be writing about the biggest games of the show and what you can expect over the coming year, so check back regularly.