By virtue of having arguably the most exciting news to tell in years, Nintendo's conference was perhaps the most disappointing of all. If last year was an exercise in how not to announce a new console, this year was an exercise in, well, how not to announce it a second time round.
Ubisoft had already piqued interest with Rayman Legends and ZombiU – two games that look to be making the most of the Wii U's unique selling point (that whopping great gamepad with built-in screen) – and we were ready for Nintendo to keep the momentum going with a host of fresh, vibrant new launch IPs with which to win back their hardcore fanbase. And hey, chuck in a few family-friendly titles too. We're not averse to good, wholesome fun.
Unfortunately, Nintendo's idea of catering to the hardcore seemed to me to be a procession of trailers for games we've already played, now with added gimmicks. Arkham City is a great game, of that there can be no doubt, but we'll have finished Harley's Revenge months before the Armored Edition hits store shelves. Mass Effect 3? Trine 2? Ninja Gaiden 3?
To their credit, bagging Scribblenauts Universe, Lego City: Undercover, and Aliens: Colonial Marines are a big deal, and getting hands-on with them in a literal sense is an intriguing prospect. Pikmin 3 also made for an endearing opening act, but by the time Reggie was wrapping up a laboured and overly long Nintendoland reveal, any momentum had long since stalled.
Ahead of their presser, I was admittedly quite critical of Nintendo, but I had good reason being burned by the Wii and feeling underwhelmed by their Wii U reveal last year. However, Ubisoft had set them up for a potential shocker with ZombiU and Rayman Legends. I was ready to be optimistic, and to start with it was going so well.
My biggest wish, having multiple GamePad tablets connected to a Wii U console, came true. Of course, news has come out since that this halves the frame rate for both devices, but I’m still going to count this as a plus point. Pikmin 3’s reveal brought us a rather entertaining and rather charming game that held my interest. Nintendo had me in their clutches…
… and then the momentum started to wane.
Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition, bringing extra gadgets to the action with use of the GamePad’s gimmicks, isn’t enough for me to get a game I already own on another console. Mass Effect 3 got an understandable cheer, but why would anyone with any sense wish to play the final part of a trilogy that logs your decisions over the course of the series? Third Party support only works when it makes sense. That’s not to say everything was bad. Lego City: Undercover was a pleasant surprise, and reminded me exactly why Traveller’s Tales are the makers of brilliant games. ZombiU also got some in-game footage shown that appeared very promising with the use of the GamePad. More of the same Mario action will no doubt sell, but it was the inclusion of Paper Mario for the 3DS that I feel gave 3DS owners something to really cheer about.
While the reveals of Wii Fit U and, to a lesser extent, SiNG, were not overly surprising or disappointing, it was the finale of Nintendo Land which erased any sense of excitement from proceedings. When you spend more time explaining a mini game than it takes to play it, things are not right. Add to this the fact that the franchises included shouldn’t be crammed into a mini game selection, but in their own releases, and it ended up with a stark conclusion for myself; I didn’t feel the overwhelming need to get a Wii U. Of course, that feeling could change over time, but right now I haven’t got that urge to put down my cash for another console.
It was with a familiar feeling that I sat down to take in the Nintendo Press Conference. After all, weren't we in this situation last year - lining up to eagerly hear about a strange new console, about which we knew very little indeed?
To Nintendo's credit, they opened with something that was fantastically refreshing on a number of levels. Not only was Shigeru Miyamoto's entrance wonderfully done (the CG'd Pikmin a lovely touch), but in Pikmin 3, Nintendo had a game that stood apart from the endless slaughter of the day before. Instead of pandering to the ADHD generation, Nintendo kicked off their E3 presentation perfectly: with a distinctive, unique, first party title that will not be available anywhere else. If someone were to write an idiot's guide to press conferences, that Pikmin 3 opening would probably make it in as a case study.
And then everything went wrong.
After telling us that this press conference would be all about the games, Reggie Fils-Aime spent ten minutes telling us to check Facebook. In fact, a large chunk of the presser was spent apologising for there not being enough time to deliver all of the information that they wanted to. That's not fair warning, that's dreadful presentation. The scripting was bad, the delivery worse, and when a five minute minigame takes ten minutes to explain, you know something's gone wrong.
The third parties, those that were there, were as solid as could be expected, with LEGO City Undercover and ZombiU providing the thrills. There was a cheer from the primarily American audience as Mass Effect 3 made a brief appearance, but I'm going to put that down to inebriation and geography. Sadly the majority of the third party output was either predictable, rushed, or absent.
This should have been the moment that Nintendo stepped up to the plate and smashed it out of the park. The Vita had Uncharted Golden Abyss at launch alongside WipEout, with Resistance: Burning Skies confirmed and dated. Sony gave us things to be excited for (even if they dropped the ball quickly after launch). But there was nothing to sink our teeth into. Nintendo Land looks curious, nothing more, and that's not enough. I cannot express how disappointed I was at the appearance of New Super Mario Bros. U, even though it was probably inevitable, as the Wii U would surely have provided an excellent opportunity for a 3D Mario (maybe even with co-op?) that rewrote the rule book using the Wii U's unique features. But no...we're getting Autolog in the Mushroom Kingdom.
Jon gave a rather optimistic appraisal of the Ninty presser on location and after some hands-on time I rather imagine that the journalists out in LA this year might reflect that it wasn't so bad after all. But I beg to differ. These events are designed to deliver key titles and key information, and we got neither. The lack of killer-app first party games, the paltry on-stage third party support, the unacceptably vague specs that emerged, the complete absence of any indication of pricing. These are things that you cannot overlook if you're presenting a console at E3 that you plan on releasing in the same year!
They would have been better off just giving us the videos.