With Nintendo, we usually know what we’re getting. That’s not necessarily a criticism, of course, but the company’s reliance on a seemingly timeless spread of first party characters means that we can make sweeping assumptions with some degree of certainty. In short, we can say things like “we’ll probably see a new Mario and a new Zelda.” and feel quite safe in that assumption.
So, we’ll probably see a new Mario and a new Zelda. The Wii U pretty much guarantees that Nintendo will have a raft of new titles for their system selling characters to populate. The slow start made by the 3DS has been partially blamed on Nintendo’s reluctance to push their first party catalogue to the fore, favouring the forging of some third party relationships. People, it has been implied, didn’t buy a 3DS because they couldn’t play Mario on it yet. So the Wii U should have a Mario game in its launch line up. It’s safe to assume that Nintendo will also want Zelda to make an appearance, Link is incredibly popular and he’s been in the tech demo videos since the Wii U’s unveiling.
Zelda is sure to appear at some point, could the tech demos hint at a launch window arrival?
Nintendo has historically been exceptionally good at selling the unique features of its consoles. The Wii U brings a new tablet controller and Nintendo is going to need something to show it off. It’s not a huge leap to assume a Wii U Sports or Wii U Fit style game, nestled into the launch line up but also expect some sort of mini game collection that uses the screen of that tablet in interesting ways. There will probably be plenty of magnifying the TV screen, x-ray vision, target scopes for water-, paintball- or nerf- guns and other, family friendly approaches to the second screen.
On the subject of that tablet controller, there have been some rumblings surrounding the possibility of Nintendo lifting the restriction of only one tablet per console. It’s possible that they’ll announce two tablets as an option, given their large user base that’s keen on party style or same-room multiplayer. We can also hope for an announcement that it will be possible to use a 3DS as a controller with the Wii U but that’s perhaps wishing too hard. Limited functionality and possibly some form of cross-platform interaction, as we’ve seen with the PS3 and Vita, seems much more plausible.
It’s been suggested that Nintendo might benefit from rebranding the Wii U. The name as it stands lends itself to brand confusion in much the same way as the 3DS did in its early days. Simply, people won’t know it’s not just another Nintendo hardware revision. They haven’t been nearly so keen on that with their home console as they were with their handheld (DSLite, DSi, DSXL) so it’s not as much of a problem. A full rebranding seems unlikely but they will certainly need to work hard on firmly defining the console as something totally different to the ageing Wii.
Another hardware rumour doing the rounds is centred on a possible 3DS revision. The, frankly, ridiculous extra circle pad clip-on has led many to believe that they’ll create an entirely new unit with two analogue pads as standard. While that’s certainly something that’s possible, I’m more inclined to believe that they won’t bother right now. Maybe if E3 had come at Christmas time, this would be more likely but sales have really strengthened and it might be a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” with Nintendo, especially given the fact that they will be putting every effort into avoiding hardware launch shortages around the Wii U launch similar to those of the Wii. I think it’s more likely for them to revise their handheld hardware towards the end of the year, possibly at the Tokyo Game Show.
The Wii U announcement from E3 2011
It’s not all obvious franchises and hardware though, Nintendo’s conference also has the potential to be quite heavy on the games.
For the 3DS, Luigi’s Mansion 2 was playable on the show floor last year and New Super Mario Bros 2 is due for release in August. It would be astounding if they didn’t feature in a significant way. Paper Mario has also already been pencilled in for a release this fiscal year so it should make an appearance. There are hopes for a couple of western localisations, notably for Monster Hunter 3G or Monster Hunter 4 and the tactical RPG, Fire Emblem. Aside from that, there’s an Animal Crossing game on the way, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (a sequel to the Mega Drive’s Castle of Illusion) and the bewilderingly titled Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate.
Montage videos are one of my favourite aspects of E3 stage presentations and I expect there to be a couple of Wii U ones. They’ll want to show how popular it is with third parties, how good it is for putting Unreal Engine games on and how adaptable that tablet controller is. Expect something featuring all the multi platform games they can muster, looking fantastic, and expect some lifestyle videos showing impossibly groomed, plastic-skinned automatons grinning inanely at the bright colours on their tablet controller as it does something amazing.
We know Pikmin 3 is in the works so we can hope for that. There have also been rumours of a Smash Bros appearance around the launch window, which doesn’t seem unreasonable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something from the Starfox or Metroid series either. There was a rumour about a crossover game but that’s been quite heavily debunked but that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of at least one of the franchises making an appearance. My money would be on Starfox if we only get one. Nintendo will remember the cheer they got showing the 3DS game at last year’s show and that kind of enthusiasm has so far been lacking for the Wii U.
WB has just announced a multi platform game based in the DC universe - also coming to Wii U. A sign of things to come?
Despite the speed at which some – let’s call them “traditional HD gamers” – write off Nintendo, they have the potential to provide the busiest conference and the most exciting things on show. The Wii U is still something of an unknown quantity and despite the assumed reliance on old IP, there is going to be a heavy lean towards third party and multi platform games too. Seeing what Nintendo do with existing franchises on a powerful machine and what their partners use that controller for has masses of potential.
The 3DS is also into its stride now, and Nintendo may feel like there’s something to prove in the face of what should be a big showing from Sony for the Vita. As the ageing cliché goes: you should never write off Nintendo.