E3 2011: Nintendo’s Press Conference

This conference is Nintendo’s to lose. But how did they do? With promise of a new console, the next wave of games for their latest handheld, the 3DS, and updates to games like the as-yet-unreleased The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, will they destroy the competition or simply slide on by?

The show started out with a symphony orchestra playing through about five minutes of varied Zelda music while visuals from the past 25 years of the game streamed by on screen. Sounds a bit like Video Games Live, perhaps? Just wait until you hear what they announced ten minutes later!

The orchestra played and Shigeru Miyamoto came out on stage to announce that there would be a new Zelda game for each Nintendo console this year, including eShop, 3DS, and the Wii. Of course, two of the games are remakes, but Ocarina of Time 3D is apparently quite the upgrade, so it might deserve more credit than a remake might get. Going forward, Mr. Miyamoto also announced that Skyward Sword would be out for Wii this coming holiday season, and I spoke with Nintendo rep Matt Ryan during the show where he assured me it was actually complete as of E3! That gives them enough time to make a hundred million copies or so for the first weekend of sales!

Mr. Miyamoto exited the stage after thanking some of the Zelda team members, including series producer Eiji Aonuma. Next up: Mr. Satoru Iwata, President of Nintendo Worldwide. He came out to briefly show off some gameplay videos of new titles like Luigi’s Mansion 2, Starfox 64 3D, and Kid Icarus: Uprising. Nintendo rarely does on-stage gameplay, and they didn’t stray from that this year. Mr. Iwata also teased the new console that would be announced shortly, but proceeded to – as far as I’m concerned – waste the next twenty minutes discussing the 3DS and eShop. Honestly no one cares about a 3D Pokedex when we know you’re about to announce the successor to the Wii.

And then Reggie came out and did it. He gave a speech about how the console before it was laughed at for not having incredible graphics and for having such a lousy name. Then he revealed the graphical prowess of the new system and … well, okay so this new console has an even worse name: Wii U … but the graphics still look great! In fact, the graphics on this new console look phenomenal – Zelda rendered in eye-popping 1080p HD, stunning visuals are to be expected from all the major game makers. No more games that look good “even for the Wii”. Just games that look good.

The controller is really the biggest part of this whole story. It’s got a massive 6.2″ touchscreen on it, two slide pads, dual triggers, and the rest of Nintendo’s standard button assortment. But beyond that, it can function as its own gaming system, you can stream video from the console to the controller itself if you want to play on the screen instead of the TV in front of you, or use both the TV and Wii U Controller screen at once! It really is a phenomenal piece of tech, and you should check it out!

After this, Reggie used the last thirty minutes of the conference to pretty much just plug the technology and its uses. The system really doesn’t have any lag whatsoever. It’s very quick, and the screen is beautiful. I also snuck around back one of the TVs and spotted it feeding visuals over HDMI, so that’s always a good sign. You know that if Nintendo was doing 720p and not the full 1080p shabang, they’d have gone with the much cheaper component connectors.

You can use the controller in so many ways, I hope that Nintendo really opens up development to many more people. It would be so great to see tons of applications out there for the new system, and this could really be the age of mass-application development for a home console like never before.

Did I mention the controller also has a gyroscope, front-facing camera, a stereo speakers built-in? Awesome stuff, but 1) how much will it cost, and 2) how long is the battery life on this thing? Seems like the answers to those questions are directly related!

We don’t have many details beyond that but we’re just getting started at this point. The console (which we know very little about, by the way) is due out in 2012 some time, and while that likely means a late launch (as in we’ll be able to play it at next year’s E3 before it actually launches), it means that developers have tons of time to get cracking on new games! Come on, Mr. Miyamoto! You’re finished Skyward Sword, not get to the official follow-up to Ocarina of Time, would ya!?

It is worth noting that the Wii U will play Wii games, but not GameCube titles. Nintendo showed no new Wii games at its press conference, and actually had very few on its show floor, so it is clear that this is going to be the replacement for the console, and they’re probably not going to be making any more Wiis unless demand just happens to shoot up (which I don’t see happening if people can wait a year or so).

So, how did we end up doing with predicting Nintendo’s conference? Well, Skyward Sword was officially dated (sort of: they said “holiday” release) for Wii, so my prediction of a dual-launch wasn’t entirely correct. With that said, it is entirely plausible that they rework some of the mechanics to take advantage of the Wii U controller, but as of right now, nothing has been announced. And to be honest, I don’t see that happening anyway.

My guess of Nintendo’s Sixth console wasn’t exactly a guess since they confirmed it, but when I said I wouldn’t like what they made until I tried it, I was dead on. As it turns out, I hated the Wii U until the first few moments of holding it. And then I realized I will never ever doubt Nintendo. Unless they say the words Vitality Sensor again. Then maybe I’ll doubt them a bit.

Mario for 3DS showed up, although I think we all knew it would. I have to say it didn’t look that great. It played like an odd little disjointed platformer, and maybe that is just because we only saw a couple of levels as opposed to how everything connects together, but I wasn’t impressed. Mario hasn’t impressed lately. I mean, sure the Galaxy games were good, but there’s always a Mario game like Bowser’s Inside Story or Super Mario Sunshine to tarnish the good plumber’s name.

Lastly, I predicted Smash Brothers for the new console. I think it will be a perfect addition, and yes, they’re working on it. But sadly, not officially, they’re not! You know that HAL Laboratories is hard at work pumping out Super Smash Bros. the Fourth, so hopefully that is a launch title. Although it would also be great to see a 3DS version with online multiplayer!

Notice that I didn’t predict Nintendo would unveil a good online experience? Their current online experience sucks donkey testicles, and I think it will continue to do so until the Wii U launches. Then it will suck less. But rest assured it will still suck.

So who won? Well, Microsoft had the big guns (Halo 4, duh!), and Sony had the PSVita. But let’s face it. Nintendo unveiled a new console, and of all the booths I spent time at this year, the Nintendo booth was the one I shadowed the most. Nintendo won the show, but their lead from last year is dwindling. Microsoft and Sony are hot on Nintendo’s heels, so if they don’t shape up for next E3, it might be back to the big two ruling the show again!

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