E3 2014: What are Nintendo up to?

Nintendo are opting out of the large scale press conference model, but should still bring plenty of new announcements to Los Angeles.

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After enjoying its best years ever during the height of both Nintendo DS and Wii, Nintendo have been struggling to recreate that success in recent years. While Nintendo 3DS is doing well it's not going as strong as its predecessor and Wii U has been a massive disappointment up to now. For this year's E3 Nintendo needs to show its fans reasons to remain loyal, while also revealing stuff that could once again open up that lucrative casual market. They have the brand to do it, but the question remains if they have the product...

Nintendo Digital Event Livestream - June 10, 5:00pm BST
Super Smash Bros. Invitational - June 11, 12:00am BST (midnight Monday/Tuesday

Much like last year Nintendo are opting out of the traditional press conference in favour of a livestream revealing its big announcements. In theory the difference to folks at home is minimal as you can fit just as many big announcements into this kind of show as one with a huge audience in Nokia Theater. Speaking of Nokia Theater, Nintendo are still renting the place this year, but instead of a press conference it will host the Super Smash Bros. Invitational where 16 of the world's greatest Smash Bros. players will face each other in the all new game in front of both a live and Twitch audience. It's a nice new approach, and it feels like the kind of out-of-the-box thinking Nintendo needs - adding a bit of competitive gaming to E3 week. It's also a great way to highlight what is most likely their most important release in 2014. Through something called "Nintendo Treehouse" the publisher will have product managers talk up and demo the games on the floor of E3.

E3 2014: What are Nintendo up to?
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Prior to E3 there has been rumours of new Nintendo hardware being revealed at the show. Nintendo have denied this, and with an outright denial there is no point speculating in what's not going to happen. Instead, let's look at a couple of things we know Nintendo will talk about at E3. First of all, the Skylanders-esque NFP figurines that make use of the Wii U GamePad's Near Field features. We expect NFP functionality to be a part of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Using figurines as memory cards storing data, costumes, unlocks, etc when playing at a friend's house is just one of the features we think of. We also expect there to be some kind of Pokémon related NFP announcement. It's been a while since Nintendo attempted a large Pokémon concept for a home console. Nintendo have mainly been talking about NFP as a means to leverage their existing brands and characters - so we don't expect anything completely original connected with NFP to be revealed, but perhaps some third parties will join in. While the NFP concept is enticing and potentially lucrative, it is a little strange to see Nintendo adopting more of a 'follower' approach as opposed to trying something completely left-field that no-one else thought of.

E3 2014: What are Nintendo up to?
Nintendo's new Quality of Life business could be an extension of the ideas between Wii Fit.

And then there's that Quality of Life concept that Satoru Iwata talked about earlier in the year. Details are scarce and vague at best, and perhaps E3 isn't the best place to reveal this new business area that Nintendo plans to embark on in 2015. Nintendo has been hinting at it being a non-wearable technology, and that it will improve fitness in the population. Whether that's physical well being or mental remains to be seen.

The list with upcoming releases for both Nintendo 3DS and Wii U is incredibly thin. We know very little about what's due in the next 12 months. Super Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors, perhaps we'll see the new Yoshi game again and there's Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby. Sega's Sonic Boom will likely also get some love. As for other third parties, Skylanders: Trap Team, Disney Infinity 2.0 and Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham will likely be part of a third-party trailer reel, but the third-party situation is dire and it's unlikely much time will be spent talking up what is obviously a major weak point. Clearly Monster Hunter exclusivity doesn't move the needle outside of Japan. Monolith Soft's X and Tecmo Koei's Project Zero V (Fatal Frame V) are likely to play some part to add diversity to the line up. The Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem title would also slot in nicely in this category.

E3 2014: What are Nintendo up to?
Bayonetta 2 - easily one of our most anticipated Wii U titles.

So what's new then? Everyone expects E3 2014 to be the stage where the new Legend of Zelda for Wii U is revealed. A more realistic HD Legend of Zelda has been on every Nintendo fan's wish list ever since the Zelda HD demo was shown in 2011. We fully expect Miyamoto and Aonuma to come out swinging. It's the kind of game that could single-handedly win E3 for Nintendo and they sorely need it.

Would you believe we're creeping up on four years since the latest release in the Metroid franchise? Clearly this is another area that Nintendo needs to attend to. It would make sense to have Retro Studios reinvent the series again on Wii U, but perhaps what we'd most like to see is a 2.5D game for Nintendo 3DS. If Wii U gets a new Zelda, then 3DS needs something big as well. And why not Metroid? There hasn't been a handheld Metroid since Metroid Prime Hunters - and that wasn't really a proper Metroid game anyway.

E3 2014: What are Nintendo up to?
Metroid: Other M (2010) is the most recent Metroid title - time for Samus Aran to make her return at E3 2014?

And then there's Mario. We'd be shocked if there wasn't a new Mario game announced during Nintendo's Digital Event. It doesn't seem likely we'll see a new 2D or 3D platformer though, but maybe he'll be dancing, playing tennis, partying, or (fingers crossed) role-playing.

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