Despite the slight annoyance of having this last-minute announcement, it was very smart of Nintendo to host an educational segment before their on-stage presentation. For the purposes of bringing everyone to the same page, tomorrow's focus can center on games, entertainment, and inspirational ideas. In case you weren't taking notes, here are three takeaway points from yesterday evening's Nintendo Direct demonstration.
Iwata did something early on that surprised me a little, not just because of what was said and where it was said, but also because I feel like he called to attention something I've felt for a long while; as though he were my mouthpiece or something. He addressed the fact that such scenes as was depicted in the image shown illustrate that while connectivity may have soared, interaction has dropped to such a point where we really have to question how the surplus of technological ways in which we can stay connected are having an impact on our brains -- that is, our ability to connect with one another.
That the Wii U will counteract this is made clear in the pillars Nintendo addressed throughout, much of which date back to what was used to lift the Wii up in the minds of families and non-gamers. Iwata commented that he is striving for a similar "playground" situation where everyone in the living room is involved in the experience and how the fact that the controller and the system aren't permanently tethered to each other will open the door to new opportunities. Even when individuals are not consciously in tune with what's taking place on the screen, there is still a level of involvement taking place. Wii Party's Hide 'n Hunt mode is a great example of that distant interaction such an atmosphere can create.
Channeling a New Emotion
The Wii U GamePad itself has been described as a "social window" for its ability to transcend locations to bring two players together in ways that may not have been realized to the same degree on a gaming platform. How so? Skepticism is a fair thing to grapple onto right now since we've had video chat functions long before Nintendo even coined their own version of it. We'll have to wait and see how else this becomes a unique point of differentiation aside from the sheer portability of the device. With reference to the phrase "alone together", it'll be very interesting to observe how this will serve as an underlying pillar all on its own even behind hardcore titles. How will this feeling of empathy come across in genres that inherently involve harnessing other emotions and qualities such as fear, bravery, or leadership? What potential impact could this new system have in those kinds of situations and how will this change the ways in which gamers are affected by what they play. These are just some of the questions circulating through my mind, and the more I think about it, the more I come to realize that Nintendo is trying to go down a similar route as the Wii. Maybe not in terms of appeal or target, but certainly in terms of affecting the gaming landscape in ways previously untapped.
What all this tells us is Nintendo is keenly aware of what's taking place beyond the space of the videogame world, and as a business, they are of course going to implement strategies to influence things for the better. Recognizing this, there's certainly a level of trust that goes along with that, and I think having this early showing has helped Nintendo start to establish that kind of a relationship even with naysayers. Now it'll be up to their conference tomorrow to really sell them.
E3 2012 >