Wii U: E3 Essentials
Nintendo took centre stage at this year's E3. Was it enough for them to steal the show?
Nintendo opened up E3 with Nintendo Direct, an online pre-press conference press conference, the evening before Microsoft and Sony took to the stage on the first day proper.
It was an aggressive move, as the platform holder tried to wrestle early control over this year's convention away from the competition. Whilst it certainly got people talking, it wasn't enough to distract people away from the other events and announcements spread across the week.
The early showing of their hand looked positive enough, and Nintendo must have been confident in the knowledge that Microsoft and Sony weren't making any major announcements during the week. But that didn't stop the lukewarm reaction that followed on from Nintendo's presentation proper.
It was so lukewarm that the Japanese stock market even reacted to it, with the company's share value taking a small 2.68% dip. Presumably that wasn't part of the plan.
Nintendo probably thought they had done enough. The announcement of EA's Mass Effect and Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed III for the Wii U pointed to greater third-party support. Coupled with the list of cursory first-party exclusives, it all must have looked good. In theory, at least.
In reality the line-up revealed at E3 left many underwhelmed. Sure the tech looked good, and it clearly has potential to push the boundaries of interactivity, but none of that matters if the games just aren't there.
This year the focus was on a selection of new and rereleased games, including: New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, Wii Fit U, Batman: Arkham City, Scribblenauts, Assassin's Creed III, Just Dance, SiNG, LEGO City: Undercover, Zombi U, Mass Effect 3, Darksiders II, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Director's Cut, Rayman Legends, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013, Sports Connection, Rabbids Land and Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth. See the trailer below for a lovely montage.
EA's decision to port Mass Effect 3 to the Wii U will be warmly received, and games like Batman: Arkham City, ACIII and Aliens: Colonial Marines all point to Nintendo embracing core gamers and more increasingly mature titles. But a closer inspection of that sentiment reveals some gaping absences. There's no BioShock Infinite, no Dishonored, not a single decent racing game. The more you think about it, the more the inclusion of the aforementioned third-party launch titles feels like a token gesture.
A cursory scan of the internet will reveal the internal specs of the Wii U. Whilst we wont go into too much detail here (this is as good a place to start as any, should you want more details), we'll at least cover the basics.
The console is powered by a IBM power-based multi-core CPU, with graphical support from the potent AMD Radeon GPU. It's capable tech, but likely to be comprehensively dwarfed when Microsoft and Sony enter the fray next year.
Not that it matters much. Nintendo has never focussed on graphical power; interactivity is the name of their game, and on this front, the Wii U comes up trumps.
The Wii U GamePad has a 6.2" 16:9 LCD touch screen, microphone, front facing camera, vibration, stylus, speakers and gyroscopic controls. They've also redesigned the analogue sticks and the shape of the unit (for increased comfort over extended periods of play). Nintendo are pinning their hopes on this being a literal and metaphorical game changer.
Zombi U was an oft featured game from this year's show. This was so because it was perfect to show off the multi-functionality of the GamePad.
Another inclusion in the convention line-up was the Pro Controller. You'll be forgiven for having a double-take moment; the resemblance to the Xbox controller is uncanny. Another nod to the core no doubt, but with so many similarities between it and the original, will gamers see it as another token gesture?
Overall, most people were impressed with the Wii U console as demonstrated in the press conference. It looks like a natural fit for the company, an organic evolution that will once again reposition the boundary between gamer and game.
That said, Nintendo still has a long way to go before they're going to convince the core to part with their Xbox/PlayStation. There are signs that the company are waking up to this fact, and are doing something to reverse the trend, but this commitment is overshadowed by Nintendo's continuing push towards the middle ground, to the casual gamer.
You wouldn't want to bet against the Wii U proving to be a resounding success, and finding its way into millions of homes the world over. But whether they've done enough to crack that elusive Ĺcore' market, remains to be seen.