Analysis: Nintendo squanders another chance to wow U

Tuesday, 5th June 2012 23:15 GMT By Johnny Minkley

Dire delivery and a flat finish did nothing to help Wii U’s cause. But when the games were allowed to speak for themselves we saw the first glimpses, if not guarantees, of something special, says Johnny Minkley.

No Zelda; no Metroid, no Mario Kart, no Pokémon, no Smash Bros. The muted applause and mutterings of “is that it?” said it all. The uncomfortable truth is that Miyamoto achieved more in ten capering minutes than his Powerpoint-personality US counterparts managed in an hour of brain-numbing, badly-scripted droning. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the lesson in that.

It says rather a lot that those who remained online at the end learned more about key Wii U software from the post-conference trailers than during the main event itself.

A show that started so promisingly, with a wonderfully charming, classically quirky Nintendo opening, quickly descended into a dreary executive lecture that struggled to regain its momentum, despite some genuinely excellent announcements and reveals.

Presentation counts for a lot, as Nintendo discovered to its cost last year, botching badly its initial attempt to explain Wii U to the world. In a clear, encouraging acknowledgement of this, Iwata laid the ground on Sunday evening with a calm, clear, concise overview of the hardware, promising that today’s stage show would be all about the games.

And ten minutes in, after Miyamoto had swept into the hall with grinning gusto to unveil Pikmin 3, Nintendo had the audience in its pocket. After showing – convincingly – how the experience is enhanced with the second screen, the great designer said the company’s “important challenge” with games such as this was to show “the kind of fun deeper games can offer” in an age when “people are moving towards lighter games”.

In other words, he simultaneously and deftly addressed the threat of bite-sized app gaming and the perception that Nintendo turned its back on core gamers with Wii; presided over a compelling demonstration of the GamePad’s potential; then pulled a stuffed toy out of his pocket, pretended to throw it, beamed one last time, and bounded off stage. Brilliant.

And then US big cheese (in all senses) Reggie Fils-Aime killed the mood stone dead the moment he lumbered onto the stage, looking as ever as if he’d rather be selling used cars than video games.

With the rules of engagement markedly different now from when the current generation began, Reggie rattled through confirmations of entertainment content from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon.

Important ‘big picture’ stuff, but handled with (uncharacteristic) audience-aware brevity that contrasted sharply with Microsoft’s tone-deaf focus on non-gaming content. E3: it’s all about the games, remember?

Expected showings of New Super Mario Bros. U and Wii Fit U were solidly impressive. For all the murmurs of “same old, same old”, these are new entries in series that routinely sell tens of millions of copies at a canter. But what of the alleged Wii U difference?

For Wii Fit U, bafflingly it was left to Iwata in the post-event video to reveal that the “best-selling bathroom scale in the world” would be complemented by a device – a sort of fancy pedometer – that records “atmospheric pressure and altitude”, counts calories and steps, is able to tell what exercise you are doing, and sends data to the GamePad via infrared. Why talk about any of that on stage when you can show a video of an actor pretending to spray a cartoon hosepipe?

Pikmin was such a strong start.

Similarly, there were vague words on how players of Mario would “see what others are saying” and “connect right within the game”; and, more interestingly, use the GamePad in multiplayer so the person with that controller could “place blocks along the way”. But it was skimmed over too quickly for the fabled “Nintendo difference” to fully register.

Happily and surprisingly, third-parties offered some of the most compelling examples of the potential of two-screen gaming. Publisher of the moment Ubisoft’s ZombiU teaser deliciously underscored the possibilities in first-person play, with the GamePad’s screen employed variously and seamlessly as an inventory, scanner, sniper scope, and hacking device.

Similarly, the surprise reveal of Lego City Undercover, a GTA-style open-world adventure from Travellers’ Tales, transformed the GamePad into a crime-solving gadget that looks set to wow younger audiences.

This is fine for games created exclusively for the platform; it’s less convincing for those ported over from 360 and PS3. It’s fair to say the availability of previously released titles like Batman, Ninja Gaiden and Mass Effect 3 is of greater symbolic significance to the platform than cause for celebration. It’ll take simultaneous release on Wii U, with meaningful unique features, to turn gamers’ heads.

Let’s be absolutely clear about Nintendo’s success with the original Wii. It’s smashed Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this generation, with an installed base 96 million strong, 30 million more than either Microsoft or Sony has managed.

And let’s also be clear that the company owes so much of this early success to one game: Wii Sports. Reggie acknowledged as much today, admitting that it took Wii Sports tennis to truly explain the system to consumers.

With Wii U a much more complicated, confusion proposition, Nintendo Land was boldly unveiled as the title that would deliver its “Wii Sports moment”, a Mii-populated theme park of 12 multiplayer “attractions”.

For Wii Sports tennis, Nintendo reinvented Pong for the 21st Century; for its Nintendo Land presentation, Pac-Man was the inspiration for a Luigi’s Mansion-themed ghost hunting game.

Nintendo undoubtedly hoped today to silence its critics; in the event it has probably encouraged many of them. It’s all too easy to highlight Wii U’s problems. But this is Nintendo and today we absolutely saw glimpses of wonderful invention and creativity – crucially from first- and third-parties – so painfully lacking elsewhere at the show. Glimpses, yes, but not guarantees.

The problem was, having stressed its simplicity, Nintendo then banged on for ages trying to explain it in distracting, convoluted detail, completely undermining its own point and confusing everyone watching.

Yet again, it was the post-show reel, with entertaining footage of Animal Crossing and Donkey Kong-inspired mini-games, that made the point far more effectively than the conference’s embarrassingly laboured exposition.

After the glorious opening, surely Nintendo would at least end on a crowd-pleasing high? But no, after more cheesy salesman sermonising from Reggie on families and friends “enjoying time truly together”, he actually closed the show with a trailer for… Nintendo Land. No Zelda; no Metroid, no Mario Kart, no Pokémon, no Smash Bros. The muted applause and mutterings of “is that it?” said it all.

The uncomfortable truth is that Miyamoto achieved more in ten capering minutes than his Powerpoint-personality US counterparts managed in an hour of brain-numbing, badly-scripted droning. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the lesson in that.

Iwata spoke persuasively on Sunday of “creating something unique”, stressing: “Some people may wonder if Wii U is a simple evolution of Wii or something entirely different. I think maybe the best answer is both.”

On today’s evidence, some will feel he’d have been better of leaving it there and cancelling the conference altogether. Nintendo designed its biggest public showcase of the year to appeal to core and casual alike. In the final analysis, it’s unlikely either party emerged satisfied. Yet.

Even now as I type, games that weren’t part of the conference are emerging, such as P-100 from Platinum. This is surely something Nintendo, vastly experienced at this E3 lark after all, should have better anticipated.

The danger of E3 is that companies are judged not on content but on how they present that content, which is why all three platform-holders find themselves hauled over the coals this week for their perceived dramatic failings.

And then there was … this?

Nintendo undoubtedly hoped today to silence its critics; in the event it has probably encouraged many of them. It’s all too easy to highlight Wii U’s problems. But this is Nintendo and today we absolutely saw glimpses of wonderful invention and creativity – crucially from first- and third-parties – so painfully lacking elsewhere at the show. Glimpses, yes, but not guarantees.

And these experiences will only count, as Nintendo knows, if people buy into the platform in the first place. The evidence of 3DS suggests, even with a muddled hardware proposition, the audience will come when the games do – and the price is right.

But with around six months to go until launch, Nintendo still has a huge amount of work ahead of it to make the case for Wii U on day one.



  1. Cozzy

    “Another chance to wow U”…I see what you did there! :)

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Razor

    T’was pretty baffling to see Ninty fluff their lines for a second conference in a row.

    I don’t think Ninty know what Wii U is meant to be, and if they do, they’re still not presenting it clearly enough.

    Probably still sell millions and millions. lol

    #2 3 years ago
  3. HuntingJake

    Great analysis. Johnny’s got it spot on as well. The WiiU has a lot of potential and they know it. They just need to learn how to communicate that potential to the audience.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Kabby

    Dumb folks who bought into the Wii will upgrade to the Wii U. Nintendo will be rolling in cash even if it’s a pile of shit.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Johnny Cullen

    How on Earth was Mass Effect 3 not its own announcement? Even if it was a brief one, it still merited one. Mentioning it in a b-roll instead summed up today for Nintendo.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. absolutezero

    Might be because of the huge backlash against everything in Mass Effect 3. Really its not anything more worthy than anything else they announced in the conf.

    Its been the best of the show for the solitary reason of being about games and not useless Entertainment bullshit and rappers.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. xino

    their conference was horse crap!

    70% of people in the audience already know what the Wii U is, many of them tried it last year!
    Iwata explained many things about the Wii U yesterday.
    So why did they waste time talking about Wii U and things we already knew!?

    the worst was the ending! Showing Nintendoland fireworks when people expected Smash Bros, Zelda or Metroid.

    It’s like they had nothing to show!
    No price point
    no release date

    when will they show those info?
    Nintendo world event? Pax? Gamescom? wtf is this sh*!?

    not to mention their first party games, because it looks like they will be arriving 2012, if they are arriving 2013 then OBVIOUSLY a teaser would make sense to be introduced.

    and i had my hopes up so much, but left disappointed!

    Sony’s conference was the best. Ubisoft had best show

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Blerk

    Mass Effect 3 got sidelined into the montage because it’s not even remotely exciting. It’s just another ages-old game that everyone has already played, along with Batman and the like. Yes, they’re great games – but they were great games 12 months ago. A belated port for the four people who didn’t play them already is nothing to crow about.

    They should’ve canned the Batman showing and brought in something that’s actually in the future – Darksiders 2, say. Or Aliens: Colonial Marines.

    The whole show was dismal, though. Nintendo’s own showings were boring and predictable (and maybe even lazy in the case of New Super Mario Bros U), Nintendoland was about a zillion miles away from the Wii U Sports it needed to be, the third party stuff looked no better than it does on the 360/PS3 and the extra features appeared to be irritating and pointless tagged-on gimmicks.

    Worst of all, they completely failed to sell the controller concept yet again. For an apparently unique concept, a sort of vague “well, it’s a second screen!” just doesn’t cut it. The repeated use of it for maps and inventories just seems to reinforce the fact that at the minute it appears far from essential. Add on the reliance on having a bunch of Wii remotes and the awkward-looking ‘proper’ controls on the pad and they’re going to have a very hard sell to the hardcore.

    This was Nintendo’s E3 to lose, and yet somehow they managed it. Very, very poor.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. CPC_RedDawn

    I am kind of happy I was at work today rather than watching this conference (was thinking of pulling a sicky lol).

    All Nintendo had to do was announced a Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Smash Bros, Mario Kart, and Pikmin. They only had two of those games. I know that would be a lot, but they all dont have to come out in the launch window. Just some teasers would of been nice.

    Also, make the screen multi touch, talk about potential console bundles. Such as 1 for the casual gamer at a cheaper price point with a smaller hard drive/flash memory and a core version with a big hard drive.

    And talk more about online gaming and show us some details on a new user interface that bring them into the 21st century. And scrap the dreaded friend codes!!

    That is it, announce a first party line up, better online functions, and an enhanced controller.

    They could of left the third party games for the third parties conferences. Giving their console more exposure during the show.

    But, no. I feel if they do not do something within the coming months then this could be a very bad move for Nintendo. I feel this could turn out commercially what the Gamecube became, even though it was still one of the best consoles for quality games over quantity. I feel that Nintendo are making the same mistakes again and again. This could also mimic the failure that was the 3DS release.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. shogoz

    it’s not so unlike america to slam everything that isn’t made by them, have fun with your red rings of fuck. i hear that microsoft are announcing a new controller just before e3 ends. they made it so you can insert it into your ass cuz its so like microsoft to fuck you all and win you all over with all your shitty war games where u invade other ppls country. oh well, it wont be so different than u fistingeachother in the ass cuz all u do on here is argue with eachother you negative nancy boys!

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Lightmanone

    I saw the conference as well.. and I was chatting with a good friend at the same time. And we both were discussing the end as it was coming closer. And we both were, okay, in 2004 Nintendo ended with Z:TP, it has to be something like that this time.
    But no..

    This line:
    “No Zelda; no Metroid, no Mario Kart, no Pokémon, no Smash Bros.”
    That is EXACTLY what I said as well at the end. I expected atleast 2 of them. But none.
    I was one of the biggest Nintendo fans out there. After tonight, I lost my faith. Nintendo should make ANYone wanna “take my money” but after tonight it’s more like: Why should you have my money? I got better things to do with it.

    They disappointed me with the WiiU like never before :(

    Edit: I am only really glad that the 3DS lineup didn’t suck. But again: Animal Crossing?? New games anyone? Hopefully tomorrow night won’t be as much as a disappointment.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. Ireland Michael

    People seem to forget that Nintendo likes to space it’s sequels out. A lot of the big names, like Zelda and Pokemon, already has main title releases in the last year alone. I think it’ll be another year or two before we see another Zelda title, and probably no new Pokemon until next year – they’re working on Black and White 2, remember?

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Moonwalker1982

    Horrible presentation. I wasn’t having high expectations anyway, but i did expect at least something. It started off so good with Pikmin and Miyamoto full of humoristic moments. Reggie comes on and says they got 23 Wii U titles to show and i was like…sounds good man, that’s quite some titles.

    And then they actually started to show the games beginning with Mario and i was like…ok cool, shame it’s not a 3D mario but hey this DOES look nice. And it went from ‘Hey, nice’ to….’oh god no, wii fit u???’ to ‘oh they must be showing this right now, the bullshit stuff out of the way, so they can then focus on great stuff next’ and that never happened.

    Unessecary ports like Batman and Mass Effect 3 nobody is waiting for. And before you knew it…it was over. A few friends of mine, who expected so much were incredible let down, they really almost had to cry, yeah…i agree with them, it was that bad. A brand new console unveiling and they fuck it up so badly. So again…horrible show.

    Wii U? More like Wii Fuck U!

    #13 3 years ago


    Nintendo makes gamers cry.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. stealth

    Johnny is coming off like a newb

    has nintendo ever announced every series when a system launches? EVER????????

    The wii U is already day 1

    rayman legends

    makes it day one

    the systems will sell out

    What I see alot of are these fanboys or trolls expecting the world and when they get a continent they scream

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Erthazus

    By the way is it true that with two controllers frame rate drops?

    Because that is even worse then “No multitouch screen” thing.

    #16 3 years ago


    The Wii U controller isn’t multi touch??

    #17 3 years ago
  18. Erthazus

    G1GA, Wii U controller that has no multitouch was known when it was announced.
    Just single touch screen. Yeah, that is pathetic.

    but there are new news about this controller. If you are playing with someone with the second controller, frame rate drops. I just want to confirm this.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. The_Red

    They could have focused the conference on GAMEPLAY DEMOs of Pikmin 3, ZombiU, P-100, New Super Mario Bros 2 along with a big finish from a new Rayman Legends as well as some tease from a secret new Wii U game and it could have easily become the best conference of E3.

    All the elements were ready (Pikmin 3, ZombiU, P-100, NSMB2 and Rayman Legends) and yet somehow Nintendo managed to use only half of them and only in the least meaningful way (Expect for Pikmin 3, the start of conference was sublime).

    #19 3 years ago

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