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What Nintendo Didn’t Say At E3 2014

E3 Conference Highlights Nintendo’s Reliance on Smash Bros Franchise

Nintendo’s digital event at E3 was critical for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is E3 and so most gamer eyes are on them. Secondly, the Wii U has long been forgotten as a competitor by Sony and Microsoft. This event was Nintendo’s opportunity to show that they are still a force to be reckoned with in the video game market.

The show was a testament to the games-sell-consoles mantra that has been thrown around a lot by the Big N in the last year. A half hour jam-packed with trailers and interviews about new IPs and updates on previously announced titles. But the most fascinating part is what was written between the lines of their presentation.

Four New Characters: Palutena and Three Different Miis

Front and centre of the presentation was the new Smash Bros. As the next behemoth title for the Wii U, it deserved that spot. It is a one-game hype machine. The surprise, however, was that Smash Bros Wii U / 3DS was constantly referenced throughout the broadcast. Every time Nintendo’s new Amiibo system was raised, Smash Bros was there too. Becoming an anchor for this new technology and their E3 conference says a lot about what role Smash Bros plays in Nintendo’s future plan.

nintendo ssb
Kid Icarus’ Palutena joins the fight

Amiibo was another cornerstone of the Nintendo broadcast. It represents a foray into the Skylanders phenomenon (or, as they call it, toys-to-life). As someone who does not bother with Skylanders or Disney Infinity, the whole Amiibo thing seems frivolous to me.

On the other hand, its application within existing parameters is outstanding. Using the Wii U game pad in lieu of a power portal and promising compatibility with various games. The only real example given was Smash Bros but Nintendo promised it would work with Mario Kart 8 somehow.

Nintendo e3
With skits provided by the Robot Chicken team, Nintendo’s could have been a great presentation

While other titles were thrown around, they were either smaller fries or glossed over. Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker was borne form a minigame from last year’s Super Mario 3D World and felt sorely out of place. It screamed banner on the front page of Nintendo’s e-shop, not third billing at E3.

Scarcely any time was spent on The Legend of Zelda Wii U whereas Hyrule Warriors and Yoshi’s Woolly World were discussed at length. Although Splatoon does look like a crazy bit of fun.

Nintendo splatoon
Paintball as squid-people? Yes please.

What all this says to me, however, is that Amiibo is Nintendo’s focus and Smash Bros is their crutch. Preoccupation with these two projects is a risky endeavour and leaves me worried. Will these be enough to start shifting Wii Us?

Sony and Microsoft gave gamers reasons to invest in their consoles with a new colour and combo package and bonus deals on Live membership, respectively. But the amount of Smash Bros games that Nintendo will sell can only be equal to or less than the amount of Wii Us; and given what we know of Amiibo, that will only sell less.

There has never been any doubt that Nintendo is capable of creating amazing games. The trouble they have been facing over the last two years (and that has only worsened since the Xbox One and Playstation 4) is shifting consoles.That is something that was never specifically addressed in the broadcast.

As a Wii U owner, this E3 was very exciting and I can hardly wait for the announced games to be released. But I just did not see anything that would convince me to shell out for a new U.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I think that the Amiibos are not necessarily designed to sell systems, but rather to make money for Nintendo and maybe even sell some games. Smash Bros will no doubt give console sales a boost just as Mario Kart 8 did, and people of all walks; kids, collectors, and even adults will probably buy a couple of the figurines even if only to see how they work. Even if the Wii U doesn’t become a super success and just trails behind the others in sales I think the amount of money they make off Amiibos, if anything like Skylanders or Disney Infinity, will at least help them weather the storm. And these figurines could help boost software sales, thereby increasing the attachment rate of software to hardware, and showing third parties that even if the Wii U sales themselves are not huge, there are still plenty of people who own the system buying games for it. And if the third parties start to come back, then console sales will follow. And imagine if one day a game like Mortal Kombat or some other character heavy third party game was put on Wii U, with a brand of Amiibos for that particular game. It could just be the reason that people start to say “Yeah this game is on PS4 and Xbox One, but I want the Wii U version because it will be the only one to include these awesome figurines I can use with the game too.”

    • I think Nintendo (and Pokemon)’s merchandise arm probably far outstrips that of Microsoft or Sony. It’s probably what has kept them quite cashed up in the past and allowed them to take hits that would otherwise close a hardware developer.

      You’re right in that the Amiibo will probably help them ‘weather the storm’ until some more quality games come to the Wii U.

      I believe the announcement was that the Mario Kart 8 release prompted sales of something like 4 times the number of Wii Us previously sold. Perhaps a similar boost from Amiibo is possible but I think we’ll see a bigger jump with Smash Bros and/or Zelda.

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