Why Nintendo Failed at E3
E3 may only last three days, but a lot of news and previews come out of those few days. So many new games are revealed that it can be quite the overload for gamers. And with the introduction of two new gaming consoles hitting the market this fall, there was a lot to be excited for.
Every year the Big 3 (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) have high priced, over the top conferences to present their new software and plans for the coming year. This year was the same with the exception of Nintendo. Rather than spend a large amount of money for a two hour conference on stage, the company decided to stream their conference online in the same way they have been doing the Nintendo Direct videos. This was a smart move on their part, since both Microsoft and Sony would be showcasing the many games that would be coming to their next gen consoles. And since Nintendo had already released the Wii U, this allowed them to show us great software in development for the system that would tap into the functionality of the system’s gamepad. This was Nintendo’s moment to go big and wow us with games that would look great, play well, and pull in more sales for the console.
Now I was very quick to jump on Nintendo after the live stream. Once it had ended I felt let down. I felt a huge disappointment in Nintendo. It was the kind of disappointment a child would feel after being let down by their parent. So rather than immediately jump down their throats, I decided to give it some time, let the information sink in and give it a second thought. But I can honestly say after thinking about it for a few days, Nintendo failed at E3 and they failed in a big way.
First there is the most obvious reason Nintendo failed. Nintendo captured the casual gamer market with the Wii. Sure it may have been a GameCube repackaged with motion controls, but casual gamers ate it up and it made Nintendo a ton of money. But they seemed to forget one important fact about the audience they were aiming for, casual gamers play games CASUALLY. Unlike hardcore gamers, who constantly buy new software and play for many hours throughout the week, casual gamers buy games once in a while and play games maybe a few times a week. It was only a matter of time before the sales of the Wii and its software would decline. And it didn’t help that the system could not compete with the graphics and power of the PS3 and Xbox 360.
So in a desperate move to compete with the other companies, Nintendo gave us the Wii U, which would not only be able to compete with the graphics of the other systems, but also boasted a new gamepad controller that could be used in interesting ways for gameplay. Nintendo had finally entered the HD market and Nintendo fans were excited for what they would do with some of their favorite franchises. But then, as was expected, Sony and Microsoft came out with their next gen systems that would far surpass whatever the Wii U was capable of. Once again Nintendo would have to rely on its software to get the sales it needed in order to compete with the PS4 and Xbox One.
This E3 was Nintendo’s chance to go big. They didn’t have to spend time selling us on the Wii U and explaining what it could do. That was done all last year, so most gamers are well aware of what the Wii U is capable of. All that mattered now was giving us a reason to buy one, or in my case, keep it. This was their chance to wow us all with new software that would get us excited about the Wii U and make us fall in love with Nintendo all over again. For that hour, they had my attention as I waited for the games that would make me proud to own a Wii U and would get me excited for something other than the PS4 and the ton of other next gen games coming out.
And for an hour, Nintendo went through game after game after game, but the moment never came. The same excitement I felt from seeing teasers for the new Mirror’s Edge, Kingdom Hearts 3, and footage for MGS V, Watch Dogs, and Destiny, never once hit me during Nintendo’s presentation. What should have been a presentation of mind blowing software in development was instead a showcase of the same old level of content that we’ve come to expect from them.
Nintendo’s biggest problem was that they played it safe. First up to bat was yet another new Mario game. I will forever love Mario. This franchise was one of the first I played growing up and will always have a special place in my heart. But with the rate Nintendo releases Mario games; it becomes hard to get excited for them. Super Mario Galaxy was great, because it was a huge departure from how previous Mario games played. Super Mario 3D World, however, looks like more of the same from previous Mario games. I’m not saying the game won’t be fun. I have no doubt it will be. But is it really the game the Wii U needs at this juncture?
I’ll admit I was a little excited at the announcement of Mario Kart 8, but that is mainly because they seemed to have amped up the gameplay and made what was a simple racing game, look hectic and that is what pulled me in. But again, not exactly a huge breakthrough for Nintendo. Though now that Nintendo has joined the online gaming community, this should do very well for them and I’m excited to play against the online community with all these new elements.
Then there was the montage of third party games in development. Most, if not all, are games coming out for the other platforms as well and some of them are games that come from series that have had a strong presence on the other consoles long before the Wii U came to fruition. So there is not much incentive for buying the Wii U versions. As much as Nintendo boasted about all of the third party support it would have this time around, there wasn’t a whole lot in that department to get excited about. The only few that actually seemed worthwhile were The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2, and X. And notice how two of those games are being developed by Platinum Games.
After the third party games, Nintendo went back the franchises they own. Surely this would be the moment when Nintendo would blow our minds. Sadly our minds were not blown. Retro finally revealed their secret project, which turned out to be another Donkey Kong Country title. Again, I’m sure this game will be very fun, but it’s not the game the Wii U needs right now.
Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD was announced months ago so there was no surprise when they showed footage from the game. The game looks even more gorgeous than the original did. I’m excited for this, as I’m sure every Zelda fan is, that was a given. But here Nintendo had the opportunity to say something about the new Zelda game that everyone knows is in development. Did they have to show a trailer? No. They could have shown a simple piece of concept art and talked about the direction they are going with the game and that could have been enough. Instead we got nothing.
Then there was the reveal of the new Super Smash Bros. Again not a surprise as Nintendo said they would be showing it at E3. The game actually looks like it will play much better than Super Smash Bros Brawl did. What came as a huge surprise to gamers (and much to our excitement) was that we would finally be able to play as Mega Man, a character fans have been begging for since the second game in the franchise. Ok, so there was something to get excited for. But seeing as how that game isn’t due out well into next year, that doesn’t do Nintendo much good.
Now with all of the properties that Nintendo owns, this was their chance to pull out all the stops and revisit some franchises that haven’t been touched for a long time. Star Fox, for example, could have been an excellent franchise to revisit given the gamepad functionality. Let’s not forget that Nintendo went an entire console generation without a Star Fox game and no, re-releasing Star Fox 64 for the 3DS doesn’t count. Earthbound could have been another series to bring back for long time fans. If there was ever a time to reinvent this franchise, now would be it. While I’m sure we will get a Metroid game down the road, this would have been the time to at least mention it, to give the fans something to get truly excited for. Or since Nintendo seems so content on making Mario games, why not give us another Super Mario RPG. The original for the Super NES was a fantastic game and with the Wii U, this would be a great time to bring the Mushroom Kingdom to life in a new way and allow us to explore it in RPG fashion.
As for their third party support, Nintendo should have been more proactive on that front. Instead of waiting for third party developers to come to them with games, they should have been out there asking developers to collaborate on games with them. They could have gone to Square Enix and offered to work with them on a new iteration of Chrono Trigger for example. There is no shortage of developers out there and Nintendo has the opportunity to work with them to make some truly great games, yet they felt compelled to play it safe.
And that is why Nintendo failed at E3. They played it safe; making the games that they know will make them money, but in the end is not pushing the company forward in their innovation. This was their shining moment to show us something new and also revisit the many franchises they have stockpiled. And since they decided to rush and release the Wii U rather than wait and create a console that could compete with the PS4 and Xbox One, they set themselves up to fail in the long run. It pains me to say it, but Nintendo has failed, not because they didn’t cater to the fans, but because they didn’t explore their options and instead wasted many opportunities to make some truly memorable games. It is still early in the Wii U’s cycle, but if this is what Nintendo intends on doing for the duration of its cycle, then I say stop making consoles and just make great software for the other platforms. Nintendo is capable of far more innovation in their games than they have shown, and it is that innovation I yearn to see.