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How Nintendo's E3 2012 Conference Failed to Impress

posted 6 Jun 2012, 12:16 by Knuckles Sonic8   [ updated 27 Dec 2012, 13:07 ]
Unusually mediocre. That's how I would describe the presentation Nintendo did yesterday at E3. There were statements this week after the presentations of the other big contenders that Nintendo had E3 in the bag -- that is, if you're into the whole industry veteran wars deal, something I've grown to have a distaste for. Business-wise, I truly thought they knew what they were doing in the way they were positioning their product and how they were going to hype it up. Assurance of this came through this past Sunday with the Nintendo Direct demonstration which I thought was a smart business decision -- until I saw what they chose to fill their time with instead. Despite my better judgment, I really didn't expect Nintendo to convey such mixed messages during their E3 2012 conference. Not only did they make critical errors in their business decisions, I would not be surprised in the least bit to hear that individuals who were warming up to the Wii U have now been turned off by what they saw.

Can you keep a straight face?
As much as I loved finally seeing Pikmin 3 after all these years, hardly anything else during Nintendo's presentation produced in me a desire to own a Wii U. Now, that may be because I'm already on board. But coming at it from a different angle, I know that if I was more skeptical than I actually am, I would not have been impressed. Much of what was shown failed to produce any kind of an emotional response and for a company that has time and again used this to their advantage, this made me feel sour inside. I mean, just last year they started out with a moving orchestral performance in line with Zelda's 25th Anniversary! For a presentation that was geared towards pushing a new system and, more than that, a presumably game-changing system in every sense of the word, this was a big letdown.

We have more stuff in this little corner over here.
This was a key moment for Nintendo. People were watching very closely to see if they could sell the idea of the Wii U to individuals who have had it out for the system since it was unveiled last year, and unfortunately for Nintendo, they made a critical error in the titles they chose to show off. An alarming amount of the titles were shown were repeats of what was shown last year and/or were ports with promised Wii U enhancements. Why they would choose to emphasize these over original new titles is beyond me. And this isn't like last year where titles like Mario Party 9 were loosely mentioned in passing because they did not have a presence on the show floor. Game & Wario and Project P-100 -- both brand-new games with playable demos -- didn't get squat. Titles such as these that should have been showcased were replaced by things that should've been neutralized.

To add insult to injury was Nintendo's decision to draw attention to SiNG, a game that really had no place being in the presentation at all. To see that Nintendo chose to include this over some of the other titles they could've shown is offensive. I say that, not because of the genre it represents (I'm a fan of rhythm games), but because the communicated feel does not seem as strong as Just Dance in terms of the social aspect and the level of involvement of self-conscious players within the room. What all of this showed is that aside from a few enthusiastic supporters and the mention that there are over 20 titles in development, the roster for Wii U isn't as expansive as we've been led to believe. Not a good impression.

Overstating the obvious and failing to compensate for it.
If you've ever listened to a presentation and could sense that the presenter was almost stalling just so they wouldn't come up short within the allotted time, then you probably sensed that Nintendo was doing something similar throughout their presentation. Specifically, Reggie kept making comments that plainly said there is "a lot to cover"; that titles like Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition were "just the start"; and basically that time is of the essence. And yet the irony of it all is that Nintendo did a little too much talking about similar matters and didn't do enough showing to offset this. I wouldn't go so far as to say there were empty promises, but they weren't exactly fulfilled either. 

It can only go up from here...right?
If the presentation were a person, I might use the term "scatterbrained" to describe their work ethic. While the showings weren't all over the place, the organization was not clear and things most definitely did not stay on a high note. Pikmin 3 was a great way to start the show, but once that was said and done, nothing else topped it. Between the intermittent endorsements from fellow developers and the unnecessary showing of trailers for such a small number of 3DS titles that we already knew about, Nintendo's presentation was most definitely a jumbled presenting of events.

We're engaged!
It was extremely short-sighted to even have Ubisoft testify their support for the Wii U by showing, once again, a reel of their titles. Didn't we already see this during their own conference? Why did Nintendo feel the need to share the spotlight? No, "necessary" is the furthest word from my mind in discussing the relevance of having Ubisoft declare their love for the new device. It seemed to me that a host of other developers were on board last year besides just the ones shown on-stage during the presentation, so that's another reason why I feel Nintendo's decision to make Ubisoft their right-hand mates and to then give them allowance to brag about themselves was short-sighted.

Furthermore, I'm going to go on record and say that I do not for a second think that it was the right place or time to show the next iteration of Just Dance during a presentation that was supposed to support pillars of innovation and new experiences. Thinking about it afterwards, I was in disbelief that Just Dance 4 was the only game that had a live demonstration of gameplay. And it wasn't like it was anything major either. The puppetering aspect of how they've integrated the Wii U to mix up choreographies seems a bit weak to me, and just in looking at what other titles are doing, I have no doubt they could've done much better in this department towards showcasing the unique capabilities of the Wii U GamePad. But I guess if a developer was practically bowing down to you to the point of making you blush, you'd want to flaunt it too.

Humor me just this once.
Aside from the fact that Reggie outright stated "My body is ready!" much to the approval of those in attendance, all other attempts to make jokes fell flat. One example of this was during the showing of ZombiU where Reggie was seen testing out a feature of the game that left his face zombified. Not only did the facial recognition look sloppy, but Reggie's attempts to liven up the crowd by having a bit of "fun" was dumb, if not slightly embarrassing. Arguably one of the funniest moments of their E3 demonstration didn't even stem from the presentation itself! It was during the post-presentation video that Iwata, after having shown us Donkey Kong: Crash Course, was seen holding some bananas in his hand. I'm not saying they should've been serious all the time. Seeing Miyamoto play around with the Pikmin plush in his suit jacket pocket was amusing. But all other attempts to add humor after this felt undeniably weak.
Come one, come all! Come one, come all! Come one, come all!
I'm really digging the idea behind Nintendo Land, mostly because I thought that, from afar, last year's tech demos did an excellent job of demonstrating how the Wii U would make multiplayer experiences even more lively with a new dynamic. To see that transition to a new package was a predictable move, but it's still one I'm interested in seeing through. Having said that, I didn't think their demonstration of it left a resoundingly positive message amongst audience members. To be more precise, the drawn-out explanation of Haunted Hijinks didn't have the concise, stick-it-to-them delivery. I know I'm not the only one who thought, "Okay, we got it. Can we move on now?" But no, the demonstration carried on.

It wasn't like Pikmin 3 where there would be an understandable amount of explanations as far as gameplay changes, etc. And it wasn't even a live demonstration either where executives were seen participating in the challenges on-stage. This segment was one part of what essentially is a mini-game collection, and there was no need for such an overly-detailed explanation to try and sell it. It definitely came across as trying too hard, and when they probably had the audience early on, they might've lost some as they went on.

Digesting Nintendo's conference has left me with a winced expression on my face that will pop up every time someone asks me about it. Aside from my own personal disappointments towards how they handled the situation, from a business perspective, Nintendo's presentation lacked refinement and failed to hit the targets they needed to hit if they were going to win people's approval. It almost sounded like Nintendo will offer one more shot at winning people over before the holiday season, but by that time it might be a little too late. They really needed this "win" to set things in motion, and for things to fall flat the way they did will most definitely hurt them for the next little while.