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Nintendo’s Disappointing E3 2012 Press Briefing

Nintendo has been a confusing mistress these past few months. Having grown up fiercely loyal to Nintendo through NES, SNES and N64 consoles, I have a nostalgic soft spot for Mario and the gang. This year, everyone knew Wii U would be a hot topic at E3 2012. Few things in gaming can generate buzz like console launch news, so all eyes were on Nintendo.  Did they steal the show? Nope.

I’m honestly very confused (and disappointed) by Nintendo’s press conference decisions, and even more bewildered by the major media buzz around it.  You see, if you check online major media outlets, most are saying Nintendo has dominated E3 with Wii U and is being touted as the most impressive thing here. I call shenanigans.

Not only did I leave Nintendo’s E3 conference underwhelmed, but also everyone I’ve spoken to privately has reflected the same feelings. So why aren’t more websites calling it like it is?

Now don’t get me wrong, the Wii U has some impressive features and a lineup of great titles on the way. But I just can’t understand how people are claiming Nintendo has stolen the show, is the talk of the industry, or that it has changed the game.  It hasn’t, yet.

In short, few questions were answered (price, specs, release date), and with the exception of a very small handful of the titles announced, nothing made me think “Wow! I need this console immediately!” Let’s discuss why.

Introduction / Pikmin 3

Shigeru Miyomoto, Senior Managing Director and overall gaming legend, took the stage in his usual elaborate fashion. This time, using a Pikmin skit to start Nintendo’s E3 2012 press conference. This of course lead to the prompt announcement, and demonstration of Pikmin 3.

Nothing bad to say here, this game looks great. With enhanced graphics, Pikmin 3 looks incredibly adorable and fun. The added use of the Wii U controller, created an easy to refrence map, and made it possible to get a large number of HUD items off the main screen. Overall, this game seemed well received and did a fantastic job at kicking off the conference.  Unfortunately, it was almost too good to open with.

All Aboard The Hype Train
Having set the bar early with Pikman 3, COO Reggie Fils-Amie arrived on stage and shot audience hype intro the stratosphere by letting everyone know that, despite only being an hour long, the conference would be jam packed with content and that he would barely have time to reveal the 23 Wii U titles they were going to announce.  Wow. Sounds promising.

On top of these bold claims, it was announced that the Nintendo Wii U would be equipped to compete with PS3 and Xbox multimedia features with their own YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Video and Netflix integration.  While these are great services to have access to, this announcement was really the beginning of a long chain of “Me to!” announcements made by Nintendo.

MiiVerse. More like Mehverse, Amirite?!

Just like Ubisoft invented laser tag last year, this year Nintendo invented a cumbersome version of Twitter. Oh boy! Again, while chat and discussion features are great, the MiiVerse system seems to be incredibly cumbersome, cluttered and silly. 

“Social” is one of the most misunderstood and over used buzz words of our generation, and Nintendo’s MiiVerse seems like it was tacked on just so they could check it off the feature list in R&D. There’s a difference between innovation, and over complication.  The jumble of text alerts and doodles flooding your page from family, friends and even strangers, seems silly, and looks cheap. I’m also in no hurry to have yet another social app on my phone with another friend-list to manage.

Super Mario Bro’s. U.
A new Nintendo console can only mean one thing, a new Mario game that is “classic Mario, but even better!” It’s not easy using the same IP and character for decades on end, but Nintendo does it well. The game looks great visually, and co-op gameplay looked fun and varied. They also showed off how the touchpad will enable one player the ability to assist other players. While it’s neat being able to assist the other players, this seems to be the current go-to game design for the Wii U touchpad right now.

The 3rd Party Game Train
Excited to have a console that can finally handle HD graphics Nintendo wasted to time in pulling over some huge franchises to their upcoming system. The most notable games being titles like Batman Arkham City, Mass Effect 3, Ninja Gaiden, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Aliens Colonial Marines, Darksiders 2 and Trine 2: Director’s Cut.  While these are all great franchises, most of them are old news now. Also, if Batman Arkham City Armored  Edition is any indication to how games will be ported to the Wii U, I’m not interested .

Not only have I already played Batman Arkham City, but some of the new features are rather unappealing to me. For example, I don’t know why Batman and Catwoman need electric powered armored super suits.  While, some of the quick select features of the Wii U touch screen looked handy, the tone of the game seemed to be “How do we make Batman Arkham City more accessible to families and non-gamers.” Maybe this is a good thing in the long run, but in the big picture of E3, this was hardly exciting.

Wii Fit and Sing
To make sure they covered as many fluff genres as possible, Nintendo introduced new Fitness and Singing games. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on these simply because they are as boring as they sound.  Wii U will get a new Wii Fit game, and a new “party game,” tentatively known as SING.  Imagine every other singing game you’ve played, but now you can read lyrics off the Wii U screen.

The Grand Let Down
While there were numerous other titles announced for 3Ds and Wii U through quick montages and 30 second glimpses, the cherry on the meh-cake, was NintendoLand. For some odd reason, Nintendo felt the spot where the climax of the show should be, was instead replaced with a mediocre looking party game that resembled an acid trip gone horribly wrong.

Touted as being an “Nintendo Amusement Park,” the game resembles anything but. It’s reminded me of the level select from Crash Bandicoot and was really just a series of archways you run through to trigger a game.

To give you an idea of how weak this show was, Lego City Undercover was the most interesting and exciting game shown after Pikman 3. In the end, while Nintendo certainly didn’t fail us, they certainly haven’t lived up to our E3 Expectations for them. With both Sony and Ubisoft proving they understand their E3 demographic by delivering high excitement showings, Nintendo seems to have gone for a safe, predictable, and ultimately neutral approach.  With very few major questions being answered, a mediocre showing of titles, and a strangely focused climax, I’m not sold yet.