E3 2011 Countdown: Nintendo

Now you're playing with power, bee-otches!

A New Horizon

It’s undoubtedly the most anticipated aspect of this year’s E3.  While Nintendo is usually renowned for putting on a good spread at the annual gaming show, this year looks set to be the best one for some time.  In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months, Nintendo recently announced that it will be unveiling a successor to the Wii.  Currently known only by its working title of Project Café, we’re expecting Nintendo to do its usual trick of wowing the industry.  However, the company has been very tight-lipped about its current project, and we only have an overwhelming number of rumours to go on.

Furthermore, Nintendo will be eager to showcase some new titles for its 3DS handheld console.  The autostereoscopic device got off to a cracking start when it released earlier this year, but a number of recent reports have indicated flagging sales, especially in Japan.    In fact, a recent survey in the Nintendo homeland cited the lack of AAA software as being one of the main reasons why a lot of people haven’t picked one up yet, and so an impressive line-up is needed if gamers are to be wooed.

And let’s not forget about the Wii.  What life remains in the console really depends on what Nintendo does to support it.  A recent price drop and a new bundle deal have given consumers another reason to hand over their hard-earned cash in exchange for one, but Nintendo will need to ensure a slew of new software over the next year or so, if it is to keep its core audience tided over until Project Café hits the shelves.

Fancy a Cuppa?

Nintendo’s Project Café has got the videogame world buzzing, and it’s not hard to see why.  The company gave us the Wii, and so it’s not unreasonable to expect that the console will do something new and unique.  A ton of rumours have been floating around, the most prominent one being that the controller will have a built-in touchscreen display, as well as a traditional button and stick layout.  This is supposedly backed up by another rumour that Nintendo is now going after the hardcore market again, and IGN’s claim that the console could retail for $350-$400 (roughly £215-£250/£240-£280).  While this would certainly seem to somewhat be the case with the 3DS, it would be unusual, as well as potentially suicidal, for Nintendo to turn its back on the casual market.

It's just a mock-up, but is it a serious possibility?

Therefore, it’s plausible that the console will try to bridge the gap somewhere, and touchscreen controllers would certainly do the trick (I mean, who hasn’t played a DS of some description?).  However, some of the Bits ‘n’ Bytes Gaming team did discuss in our most recent episode of PodBytes that touchscreen controllers could prove an expensive turn-off for customers.  If, as rumours suggest, the console allows each player to play local multiplayer via their own personal screen, then 4-player gaming isn’t going to come cheap: Imagine what you pay now for four controllers and double it.  Not what we need in these hard economic times.

There are some things that we feel we can safely ascertain.  Firstly, the console will be HD-capable.  HDTV ownership is now large enough to warrant this, and one can’t help but think that Nintendo was perhaps kicking itself for not including this last time ’round.  Graphically speaking, the rumours claiming that the graphical power of the system will match or outdo that of the PS3’s make sense – Nintendo needs to future-proof its investment, especially when there isn’t anything new coming just yet from either Sony or Microsoft.  Nintendo will have a more fleshed-out online service for its new system than the Wii did, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Friend Codes return, at least in a similar form to that found on the 3DS, where you have just one code per console.  Lastly, backwards compatibility of some description will more than likely feature; Nintendo has a massive, well-established library of games to fall back on and Wii compatibility would be a clever way of convincing people to make the jump to the new console.

On the software side of things, it’s very perplexing.  Nintendo has been so secretive in recent years that it’s virtually impossible to tell what’s coming next.  Moreover, many key franchises haven’t featured on Wii, so it’s anyone’s guess as to what will eventually appear on the system.  With regards to launch software, it’s also quite difficult.  Nintendo seems eager to win over third-party developers, as was the case with the 3DS launch.  However, as recent evidence has shown, fans want a big Nintendo hitter to purchase alongside their shiny new console, and so we can only hope that a new Mario title is there from day one.  Given the sudden announcement, much like with the 3DS, our Nintendo writers wouldn’t be surprised to see another selection of titles like Super Street Fighter IV or some ported titles from the Xbox 360 and PS3.  A new Super Smash Bros. appearing as a launch game would most definitely be welcome, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.


Do a 3D Barrel Roll!

Expect a lot of talk from Nintendo on 3DS.  The emphasis on software should allow us to get a better look at many upcoming titles, such as the new Super Mario (3DS) title, Mario Kart 3DS, Kid Icarus Uprising, Paper Mario, and even the Starfox 64 remake.  Hopefully, Nintendo’s new unveilings will be original software, for as nice as remakes are, it would be equally nice to see lots of new gaming experiences built from the ground up for the console.  On the casual side of things, Nintendo will probably show us some software that focuses on this side of the market.  This demographic is still pretty powerful with regards to spending power, and the industry giant will no doubt want to capitalise on this.

Whereas gamers will be looking out for key Nintendo franchises taking the step into 3D, that’s not to say that third-parties won’t have a lot to offer.  There’s Konami’s Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, Mega Man Legends 3 from Capcom, Sonic Generations from SEGA, and Assassin’s Creed: Lost Legacy from Ubisoft.  These, combined with Nintendo’s own range of first-party titles, as well as any other unannounced titles, mean that the 3DS’s library of software gets more and more impressive by the day.  Let’s hope the release schedule is just as impressive.

The 3DS still has a pretty limited online service, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Nintendo were to discuss its future plans for it.  Hopefully, some more details concerning online play for certain games will make their way into the conference briefing – an online system in Mario Kart 3DS similar to its Wii counterpart would be superb.  More information on the eShop, which will become available on the day of the conference (freaky coincidence?), will also be a key part of the 3DS discussion.  3DSWare is a good medium through which to release software that plays to the hardware’s strength, and downloadable Game Boy games will no doubt have many a Nintendo fan reaching for their pocketbooks.

Interestingly – and perhaps sadly – it’s probable that the standard DS and DSi won’t have much of a presence.  Nintendo is very keen to push its latest platform, and a heavy focus on its predecessor in the short hour or so that the company gets doesn’t seem like a wise idea.

But What About Mii?

Link's holding the fort for Nintendo's Wii.

Of course, we must not forget that Nintendo still has the Wii on the market, and Project Café, as far as we know, is still a while off.  Nintendo has confirmed that it will be supporting the Wii with a release every month for the next year.  Obviously, the title that everyone is waiting for is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and no, don’t panic; it is highly doubtful that Nintendo will be shifting it across to turn it into a launch title for Project Café.  Whereas history would suggest otherwise, given what happened with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword has been designed with the Wii’s MotionPlus technology in mind and a port would seriously undermine the supposed graphical horsepower of Nintendo’s new system.  We know that another Kirby game is on the way, as well as Rhythm Heaven; and Europe, at least, is getting translated versions of Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower.  In terms of key franchises, it seems highly unlikely at this point that Nintendo would be investing any serious money into a new Wii project.

The Final Countdown

E3 looks set to be a good event for Nintendo, provided that it shows enough about Project Café to get people excited about it.  What Project Café will do exactly still remains a mystery, but Nintendo’s ideas tend to be revolutionary, and with what could be a two-year head start over Sony and Microsoft, it has a chance of capturing a sizeable portion of the market before the other two can even do anything about it.  We think there’ll be Project Café software to show, but it’s virtually impossible to guess what exactly.  Everyone wants a big game like a new Super Smash Bros. title, but gamers will likely get a lot of third-party support and some decent, but not blockbuster quality, first-party games.

We're going to miss Cammie this year!

Nintendo has a lot to do if it wants its 3DS console to dominate like the original DS did.  Therefore, you may as well start saving up now as there are probably a lot of great titles on the way that we’ve yet to hear anything about.  On the other hand, the Wii will probably feature less prominently due to Nintendo’s newfound home console.  Expect some talk about upcoming software and how well it has sold, but we really think the Wii is at the end of its life, and so any major projects will likely be saved for Project Café.

With just under five days to go, the excitement is mounting.  Nintendo’s conference is scheduled to go ahead at 9am on Tuesday, 7 June.  Find yourself a live stream and a comfy chair: we reckon you’re going to need to be sitting down when Nintendo finally unveils its new baby.

Share Your Thoughts: What Project Café and 3DS games and features are you most looking forward to at this year’s E3? What do you think will be announced?  Is the Wii dead in the water, or do you think Nintendo will do a lot to push it into even more gamers’ hands?

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