Last month, Nintendo made the unprecedented decision to skip the traditional Monday E3 keynote speech. During yesterday’s big event in Los Angeles, Nintendo teased a lot of new software by streaming video, but fell short of matching the excitement that surrounded the conference’s Xbox One and PlayStation 4 main events. This has left the rival systems to duke it out over who will be the top next-generation gaming console (though the PS4 already appears victorious).
Nintendo passed on the big stage in favor of smaller events at the gaming expo, as well as collaborating with American electronics retailer Best Buy to bring demo versions of unreleased software for customers to try in stores.
“In the past, we've focused the E3 hands-on experience on those attending the event. But this year, we're making E3 for the people," said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America. "This year, it’s all about the games."
Nintendo used its streaming “Nintendo Direct” service to announce many exclusive games, putting together a special web presentation hosted by Nintendo President Satoru Iwata that was filmed at the company headquarters in Kyoto (as well as behind the scenes at the expo itself).
The first big announcement was Pokemon X/Y for Nintendo DS – proof that the handheld is Nintendo’s real cash cow. The dual title will release on October 12th.
Next was Super Mario 3D World, a Wii U title, which looks to add a bit of depth to the always popular Mario franchise. Like the original Super Mario Bros. 2, there will be four playable characters with different attributes: Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Peach. There is also a new power-up – a cat suit that allows Mario and company to slash at enemies and climb up walls. Release is slated for December.
The next major title was the follow-up to Mario Kart Wii, the best-selling racing game of all time. The next installment will be titled Mario Kart 8, and it will have a large emphasis on online play. Shockingly, it will miss the 2013 holiday season, with release set for the spring of 2014.
Iwata also showed off quick glimpses of Wii Party U, but then apologized that it – as well as Wii Fit U – are behind schedule and will be released later than expected. “After the Wii U launch, we couldn’t release games as smoothly as we had planned. To those of you that have been eagerly awaiting these titles, I appreciate your patience,” Iwata said before bowing toward the screen.
Later in the announcement, Iwata showed off The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD, a remake of the Gamecube classic, as well as a new installment of Donkey Kong Country, titled Tropical Freeze. Both looked better than previous iterations, but they lacked the wow factor of upcoming Xbox One and PS4 titles like Destiny and Watch Dogs. It goes without saying that the Nintendo offerings are more child-friendly.
Perhaps the offerings most appealing to grownups were saved for last: Bayonetta 2 for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U. Bayonetta abandons the Microsoft and Sony platforms to become a Nintendo exclusive. The Smash Bros. update will feature new characters, including fan favorite Mega Man. But, like the new Mario Kart, both titles won’t be available until 2014. Even with so many time-tested franchises, these delayed releases could hint at tough times to come for Nintendo.
“A system's second holiday season is usually when its game library really starts to mature and we get to see what that system can really do. Given that, it's a bad sign that some of Nintendo's biggest franchises won't be able to make the crucial holiday sales rush this year,” said ArsTechnica’s Kyle Orland.