Friday, 5 June 2009

Nintendo at E3, too little too late?

With the LA convention centre now being 97% less sweaty than it has been for the previous three days, it is a clear indication that the brand new, old E3 that gaming was treated to this year has come to an end. It was definitely a show that walked up to its 2008 sibling and showed it how things were done, and why gaming is good.

I think everyone will also agree that Nintendo put up a good fight, completely stamping on what it did in last years show (although the bar was set very low). Was it enough to completely redeem them though? To be completely honest, I am not entirely sure that it was.

For many people, their biggest proper announcement would have been Super Mario Galaxy 2, the fat plumber’s return to space and gravity confusion. Whilst it looked every bit as good as the first game, that is also where I see it falling at the first hurdle. Apart from the presence of Yoshi in the trailers, I can not actually see anything that is noticeably different in this outing.

Okay, there might be a few extra environments and maybe the odd ability, but at the end of the day, it strikes me as being very similar to putting a hat on. Yes, it has added something, but at the end of the day, it is still a hat. There looks to be no changes to the gameplay that can define this as a different game. It looks a bit too samey for my liking, and shows that the series is not progressing, but bloating instead.

I also feel that the Wii’s major ace in the hole is now being threatened in a very serious way, now that the other major gaming platforms are introducing motion control technology. It was a great innovation from Nintendo in 2006, but now the competition has caught up and possibly even beaten Nintendo at its own game.

The 360’s Project Natal motion sensing camera, and the PS3’s motion capturing wands seem to do the job a lot better than the Wiimote ever did. Project Natal allows game control with your full body, a bit like a super Eye Toy, where as Sony’s Wiimote wannabes offer the true 1:1 movement ratio that we all hoped the Wii would utilise upon its launch. Maybe the Wii Motion Plus will help give Nintendo the boost it needs, but at the moment, it looks to be in danger of losing at its own game.

So what advantage does the Wii have over the other consoles as far as the core gamer is concerned? Motion controls are out of the picture now, so the Wii must rely on its other tricks, such as low cost (including the built in wifi that the 360 lacks) and potential library. Mario and Zelda are both very strong licenses, guaranteed to shift units, but you have to be careful not to play around with your key fan base too much.

A glint on the horizon, for me anyway, is the promise of a new Wii exclusive Zelda game that is in the works. So far, the one clue we have is a single picture, showing a matured link with no sword and a Zora. It is futile to try and figure out anything about the game at this early stage, but Miyamoto (creator of Mario and Zelda) tells us that it will be something a bit different to before. As much as I like change in games, I hope that it will still cling on to bits of the formula that have made the series so successful.


Andy Davies said...

I think it has to be said that Microsoft probably put on the best show overall with the unveiling of Beatles Rock Band. Having downloadable albums through XBOX Live is a stroke of genius for Microsoft leaving their rivals green with envy.

Anthony said...

Microsoft definitely came out with several punches rolling, putting on a fantastic conference that was going to be hard to top.

It is hard to say who did the best as each company did have some quite big reveals, but bringing out Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney has got to give you some pulling power from the glamour viewpoint of the entire spectacle.

Unknown said...

As hats go, Galaxy 2 is a very welcoming hat! But yes, I agree - it's more of the same.

As for the other motion controls threatening Nintendo's dominance, sadly this was always going to happen. No one expected Ninty to strike gold with the Wii, but now that they have, Sony and Microsoft were inevitably going to capitalise on this. Here's hoping Nintendo have enough software/new ideas to compete in the next generation or they're back where they started!

Unknown said...

It just seems a shame that good ol' Nintendo came up with the concept, only for the hip new guys to come along and perfect it.

This being said though, I read the other day that Sony view the Wii as an entry level console, and then when people have the confidence/addiction, they will move on to the PS3.

The Wii is quite a universal console that is trying to cover every single base these days in an effort to be loved by all. It just seems a shame that Nintendo are drifting away from their traditional roots, but that horse has been flogged so much that it is now more of a fine paste.