Being something of both a gamer and a nerd – as my wife would easily attest to – I’m thrilled for next week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, particularly for getting that first look at Project Café and the next generation that it heralds. And like other gamers and nerds the world over, I’ve been discussing Nintendo’s newest with like-minded obsessive types, who just so happen to be well-established and extremely knowledgeable – if not, in fact, leading voices among – gaming journos, people who’ve been around the Nintendo block more times than I can count. What better way to kick off both the show and a brand-new column?
The whole shebang started off with a simple enough question: “So, what are we thinking – half of E3 will be dedicated to the 3DS and half to the Café?” Nerdgasms abound ensued.
Craig Harris, Nintendo Demigod:
Nope. 40 percent to the 3DS, 40 percent to how Nintendo is going to sustain the Wii market for the next year (i.e., updates on Nintendo Selects, maybe a new system color/bundle, possibly a “remember this?” Vitality Sensor reveal). Then move into the new Nintendo strategy of getting gamers back on the couch and socializing. And then show off Café.
Don’t expect a huge focus – remember when Revolution was revealed on-stage, it was a “look how tiny this thing is!” announcement. Café (a project name I’m told has already been internally abandoned for another) will be similar. “Here’s our controller idea, or at least most of it. Tune in next year. Now talk amongst yourselves.”
Sam Bishop, TotalPlayStation.com Editor-in-chief:
It may well be wishful thinking on my part, but I think the reception from corners of the web that tune in to stuff like the E3 press conferences has made it fairly clear that the best showings are those where the “hardcore” multi-game-a-year crowd is sated. These tend to be the ones that have the most visual impact, too, so it’s my hope that the Big N will move a bit more toward the kind of showing they had last year: a heavy focus on mainline franchises, and then hands-on time to show they can back up that push with playable goodies.
With the 3DS having launched and some of the more long-term games in development having had a chance to mature, I think we’ll see some really neat stuff on par with what Capcom has been able to do with their Resident Evil games running on the hardware.
Likewise, Project Café is a fairly known entity among devs, using familiar hardware and specs relatively in line with the HD systems, so development should be humming along there. The best part, though, is that it gives those devs a chance to concentrate not on learning new hardware, but in leveraging the new controller in genuinely innovative ways. This isn’t a case of multi-platform stuff being hamstrung by lesser hardware; it’s newer hardware and a new control scheme. Devs will now have their cake and eat it, too, and I think Nintendo is going to have a phenomenal show.
For that matter, I think all three will. For the first time, we’re seeing all three platforms on a relatively even keel in terms of HD visuals, so now the focus is off building up tool chains and beefing up dev team sizes and instead shifts to just making the most of the three systems’ particular strengths. Sony’s first-party offerings will have had ample time to mature on the hardware and the looming launch of NGP, while Microsoft has the added benefit of familiarity with how Kinect works within certain genres. It’s going to be great all around.
Really, though, this is Nintendo’s year to shine. They’ll have that fresh-out-of-the-oven smell with the 3DS, with the temptation of the still-baking Café info. Regardless of who you might be rooting for, there’s something for everyone. I can’t wait for E3.
Dan “Shoe” Hsu, Bitmob.com Co-founder/editor:
I’d really like to think Nintendo will wow us with a new system that has radical ideas that no one’s thought of before. Not a Wii 2… not something that is just comparable to the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. I’m not sure what that’ll be, but I want it to cause ripples throughout the industry. That’s what E3’s all about: exciting announcements, mind-blowing news… and Nintendo’s in the best position to deliver that this year.
On the 3DS side, I hope we see some titles that truly take advantage of the tech, beyond visual gimmickry!
Rus McLaughlin, Features Freelancer Extraordinaire:
I agree with Craig’s assessment. I’ve already written how a smart Nintendo continues to support the Wii and lets Café be Café… and a not-so-smart Nintendo thinks they can get the casual market to buy into a new console. The Wii had an exciting hook. Café has a touchscreen on its controller, just like nearly every smart phone in existence. We’re going to get a preview, a few prospective games, possibly even a real name. But even if the recently rumored “early 2012” release is accurate, Nintendo won’t devote more than a modest chunk of its conference to Café… not when they’ve got 3DS to build up and the Wii to prop up.
The big question on my mind is what’s going to happen to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Miyamoto’s got a history of canceling finished games (Star Fox 2, anyone?) because they were designed for a soon-to-be-outdated console. Will it be the last “hardcore” Wii title? Converted to Café? A casualty of bad timing?
Thomas Arnold, GameXplain.com Miinion:
It’s been a while since I’ve been to a pre-E3 Nintendo press conference, but I’d expect the focus to be divided as follows:
Wii 15% – mostly Zelda
As much as I want Nintendo to have one last great winter for the Wii, I believe they’ll have to push the 3DS due to missed sales expectations and then garner excitement for the Café. Nintendo seems to only be able to focus on one system at a time and will most likely neglect the Wii. We might only see a montage of upcoming Wii games during the presentation. As a fan of Nintendo, I’m not looking forward to Reggie Fils-Aime bend declining Wii numbers while everyone gives awkward glances at each other and waits to cheer on Miyamoto.
Moving to the 3DS, I think it’s safe to say we will see the new 3DS Mario played live and be a huge part of the show. There are already a bunch of big 3DS games that we know about, like Kid Icarus, probably leaving the surprises mostly to services and the eShop. After all, it does launch the same day as the press conference.
The real surprises will come with the Café, but Nintendo’s not one to let the cat out of the bag for competitors to steal. However, we might not even realize that a key feature of the console isn’t being shown unless it’s the controller. Maybe that controller screen we’ve been hearing about will be conveniently missing. The Vitality Sensor may be a part of Café and shown off with games this time around.
Perhaps best of all, we’re due for a new Miyamoto game franchise on Café given that it’s been ten years since Pikmin was released. On a down note, this could be Retro Studios’s year off at E3 because we had Donkey Kong Country Returns last year. Whatever happens, I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Marc N. Kleinhenz has covered gaming for nearly a dozen publications, including a stint as features editor for TotalPlayStation.com. He also likes mittens.