E3 2010: Nintendo's Press Conference

BY The Editors  //  June 15, 2010

Nintendo steps up.


n many ways Nintendo has the most to prove at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. With Sony and Microsoft fancying themselves as successors to both their motion-control game and casual market share, not to mention their slowing console sales and a relatively unmapped release schedule, the Japanese console kings needed to come out swinging with their press conference. Michael Ubaldi, James Day and Adam Bogert present their impressions on a jam-packed presentation.

James Day

What a difference a year makes.

In 2009, Microsoft stole the show when it came to the big three conferences, demoing game after exclusive game, minimizing business talk and dropping the bombshell that was previously known as Natal. This year, they wilted due to most of their products being known beforehand and the lack of any fan-pleasing announcements.

After three years of disappointing E3 conferences thanks to the lack of hardcore titles, embarrassing live demos, gloating over sales figures and ruminating over design philosophies, Nintendo finally put on the show we knew it could. Borrowing the "showing, not telling" approach that proved so successful for Microsoft last year, viewers received a constant stream of surprises, with fan-favorite and Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime playing host.

After three years of disappointing E3 conferences, Nintendo finally put on the show we knew it could.It started strong, with a title that could have easily been the big finale, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. By beginning with such a hugely anticipated game, Nintendo were clearly confident in their line-up, and that confidence turned out to be completely justified.

Nearly all big franchises made appearances, much to the appreciation of the crowd at the Nokia Theater. Mario Sports Mix, Golden Sun Dark Dawn, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong Country Returns and some sort of Starfox game for the new 3DS console. Even the Holy Grail for Nintendo fan-boys — a sequel, Kid Icarus Uprising — was unveiled to rapturous applause.

As expected, Nintendo's upcoming 3D portable was a big focus but it wasn't thrust down our throats as Microsoft did with Kinect. This may have been due in part to the logistics of presenting the 3D effect to a large audience — refusing to partake in the use of those ungainly glasses — but it helped keep the conference moving at a brisk pace. The presenters never lingered for too long, they rarely pandered to the casual crowd that never watches these conferences and only once did they stop to serve up some sales figures. Attendees at the Nokia Theater were even presented with Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and 3DS demo units as the show closed out.

Reggie spoke about broadening the bar that they've already raised. While I'll reserve judgement on that until I can see the 3DS in action myself, they've certainly pleased the hardcore gamer in me. Microsoft, 0; Nintendo, 1.

Adam Bogert

Two years ago Nintendo's press conference was a disappointment. Last year, save for the revelation of Metroid: Other M, New Super Mario Bros., and a first look at Super Mario Galaxy 2, the company was blowing a lot of hot air, showing unimpressive Wii sport games and not much else. Coming into this year's briefing, I had never owned a Nintendo console, and saw no real reason to change that.

Now I'm reconsidering. This morning Nintendo kicked off the second day of E3 with the press conference many people didn't think the company was capable of putting on anymore, nonchalantly tossing up a couple new casual games like Wii Party and Mario Sports Mix but focusing primarily on big name franchises that made Nintendo a household name.

I can't manufacture nostalgia for NES experiences, but the time has finally come to get acquainted with franchises I missed growing up.First, Nintendo delivered the titles that everyone expected, opening with the new Zelda, naming the Golden Sun follow-up, showing a new trailer for Metroid: Other M; oh yeah, and then there's the long-hailed return of Goldeneye. But then, as if apologizing for the lackluster delivery since the Wii's launch, we were handed three major revivals: Kirby, Donkey Kong, and Kid Icarus.

I can't manufacture nostalgia for NES experiences I never had, but it seems the time has finally come to get acquainted with the franchises that I missed growing up. Moreover, these games look great in the own right, relying not on name dropping but innovative gameplay to ensure both new players like me and longtime fanboys will be equally pleased with the new titles.

In addition to major in-house titles, Nintendo showed an impressive demonstration of a game I have personally been dying to see more of, Disney's Epic Mickey. With over eighty years of material to draw from and a compelling create-or-destroy gameplay mechanic that has direct consequences in environment and story, this looks to be one of the deepest games ever released for the Wii, and the best use of Disney IP since Kingdom Hearts — perhaps better.

Killer homegrown franchises and new properties that push the boundaries of the Wii's technology placed Nintendo firmly back in the forefront of the console gaming. But Nintendo wasn't finished. Quashing rumors of Nintendo's decline as the portable gaming leader, the company unleashed the 3DS, with a 3D camera, impressive glasses-free display and an even more impressive list of third party contributors including big franchises like Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil, Assassins Creed and Metal Gear Solid.

As the conference concluded, Reggie Fils-Aime reminded us of the promise he'd made in the beginning of delivering "something for everyone." Such a claim last year would have been cynically dismissed as intentionally sweeping; this year, it rings true. Nintendo's offerings have finally achieved a depth and breadth worthy of every gamer's attention.

Michael Ubaldi

If Microsoft's Kinect is a direct bid for present and future customers of Nintendo's casual-play domain, today's de facto master of ceremonies Reggie Fils-Aime carried the company's reply: Just try and take them.

None of the Big Three remains as determined, introverted or earnest as Nintendo. It remains innocent of the internet. Neither online multiplayer nor remote social interaction — two desiderata of both Microsoft and Sony — played any significant part in the presentation. It gingerly conceded a couple of off-brand moments, including a Goldeneye resurrection more vintage than debonair.

None of the Big Three remains as determined, introverted or earnest as Nintendo.Why is Nintendo so beloved by its supporters? Why do the underpowered DS family and Wii continue to stand alongside competitors? When Fils-Aime frowned and delivered his yearly defense, accompanied by blown-up projections of nuclear families in lifestyle shots, he answered in so many words: for us, it comes naturally. Kinect took Microsoft on a wrenching tack into new territory — casual gaming — where simplicity is, for now, epigonic at best and superficial at worst. From The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword to Warren Spector's heartfelt Epic Mickey, to even a suspiciously banal Mario Sports Mix, Nintendo's gameplay rests on a disarming informality and ease of use. So the 3DS is new and slick: its wacky promotional video reveals the same roots.

Charles Mingus opined that if the inimitable saxophonist Charlie Parker "were a gunslinger, there would be a whole lot of dead copycats." As the seventh generation wanes, Nintendo has declared that if a brand is distinct, its loyalty — and newcomer appeal — is a very fine and inscrutable formula, perhaps the sum of the personalities behind the company's artistry for so long. Reggie Fils-Aime promised his audience "something you thought you knew perfectly well will be perfectly transformed." That syllepsis doesn't quite match what drew onstage today, but sure enough, though Nintendo is ever the same, it can never quite be followed.

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