It is no secret that Nintendo stole this year’s E3. In the face of Sony’s rather pedestrian affair and Microsoft’s embarrassing implosion, Nintendo’s conference was the shining beacon of hope in an otherwise depressing expo. After many years frozen out in the cold Nintendo rained down their golden shower upon their long suffering core fans, unveiling a sweet looking successor to the DS with incredible third party support, and bestowing an embarrassment of riches upon fans of old-school platforming with the announcement of new Donkey Kong Country and Kirby, with footage of Team Ninja’s upcoming Metroid: Other M. Speaking personally, only the unveiling of the 3DS had any direct relevance to me. But while I may have grown out of classic Nintendo platformers, as a lapsed Nintendo owner from back in the day I cannot help but approve of their strong showing of core games on everyone’s favourite object of derision, the Wii. I find the mere knowledge that these games are in development to be a conceptually satisfying notion which, in conjunction with strong JRPG support from Mistwalker and Monolith Soft, seems to indicate that Nintendo have turned a corner. Could it be? Have Nintendo realised that their saturation of the casual market is near complete, and that future growth lies with core gaming? Have Nintendo elected to dust off their amazing first party developer hat as a value adding accoutrement to Wii owners and prospective Wii owners alike? Has Nintendo remembered who they are? Watching their E3 conference gives every indication that the answer to these rhetorical queries is a resounding yes.
*Sigh* and on that happy bombshell the wheels of cynicism begin turning. Nintendo is getting ready to launch a new handheld console. How many Soccer Mums might one expect to see at the system’s midnight launch? Nintendo know full well how fickle the casual market can be. Casuals only jump on a bandwagon once it is already popular, self-medicating dead eyed house wives, teenage girls and small children are not likely to be key to early adopter sales. Nintendo have a bad reputation among core gamers as a company that will abandon them as soon as a more lucrative demographic comes along. Nintendo need their core fanbase to bolster early sales, and more importantly they need to woo them back. For many, a strong selection of launch titles may prove insufficient, as there is no guarantee that Nintendo will not simply abandon them once again once they have served their purpose. Gamers will be looking for signs that Nintendo really have changed their tune, cue the strong showing of the Wii. Nintendo’s new handheld has been under construction for two years and this current crop of core Wii titles have been in development for how long? Since before the Wii’s still stellar hardware sales began to taper off I would warrant. Could it be that that Nintendo’s E3 conference was an exercise in rebuilding their brandname goodwill? Everyone has been really quick to forgive Nintendo their indiscretions, and consign them to the past. Nintendo’s E3 was great, but I am not fully sold on Nintendo having left their casual focus behind them.
Paranoid? Probably. I actually have a really good feeling about the 3DS, the third party support gives one confidence, the games announced provide an undeniable value proposition and if nothing else it will allow for 3D UNDERBOOB. The 3DS is an attractive piece of hardware, the capabilities look decent for a Nintendo system, and I am rather impatient to get my hands on it. But for all the excitement that Nintendo’s conference has invoked in me, I am still left with a vague sense of doubt as to how this refocusing on core gaming will fit into Nintendo’s long term intentions. For me Nintendo’s push into core gaming coincides with the launch of the 3DS just a little bit too neatly, given that their impending Wii catalogue would have had to have been planned well in advance. But what of you Nate’s delectable double-D denizens? No you think it ungrateful to cast dispersions on Nintendo’s character when they actually get something right for once? Do you think it silly to read too much into the machinations of Nintendo when releasing games is what game companies do? Or does Nintendo’s sudden about-face raise similar questions for you as it does me? Can you see the 3DS being abandoned to the teeming casual masses?