It’s been quite the crazy week in video games. E3 2015 will go down as one of the more memorable events in the show’s history for me. There were huge announcements, press event gaffes, controversies, and plenty of games to talk about.
I summed up some thoughts on the early press events (Bethesda, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Sony) in the video above… but I thought it would be more fun to create some completely made up and personal awards to give, which will summarize what I took away from E3. The Peteys are the only-important-in-my-mind awards, and thus, they’re based on my own thoughts and impressions. You might agree, you might not… but that’s okay.
Let’s get started:
The Biggest Surprise Award: The Petey goes to… Microsoft’s announcement of (limited) Xbox 360 backwards compatibility for the Xbox One: Lots of big announcements were leaked or pointed to well before the show. Yu Suzuki’s cryptic photo of a forklift and his “coincidental” arrival in Los Angeles certainly seemed like it was foreshadowing Shenmue III to me. Various websites had talked about the Final Fantasy VII remake being a thing and the return of The Last Guardian. Conversely, I was pleasantly blindsided by Microsoft’s backwards compatibility announcement. To me, it’s kind of a big deal. With a vast library of digital 360 games and about 50 or so disc-based games, the possibility of carrying over some of these to the Xbox One could mean an upgrade in the future. I had never given the Xbox One a second thought before the announcement. Of course, it remains to be seen exactly how many titles will become backwards compatible and just how long Microsoft pursues publishers to greenlight their games for the feature… but I choose to be cautiously optimistic.
The Biggest Waste of Time Award: The Petey goes to… Electronic Arts: I get that having Pele on stage for a press event is a big deal, as long as there are soccer/football fans in the audience. Unfortunately for EA, this wasn’t the audience for such a segment, and it wound up wasting the time of many who attended and even more watching at home. The segment was too long, Pele was difficult to understand, and there was no flow at all. Pele basically rambled and the EA Sports rep on-stage was too carried away with being in Pele’s presence to keep the thing moving. Know your audience, EA. This was a huge waste of time.
The Coolest Transformation Award: The Petey goes to… Satoru Iwata, Reggie Fils-Aime, and Shigeru Miyamoto, representing Nintendo: Boy, this year’s Nintendo Digital Event sure started out promising enough. Star Fox Zero was a great opener. Even better was the path taken to get audiences to that first gameplay reveal. Creating adorable puppets for Iwata, Fils-Aime, and Miyamoto and gradually transforming them into the Star Fox team was really cool to watch. The transformation theme carried over nicely to the footage of Star Fox Zero that we saw, and Fils-Aime referenced transformation a few times during the presentation. That said… the Landmaster still sucks.
The “Well, THAT Was Awkward” Award: The Petey goes to… Jason Derulo, representing Ubisoft: Oh. Oh, man. I have to admit that a very small piece of me felt bad for Jason Derulo and his rough performance during the Ubisoft press event. He sounded awful. He was winded. People in the crowd and across social media were asking, “Who is this guy?” Still, like the professional he is, Derulo attempted to make the best of a tough situation. He took his performance into the stunned crowd and went out to the event’s host, Aisha Tyler… who promptly rebuffed his attempt to take her hand and get her to dance. Whew. That was awkward. (Note: Derulo was also runner-up for the Biggest Waste of Time Award.)
The Best Reaction Award: The Petey goes to… the GameTrailers crew, reacting live to the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter reveal trailer: Yeah, I’m sure you’ve seen this video by now. You can’t top this. It’s genuine emotion, and I love it. We can say what we want about some gaming press personalities maybe getting a bit too cynical, but this? This is amazing. I maintain that plenty of people within the gaming press ranks do care very much about video games themselves, with or without the industry side of things. And, damn it, I admit that I jumped out of my chair while watching the Sony event from Retro Central and cheered as well. I think a lot of fans and even a fair number of industry observers who have no personal connection with Shenmue 3 shared a really special moment during that Monday evening– wherever they were.
The Nytol Award: The Petey goes to… yawwwwn… the Square-Enix press event: On the plus side, the Square-Enix press event showed off some high-impact games. There was Just Cause 3, a NieR sequel announcement (more on that in a moment), proof that Kingdom Hearts 3 is really still a thing, info on Star Ocean 5, and more. On the vocal anesthetic side, there was everything else. My goodness, the presenters were one step away from being zombies. No passion, no presence on-stage, no emotion, no nothing. Just talking. Droning. Consciousness-sapping speech after consciousness-inducing speech, including the narration in a couple of the otherwise-promising trailers. Honestly, the event is much better if you (re-)watch it and mute the sound. C’mon, Square-Enix. Show a little life, next time. Just a little. Please?
The “WTF?” Award: The Petey goes to… Yoko Taro, NieR game director, representing Square-Enix: I understood after the event why Taro chose this way to make his appearance, but without that context, the following photo had me asking out loud, to nobody in particular… “What the f***?”
The Keepin’ It Retro Award: The Petey goes to… RARE Replay for the Xbox One, revealed during the Microsoft press event: Along with the news that the Xbox One is going to have at least some backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games, the reveal of RARE Replay had me really itching to get Microsoft’s current console. 30 games for $30, with titles originally on the Nintendo Entertainment System and Nintendo 64 (among other platforms) included, all with Achievements and Gamerscore? That’s awesome. I’d love to see more publishers go back to the compilation disc route, packing it full of games and goodies for us to replay and recapture those memories from years passed. For now, though, Microsoft and RARE earn this award from this retrogaming fan.
The Momentum Killer Award: The Petey goes to… Nintendo and its Digital Event: I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the WiiU is dead. I don’t believe that for a second. What I am going to tell you is that Nintendo failed to provide me with enough compelling reasons to consider buying a WiiU, and that’s after last year’s show had delivered much more promise. After Star Fox Zero, there was nothing shown for the WiiU that even remotely interested me. Super Mario Maker came off as an answer to LittleBigPlanet, which I never cared for and only played when I got it for free. Yoshi’s Woolly World wasn’t my thing, either. Animal Crossing looked promising… until it was revealed as a free-t0-play board game vehicle for amiibo. Mario Tennis has, to me, always been the weaker of Camelot’s Mario sports series, so my interest level isn’t what Mario Golf might have been. Worse yet for Nintendo, the reveal of Hyrule Warriors coming to 3DS removed one of the 3-4 games that I was considering buying a WiiU for from my list. Not having to spend hundreds of dollars to play it is something that I’m definitely happy about as a consumer, but it hurts Nintendo in that it further decreases my interest in buying new hardware. Add these factors to increasing rumbles about the NX, which is looking more and more like the WiiU’s successor, and I’m convinced to sit out the WiiU at least until it’s sub-$200 (if not discontinued) and wait to see what the NX is about. I won’t get much into the Metroid Prime Federation Force reveal, which enraged many fans and spawned a Change.org petition to kill the game altogether, except to say that it’s unfortunate to see.
The Edge of my Seat Award: It’s a tie! The Peteys go to… the Rise of the Tomb Raider and Uncharted 4 on-stage demos, during the Microsoft and Sony press events respectively: I’m a sucker for setpiece-driven adventure games, and that’s what Tomb Raider and Uncharted are for me. Watching the Rise of the Tomb Raider trailer during Microsoft’s event was intense stuff. Lara could have fallen to her doom many times, and yet somehow (thanks to the demo player) managed to cheat death and wow me in the process. The Uncharted 4 demo during the Sony event overcame its early tech miscues to present a pulse-pounding car chase after the usual Nathan Drake fisticuffs and gunplay. I really enjoyed both of these demos, and am looking forward to the release of both games.
The Should Have Stayed Retired Award: The Petey goes to… Joe Montana Football: This game was talked about as a possible competitor for the football throne that Madden NFL currently sits upon, but E3 revealed a rather toothless truth about what Joe Montana Football really is. It’s a mobile game– at least for awhile– and won’t be presenting any competition to Madden or EA Sports at all. I do get that unlicensed sports games in this day and age are tough sells, and today’s consumer should accept some of the blame for not having many choices for certain sports (like football and hockey)… but if a publisher doesn’t at least try to put a quality competing product out there, even without licenses, the status quo will never change. I encourage you to check out what my colleagues over at Hit The Pass had to say about Joe Montana Football; it’s quite the saga.
And now, the final award… The Best Show Award: The final and most distinguished of the Petey Awards goes to… Sony, for its press event: Microsoft set a strong tone earlier in the day, but Sony simply outgunned the company. I get the arguments about The Last Guardian, the Final Fantasy VII remake, and Shenmue 3 as being future games, with no release dates in sight for the latter two. I also noticed that release dates were avoided during the show like Superman avoiding Kryptonite. These arguments aside, it’s really hard to deny how impactful that segments about the trio of eagerly anticipated games were. When they’re coming wasn’t as important to many as the fact that “Holy crap, they’re real!” Even looking past the high impact games, we saw a promising new game from Guerrilla in Horizon: Zero Dawn that had social media buzzing and the very important news that Sony had gained a valuable ally in Call of Duty timed exclusivity for DLC. There was a bit more on No Man’s Sky, Media Molecule unveiled its next project, and… oh yeah… Uncharted 4 is shaping up to be a fantastic end to an enjoyable series. My grading of the Sony and Microsoft events was close, with Sony edging out MS, A- to B+. Most importantly to me, I came away from watching the Sony event with confidence that my PlayStation 4 is going to be home to a lot of great games in the coming months and years.
I hope you enjoyed this little awards ceremony. There are no prizes for the winners mentioned, except their mentions here. The real winners of this year’s E3, which has been said a lot on social media, are definitely video game fans. There are some exciting times coming up… and if someone like me, who is known to have his issues with modern console gaming, can be excited… then anyone can.
March 10th– Mar10, or “Mario” Day– got me thinking about what my favorite Mario games are. It wasn’t easy to put them in any specific order, or to finalize which games made the list and which ones didn’t… but here’s what I decided on. This is my first High Five… my five favorite Mario games!
5. Super Mario 64: Hearing Mario talk for the first time in 1996 was both jarring and amazing. I mean… Mario had been the silent protagonist for years, so hearing him talk blew my mind when I first saw Super Mario 64 at Fantasy Realms in Springfield, MA. Moving Mario around in a three-dimensional world was also both jarring and amazing; having the freedom to move around in any direction instead of just left or right was so different, and yet the charming simplicity of the earlier games was lost a bit. In fact, I’ve never managed to “beat” this game. I’ve felt so overwhelmed and intimidated by it that I stopped trying years ago. Super Mario 64 is also a tough game, and I spent many nights trying to get through certain Bowser stages, only to end in failure too often. Nevertheless, Super Mario 64 is memorable for me in many ways… and playing it helped me to escape a bit from some rough times in late 1996 and early 1997. That earns it a spot in the Top 5, edging out Super Mario RPG and Mario Party 2.
4. Super Mario Bros.: Ah, yes. The game that really started it all. I remember seeing it for the first time as a coin-op in 1985 while visiting a roller skating rink in Chicopee, MA. There was quite the crowd around it; I squeezed in to get a look, and the person playing seemed to know just which blocks to hit to get items, like coins or mushrooms. Little did I know back then, but this game would become a hit for what would eventually be my favorite home console of all time. While Super Mario Bros. is also difficult, I never felt terribly frustrated with or overwhelmed by it. It was simple to learn and difficult to master, and it still is. The music is iconic, the level design is still easy on the eyes, and I still have fun testing myself to see how far I can get without continuing. Super Mario Bros. easily deserves a spot in my Top 5 list, even though there are games I favor a bit more.
3. Super Mario Galaxy: Oh, boy. I found so much to like about this game. The sound, the visuals, the new suits and powerups, the level design, the just-right level of challenge and difficulty… I could not put this game down for a solid week when I played it back in 2007, and it remains the last new Mario game that I “beat”. After being disappointed with Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy was a fantastic return to form and ultimately wound up being my second-favorite Wii game, behind Wii Sports. If/when I add a Wii back into my library of game consoles, Super Mario Galaxy will be one of the first games that I get. I really want to play through this game again– perhaps more than any other Mario game, on this list or otherwise.
2. Super Mario World: Boy, it’s a close call between this game and #1. When some friends of mine and I picked up our new Super Nintendo consoles in the fall of 1991, this was easily the first game that we all played individually– and then together as we gathered at my house or someone else’s. Mode 7 effects blew my mind, with scaling and rotation, giving Super Mario World that “next-generation” feeling that the aging NES just couldn’t deliver. The soundtrack and music sounded amazing as they came through my stereo speakers, with left-to-right channel separation and reverb effects. Multiple paths for certain stages added a measure of replayability that I hadn’t seen before in a Mario game. Yoshi was a neat addition. The boss battles were fun. Super Mario World did so much right and easily justified the money I spent on the SNES that year… and yes, it still holds up very well almost 24 years later.
And… at the top of the list…
1. Super Mario Bros. 3: While I was ecstatic that I finally got my own Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas back in 1990, receiving Super Mario Bros. 3 with it sent me over the top with joy. I’d played a bit of it at friends’ houses, but owning it and getting to spend time with it made me see just how great the game is. There’s lots of variety to the level designs, each with its own challenge and theme. Temporary flight with the raccoon or Tanooki suits added new areas to explore. Boss battles were as much about making it to the boss as it was about the challenge that awaited. Minigames for extra lives and items were enjoyable diversions from the arduous task of making it to the final showdown with Bowser. Sure, it could be argued that Super Mario World wins the aesthetic battle with Super Mario Bros. 3, but there’s just something about what this game was able to accomplish in scope and in technical ability for the time and the hardware involved. In fact, I prefer playing this game on original hardware instead of ports on the SNES (Super Mario All-Stars) or other systems. I can replay Super Mario Bros. 3 over and over again on my NES, and it never gets old or painfully frustrating. It’s all joy for me, and it’s the Mario game that I would choose 10 times out of 10 if I could only own one.
Bear in mind, of course, that this is my own list. I have my own preferences, just as I’m sure that you do. In fact, I’d love to see your own personal Top 5 Mario games list– but remember: It can only be five games! Feel free to use the comments to share your list… or you can Tweet at me and tell me what your list is.
As always, thanks for reading. Look for more content here soon, now that Spring Break is near. In the meantime, you can check out my YouTube channel, which has some fairly recent videos… including a couple of new Retro Unscripted episodes, which were fun to put together.
It’s more than 24 hours later, and I’m still seething over Adaptergate. I think though, that between yesterday’s blog post and today’s video, I’ve said just about all that I can say about it and have to force myself to move on.
If you look back at entries on this blog from a few years ago, you’ll see other examples of questionable business decisions that I called other companies out for. This is something that I got away from, because honestly it never mattered to anyone else but me. Things like questionable DLC and the industry’s perception of used games were never going away, especially not because some random guy said they should.
Adaptergate bothered me more than anything in the last year or so, because I was keen on the New 3DS. I wanted to get one. It seemed great with its small improvements that would be nice to have along with a new unit with a fresh battery… but I can’t, in good conscience, spend $200 on a device that doesn’t come with a way to charge it after two hours of use. That’s akin to telling Nintendo, “I have no problem with your fleecing me. Please do so again next time.”
It’s a reminder to me of why I’m moving away from modern video games, in general. The industry doesn’t just want consumers’ money– it wants more of the consumers’ money. It’s never enough. I never thought we’d go back to the days of the Game Boy Advance, where we were responsible for batteries to get the thing working… but here we are. It’s not $200 for a New 3DS. It’s $215. And you have to buy two items– not just one that includes the other. When we buy new video games these days, publishers are always pushing for not the $60 I paid for the game itself, but the additional $20+ for DLC… much of which was announced weeks before the game hits store shelves. We also no longer expect our games to work as advertised on the first day it’s released. We’re expected to wait a few days, because games are complex, or too many people are playing, or some other excuse.
It’s disappointing, to be certain.
To whom it may concern:
Thank you for sharing your recent Nintendo Direct presentation online. I had been wondering for awhile if this “New 3DS” handheld was coming here to the United States. Friends and colleagues had shared their experiences with the somewhat upgraded hardware, and it seemed like it was something that I might want to trade my 3DS XL in towards.
I also want to thank you for talking me out of buying that New 3DS. You almost had me, I admit. Part of me wanted to run down to my local video game store and place a preorder right away… but then I found out that you aren’t including an AC charger with this hardware. If I was to trade in my 3DS XL, I would be forced to buy another charger separately… but if I didn’t trade in my 3DS XL, $200 for a slightly improved 3DS would’ve been rather steep.
So, instead, I’ll be keeping my “Old” 3DS XL and spending the difference between on trade-in and a New 3DS on something else.
It does seem rather greedy to stop including AC chargers with new hardware, after doing so here in the USA for more than a decade. I bought a GBA SP in 2003, an original DS in 2005, a DS Lite in 2006, a DSi in 2009, a 3DS in 2011, and a 3DS XL in 2013… and all of these handhelds had an AC adapter. It was nice not having to spend extra money to keep my purchases working out of the box. Admittedly, I traded in earlier handhelds to get the newer ones, and you might be surprised to learn that trade-in places actually require the charger to be accompanied with the handheld! That means that I don’t have six AC chargers lying around. I have one, and it would’ve been traded in with my 3DS XL towards the New 3DS… which means that your $200 price tag is, well, rather misleading.
To me, this isn’t a very customer-friendly move, despite what your company claimed in its (frankly ridiculous, in my opinion) explanation of the decision to no longer include the adapter with purchase. When I buy an upgraded smartphone or tablet, I get a charging cable… even if I already have one. It’s not a burden; in fact, it’s a convenience to have an extra charger hanging around. Of course, it’s probably a financial burden for your company– and one that I never expected that you’d pass on to your customers– but hey: You’ve got to do what’s best for you.
But that’s no longer my problem, I guess. I’ll keep enjoying my “old” 3DS XL, and you keep doing what you’re doing. I’m grateful for you talking me out of upgrading to the new one. My money is better spent elsewhere, and your decision helped me to see that.
Have a great 2015!
DuckTales Remastered hits this week for some platforms, and pre-release reviews are out. Some like it, and some really don’t like it. My own opinion of the game is reserved, of course, since I don’t have it. Based on what I played at E3 just a couple of months ago, though, I was pleasantly surprised with my experience. It felt, to me, like a sharper version of the NES original with better presentation and aesthetics. Understand that I really enjoyed the original game, so Remastered was something that I had fun with.
The problem that I have with the negative reviews I’ve read, specifically from EDGE and GameSpot, is that they tend to take shots at the original game. Both complain that the original DuckTales was dull, repetitive, and unremarkable. Both take advantage of Remastered to basically tear down the source material, which to me indicates a bias problem.
- Played the original game and carry over sentiments and experiences… or
- Never played the original and are judging the game based on today’s standards, which is ridiculous.
Look at what GameSpot’s Tom McShea closes with as a shot at the original game:
DuckTales Remastered will make you doubt happy memories from your childhood, or leave you baffled as to why people were nostalgic for such dull platforming in the first place.
The bias is pretty clear in this sentence alone, coming from a professional who claims to “love platformers”. If McShea didn’t like the original game, what chance did a remastered version of the original have of changing his mind, and why is it incumbent upon the game to do so? It’s like asking someone who dislikes vegetables to write a review of the latest salad at a restaurant. You know what you’re going to get. The basic sentiment of the review is already set in stone.
EDGE takes a similar swipe at DuckTales here:
Because the uncomfortable truth is that DuckTales is nothing more than a serviceable adventure, a colourful romp through a variety of bright and inventive settings that does nothing particularly interesting.
Yes, really. After more than 20 years, EDGE writers finally took the time to trash DuckTales because the release of Remastered offered an opportunity to do so. Last I checked, opinions aren’t “truth”. I don’t care who writes it: EDGE, GameSpot, IGN, myself, or anyone else… there’s no “truth” to that quoted statement. That’s what really burns me about some reviewers and websites, honestly. They can create their own “truths” because they’re supposed experts in their field and readers obviously cannot think for themselves. If the reviewer in this case wanted to open a dialog (which he/she obviously didn’t) about the original and why he/she thought so lowly of it, that’s one thing. Instead, “truth” is an inarguable fact. In this case, it’s grandstanding.
In the case of this wave of HD remasters, it’s easy to forget who the target audience is sometimes. DuckTales hasn’t been a relevant IP in years. It stands to reason that Capcom and Disney were targeting fans of the original game with Remastered. Heck, if you were at E3, it was pretty obvious. There really were (and still are) people who enjoyed DuckTales for what it is. There wasn’t a wide-reaching story, There wasn’t character development. It didn’t have super-precise play control. It was and still is, for many of us, just fun to play– flaws included.
I’m not a fan of reviewers using remakes and remasters to pursue formerly hidden agendas about older games. It’s a handicap against the game that they’re supposed to be reviewing, hopefully with some degree of fairness. At least those who had positive experiences with the source material can be relied on to point out specific negatives because, if the remaster or remake is disappointing… it’s on the remaster. Negative experiences with source material when reviewing remasters is, to me, just bad form.
If these reviewers feel the need to take a dump on nostalgia, it’d sure be nice if they’d take that agenda outside of the review instead of weighing it down.
After lots of speculation about Madden NFL 25 not seeing a Wii U release, Electronic Arts confirmed it via a recent statement (courtesy of Nintendo World Report):
“We will not be releasing a Wii U version of Madden NFL in 2013. However, we have a strong partnership with Nintendo and will continue to evaluate opportunities for delivering additional Madden NFL products for Nintendo fans in the future.”
Let’s get the hyperbole out of the way first. Not having a Madden game in 2013 will not kill the Wii U. It’s instinctive to think that a lack of EA presence on the platform could be akin to a kiss of death, similar to what we saw with EA spurning SEGA and the Dreamcast. This is a different animal, I think. Yes, the lack of sports games will hurt attempts to position the Wii U as a primary console. There’s a pretty large base of consumers who buys sports games, and not having the most popular sports IP in the United States on the Wii U platform diminishes its sales potential. This doesn’t mean that the Wii U is finished, however. Nintendo still has its stable of strong IP to draw from that can’t be played anywhere else. It’s similar to what we saw back in 1999 and 2000 but Nintendo’s IP stable is stronger. If EA doesn’t come back to Nintendo, perhaps circumstances regarding some sports licenses will change… such as the current exclusivity deal between the NFL and EA. We’ll have to wait and see on that.
While Wii U will battle on, it’s undeniable that losing Madden for a year– combined with no NHL game, no NCAA football game, no PGA game, and no MLB game for this first full calendar year for the new platform on the market– is a painful loss. There also isn’t any assurance that FIFA will see a Wii U release. That would mean that only the NBA would see a Wii U game. Perhaps sports games don’t sell on Nintendo platforms, but when you’re trying to establish sales momentum ahead of competition from Sony and Microsoft and with the likelihood that both new consoles will see at least a Madden game this year (if not also an NHL game), that’s a considerable disadvantage. For sports game consumers looking to upgrade early, the Wii U simply isn’t an option without support. It’s one thing for the games to sell quietly; it’s another for the games to not even be there as a potential lower-priority selling point. I understand the claims from Nintendo supporters that “nobody” (read: very few) buys Nintendo systems for sports games, but not being one of the platforms that a multi million-selling game is going to be on is viewed as a negative by many. Like them or not, sports games are a very important cog in the video game economy.
I understand the cries of “Not fair!” and “EA sucks!” from Nintendo supporters. The rather quick dissolution of the “strong partnership” that EA and Nintendo reportedly had not too long ago is certainly suspect. Perhaps there’s something to the theory about EA’s pitch to Nintendo regarding Origin going south killed that relationship, but there are other factors to consider. Unit sales for the Wii U platform are historically low, tracking the lowest in the first six months at retail since the Nintendo 64 some 17 years ago. Could EA make a return on its investment to port its games over to the Wii U since the install base is so low and since sales of most third-party games on the platform are terrible? Given that EA is trying to scale back projects and save money, perhaps this wasn’t as “personal” a decision as some see it and it’s more of a business decision based on success potential. I think that’s a plausible scenario, but unless the truth comes out from EA brass (which I doubt), we’ll probably never know for certain.
I do think that there’s some culpability on Nintendo’s end here, too. Nintendo’s struggles with third-party relations are worsening, and this apparent divorce with EA is the biggest loss yet. What have Satoru Iwata and his staff been doing to keep EA engaged, if anything? Why isn’t Nintendo reaching into its war chest to make it worth EA’s while to keep supporting its platforms with games? Where has Take-Two been? Where is Konami’s Wii U support? Why didn’t Tomb Raider make it? There are lots of questions and no answers from Nintendo brass, aside from the now-popular Internet meme of “Please understand.”
At some point, Nintendo has to make a decision about third-party relations. Nintendo, at this point, has few allies in the ranks. Ubisoft is still supporting Wii U, but the concession of Rayman Legends moving from exclusive to multiplatform and seeing a significant delay was a blow. Capcom is there to some extent. There’s some question as to Activision’s trust in Wii U, with an air of uncertainty regarding a version of the newest Call of Duty game for the platform. Early reveal notes pointed to releases for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC; however, the Wii U was not mentioned on the list of platforms and retailers are not taking reservations for a Wii U version. I even witnessed a Call of Duty: Ghosts preorder for Wii U get turned away as the customer was told that the game isn’t coming. We don’t know whether it’s coming or not. Some claim it is, but Activision has been coy with its answers to questions about the situation. That absence is not helping Wii U’s perception to customers. If Wii U doesn’t have sports games and (at this point) doesn’t have Call of Duty, there’s no real impetus for people to sink $350 into the platform unless they’re Nintendo diehards. “Old” platforms like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are getting it. It’s a safe bet that the new Xbox is getting it. It’s likely that the PlayStation 4 is getting it. Those last two platforms are fine in not yet being confirmed. The new Xbox isn’t even revealed yet (but will be on May 21st, when the first full reveal of Call of Duty: Ghosts will be shared during the event), and we know the PS4 exists but don’t have many details yet. Compare that to the Wii U, which has been on the market since last November and can be purchased right now. No Call of Duty? No Madden? Possibly no FIFA? Those are perception problems and point to weakness in the Wii U’s software catalog. Again, where is Nintendo in this? Is there not enough clout for Nintendo to get Activision to show its hand a bit?
In the worst case scenario, we will find out if Nintendo fans are right about first-party software being all that Wii U needs to thrive. I don’t believe that to be a good scenario for Nintendo– or, at least, one with a positive outcome. SEGA also had a fairly strong first-party lineup, complete with sports games, RPGs, arcade games, adventure games, and more. SEGA was unable to weather the third-party drought after a strong launch lineup and a solid & steady first-party release slate. Key third-party support is very important to the overall success of a platform, and without it, a very long and uphill battle awaits for Nintendo as its competition gets assault plans ready.
I’ll be very interested to see while attending E3 just what Nintendo’s strategy is. The leaders at Nintendo are not dumb and I’m sure that there will be a plan of attack. I just hope that it’s a good one.
News of Nintendo electing not to hold a press conference at E3 this year is getting all kinds of reactions across the internet. The two main camps that people are setting up in are these:
- Good move for Nintendo. Less money spent, plus Nintendo Direct events have basically replaced the traditional press event.
- Bad move for Nintendo. It shows weakness and risks losing valuable coverage from the mainstream press.
When Nintendo started rolling out its Direct events during E3 last year, I wondered then if this would be Nintendo’s new direction. Then we got a Nintendo Direct event after E3 which announced many of the games that we would have seen at E3 in past years. It seemed to me that E3 was no longer as much of a priority for Nintendo as it once was, and I firmly believe that this latest move reinforces that line of thinking. It’s important to note that Nintendo will still have some sort of presence at E3 this year, despite the lack of a press conference. Closed-door press gatherings and events for retailers will be held, and Nintendo will most likely have a booth/area for attendees to see what the House of Mario has up its sleeve for the next year. It’s less complicated and likely less expensive to use this new, bold approach than it is to rent out the Nokia Theater and invest in light shows and set pieces.
My concern with the decision is that Nintendo Direct events don’t have a wide reach outside of the Nintendo ecosystem. Nintendo fans watch them religiously, and gaming press does a great job of summarizing and reporting on these events during and after they happen… but what about those who haven’t yet bought into what Nintendo is selling? Mainstream media like USA Today or network news aren’t going to follow Nintendo Direct events. Worse, the lack of a press conference similar to what the competition will be delivering does arguably show a sign of surrender, as if to say, “Yeah, we were gonna get blown away by Sony and Microsoft anyway, so we decided to cut our losses.” When Spike TV, Game Trailers, and many other gaming press sites streamed Nintendo’s press conferences, people of all kinds would watch… not just the Nintendo faithful, and not necessarily just core gaming consumers. Now there’s nothing to stream. Nintendo broadcasts its Nintendo Direct events on its own terms, via its own streaming networks, and if you don’t actively seek them out, you’ll miss out. Then Sony and Microsoft really will have all of the draw, and Nintendo will be left to its loyal fanbase to buy their games while others go elsewhere.
If I was Satoru Iwata (which I’m certainly not), I would have used the press conference to assert the fact that despite its perceived troubles, Nintendo is in great shape. Split the event in two, starting with Wii U and showing off the games that the company has slated for the rest of 2013, including the very important Q4 period. Take the time to explain to the audience exactly what Wii U is, and what it can do. Eliminate the confusion. Show confidence in it. Then deliver the 3DS side, showing off the games that are finally on their way which will propel the handheld back to positive YOY comps. Show Pokemon. Show Zelda. Drop a surprise. Make the audience believe. The press conference, in my estimation, didn’t have to be about rolling out anything new at all– it could have been a re-roll opportunity for Wii U and a great chance to show the masses that 3DS is in great shape moving forward and that 2012 was an aberration.
But that’s me. The only things that Mr. Iwata and I have in common are wearing glasses and playing Rollerball for the NES (a game that he was a producer on). I don’t run a major video game company worth billions of dollars. It’s far too easy for me to sit here in front of my laptop at 2am and talk about what I would do since there are no ramifications for me. My idea is just that: an idea, and not necessarily the right thing to do.
The thing that we must do right now is to wait and see how the decision affects the overall outcome. If sales improve significantly, those who criticized the decision will have to eat some crow and Nintendo potentially sets a precedent for other companies to follow. If results don’t improve that much, we can again talk about Iwata’s fate and how his poor decision-making have put Nintendo in a delicate state. We won’t know– we can’t know– for quite some time.
I do have my reservations about Nintendo’s big gamble, but the die has been cast and I’ll be very curious to see whether the company doubles down or busts. No outcome is guaranteed, and it’ll be fascinating to watch things unfold during E3 and beyond.