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Everything was spin-offs. Nintendo's awkward transformation year.
Editorial by 
Editor
June 17, 2015, 19:50:44
 
I was a lot more nervous than excited as yesterday's Digital Event approached. That's unusual. I love E3, the big reveals and surprises get me giddy, but my Nintendo spider sense (Gohma sense?) was tingling. Danger!

In hindsight Reggie tried to let us down gently with a disclaimer about transformation. That may not have dampened our enthusiasm at the start but it was clear by the end that transforming means transitioning. And transitions on Nintendo platforms can be rough. Last year was all snappy humor, creativity and a declaration of confidence in the 3DS and Wii U that took many people by surprise. This time the medium was similar but the message was altogether different: it's the final year of both the Wii U and the 3DS. The age of tentpole announcements for these machines has passed and ultimately the show could only disappoint.

Sure enough, our hopes dimmed with each Nintendo franchise reveal as we saw spin-offs instead of mainline games. Giving us smaller experiences to keep us playing between the big ones is good in theory, Captain Toad was brilliant, but without 3rd party support the Nintendo audience is always hungry. If you tease a hungry gamer only to deliver a series of boardgames and weird multiplayer offshoots you're asking to get bitten. Cue backlash.

Also missing was the traditional, 'one more surprise'. We expect this now. Nintendo knows it. It's a common feature of previous E3s and even the typical Nintendo Direct but instead they ended with a self-indulgent YouTube montage and an abrupt cut to the Treehouse Live team. An awkward end to an awkward 50 minutes.


---


So here we are, a little bit sadder and a little bit wiser. Venturing into the news void, the gap between systems. It's no mystery where Nintendo's biggest development teams have gone...


- Mobile: the DeNA partnership is a huge deal for Nintendo and they are the ones handling the majority of development. The first few releases, due out this year, need to be compelling and you can be sure the company is working hard to make this gambit count. When the pressure is on to finish a game often every studio at Nintendo from Retro to Monolith Soft to the different internal divisions all throw their weight together. Just because these games are mobile doesn't mean they aren't absorbing significant resources.


- QOL: I hesitate to place blame on this for Nintendo's light showing, but this is Iwata's pet project and who knows what he's throwing into making it a success?


-The NX: This "dedicated gaming platform" is widely suspected to replace both our handheld and console hardware, consolidating Nintendo's development resources and creating one big future userbase. Whatever form it takes, the fact that it's approaching when both systems are dramatically winding down is no coincidence.

Nintendo Tokyo, Garage, Retro Studios are known to be working on a large number of undisclosed titles, some of which have been in active production for 2 years. Games of this caliber could have blown the doors off the show and propped up the Wii U for at least another year, but without even a hint about them it's not hard to guess where they are headed. Zelda's absence is an even bigger herald of the move to NX. Miyamoto talked about having great Zelda footage right now that they aren't showing, which signifies the game's disappearance isn't about some stylistic makeover. Zelda is still promised as a 2016 Wii U release, but the real surprise now would be if it was Wii U exclusive.

The timing of all of this seems to confirm the transition to NX has begun. Looking at the history of Nintendo handhelds 3DS is due for a replacement next year and everyone wondering how long the Wii U would be around in the face of consumer disinterest seems to have their answer now too.

Nintendo fans are now in a holding pattern until the next big thing drops. And it's going to be a long wait.


---


Still, although we've discovered the current gen surprises are all spent, we can take a step back and enjoy this being one of the Wii U's strongest years. You'll have to pry Splatoon from my cold, dead tentacles, and just ahead is Yoshi, Xenoblade, Fatal Frame, Star Fox which has a great core from Nintendo and will no doubt become more and more dramatic and impressive under Platinum's wing. And of course Super Mario Maker, a gamer's dream since 1985. The 3DS has a healthly line-up too, even if this event did little to add to it.

E3 may be about selling anticipation for future games, and that's a large part of the fun of being a gamer, but it's easy to lose sight of the games themselves and here and now Nintendo systems are still seeing compelling exclusives unlike anything else available. Next year we will have the opposite problem, no games but plenty of exciting announcements. By then, if not hopefully before, we will appreciate the difference.

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Posted: 06/17/15, 19:50:44  - Edited by 
 on: 06/17/15, 19:49:35    
 
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Unfortunately, this is the feeling I got as well. These spin-off games feel like filler while their big teams have moved onto bigger and better things (namely, NX). Hopefully their recognition that this is a time of transformation and transition signal that support for the Wii U and 3DS won't COMPLETELY dry up for the end of the generation like we saw with Wii and DS, but I think the expectation at this point is that the last year or so of a Nintendo console's life is pretty poor.

Infinitywave said:
Still, although we've discovered the current gen surprises are all spent, we can take a step back and enjoy this being one of the Wii U's strongest years. You'll have to pry Splatoon from my cold, dead tentacles, and just ahead is Yoshi, Xenoblade, Fatal Frame, Star Fox which has a great core from Nintendo and will no doubt become more and more dramatic and impressive under Platinum's wing. And of course Super Mario Maker, a gamer's dream since 1985. The 3DS has a healthly line-up too, even if this event did little to add to it.

This is the silver lining for me. Their digital event was lacking wow factor, but the important thing is that this will end up having been a pretty good year for the Big N, release-wise. In the fall we've got Mario Maker, Star Fox, Xenoblade, Yarn Yoshi all to look forward to on Wii U, and a few coming for 3DS in early 2016 (M&L, Fire Emblem, etc), so there are still some things to look forward to, for me anyway.


Posted by 
 on: 06/17/15, 20:39:20
The lack of any big surprises within their Digital Event tells me a few things. They are busy on things that don't pertain to the Wii U. Namely, things that are not happening within 2015. So we can assume they are hard at work with NX R&D and developing mobile games. Could this be the beginning of the end of Wii U's life cycle? Now I'm left wondering if Zelda Wii U will take a Twilight Princess approach and release on both Wii U and the NX.


Posted by 
 on: 06/17/15, 21:25:44
I won't be surprised if Zelda moves to NX. My first thought when they showed Zelda at the Game Awards was that it looked too much better than anything else I've seen for Wii U. I think it'll still release on the Wii U, but that may not even truly have been the version of the game we've seen.


Posted by 
 on: 06/17/15, 21:41:49
Good write-up. Admittedly, I was expecting the Transformers talk to lead into an announced of Platinum's new Transformers game on the Wii U.

This felt like a transitional E3 characterized by a showcase of previously-announced heavy hitters and newly revealed spin-offs. I can understand why many of the games shown were updated looks at games we knew about if Nintendo is hard at work on the NX, whatever it may be. I think that those big games like Xenoblade X combined with some of these interesting spin-offs like Metroid Prime: Federation Force will make for a nicely balanced helping of Nintendo games in 2015 and early 2016 while Nintendo gets ready to show us something huge at E3 2016.

For all intents are purposes, Nintendo's E3 2015 showcase delivered because I saw upcoming games that I'm eager to play. On the other hand, it lacked that special E3 feeling of being blown away by some huge, unexpected announcement that the majority of us Nintendo fans are stunned by. Both types of E3 presentations are great to me, and I'm content with the former than the latter since last year was more of a megaton-styled E3. Hopefully this means that next year's digital event will have a different tone as a result of this transformational phase.


Posted by 
 on: 06/17/15, 21:53:45
True dat.

I guess I'm a little bummed because Wii U still feels new to me, and there haven't been many games for it, and I really want to see stuff like F-Zero and Metroid in HD, but... I guess it does make sense for Nintendo to focus on NX. Wii U is going to be looked back on as such a weird little niche console.


Posted by 
 on: 06/17/15, 22:00:06
@deathly_hallowsThe Wii U seems new to you because it is new. For the earliest adapters, it's 2 years and 8 months old.

I just can't imagine them going into a prolonged dry spell right after coming off the prolonged dry spell of the last two years of the Wii. But that certainly seems to be what's happening. They apparently see the Wii U as a "sunk cost." Instead of doubling down (which is what they did last E3), they're moving on to the next thing. Makes sense from a business perspective but kind of sucks for those of us who bought the machine.

Nintendo must know that there is literally no major third party development in the offing, nothing that's going to come out over the next three years or so, and that the dozen or so games Nintendo themselves can put out over the next year and a half or so plus the many indie games aren't enough to move any more Wii Us.


Posted by 
 on: 06/17/15, 22:34:36
They've had years filled with spinoffs before so I'm not worried. This period reminds me of what 2009 was like, or at least most of it plus late 2008. The period after Mario Kart and Smash. And some of their spinoffs end up being some of my faves, like the Luigi's Mansion games for example. Plus, some "big" games like Mario Kart are spinoffs, showing that they can still become huge and good.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 00:02:09
This was the Metapod of E3 Conferences. The World Championship was like this badass Caterpie that was pulling well above expectations and blasting along at a nice pace only to evolve into some deformed monster that can't walk and it's only move is to harden its cocoon from the outside world. And no-one else present dare mention that this deformed creature exists except for the one guy who likes to dance because he probably just did a line of coke.

Nintendo shouldn't have mentioned NX. If you aren't showing any games for Wii U that release after December 2015 then don't tell people next E3 to come back and watch us talk about a new console.

You really couldn't have found anyone on Earth earlier this week who would have said hearing "Metroid Prime" being shown at Nintendo's E3 Direct would disappoint. But like life, they, uh, found a way.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 01:00:49
What are the examples of "one more surprises"? I feel like every year people expect one and it never happens. I think maybe a Smash Bros. character reveal has kind of qualified as that before, but that's the only one off the top of my head.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 01:15:19  - Edited by 
 on: 06/18/15, 01:15:33
@Jargon
Twilight Princess was the biggest one I remember. But that's been some time.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 01:23:36
@Jargon

From Nintendo:

Twilight Princess
Metroid Other M
Bayonetta 2 (?)

Non Nintendo:

FF13 on Xbox
Halo 3 Announcement/Trailer
Watch Dogs
Rainbow Six Siege
Whatever that new Ghost Recon game is
The re-branding of long absent FF13 versus to FF15


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:01:21
@Jargon

They've done it a good number of times--

2004: Twilight Princess
2008: Wii Music (yeah, it became infamous but it was clearly intended to be the big finish reveal. Reggie even preludes it with "but before we finish today, we want to introduce you to ONE MORE EXPERIENCE...")
2009: Metroid: Other M
2012: NintendoLand
2013: Borderline based on Iwata's weird presentation, but Smash Wii U (and Mega Man!) was the last game shown.
2014: May not count, but Palutena's showing was at the end and Reg says "But I just can't leave you without ONE MORE TEASER..."

Finishing strong is a pretty good way to leave a positive impression on viewers, so a lot of the companies often save the best for last during their presentations. While not all of these were super-megaton-worthy, they were pretty much all presented as such.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:14:13  - Edited by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:15:09
@TriforceBun

I think a lot of those were just showing those games last. To me, the one last surprise thing has to come after some sort of fake out that they're wrapping things up. That's why I was thinking of Paulatena in my original post.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:22:32
I still remember when Other M was announced, it blew my mind. That's the last time I think I got really excited at an E3. Well maybe for the Zelda U reveal, but that wasn't a surprise the way Other M was.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:23:50
@deathly_hallows

See, that says it all to me. Flash over substance.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:25:52
@Jargon

Yeah, I was about to make a similar point. Some of these complaints are more about the showmanship - if Starfox had come last this year and Mario Maker had come first, everyone could agree that the Starfox reveal more or less qualified as a "just one more thing" moment, and yet we still wouldn't have any more games than we do now.

That said, showmanship matters to some degree. Just not to the degree that it effects the main reason we're all here - to play games.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:26:21
@kriswright

Yup, that's the point I was trying to make in the other thread. It works especially well with Star Fox because I think that announcement didn't really get much hype last year compared to Zelda and games that were more fully realized already like Splatoon. Now a year has passed and it's old news even though we barely saw it last year.

Definitely a showmanship mistake, but I doubt it will affect Nintendo's bottom line and it certainly won't affect my enjoyment of the games.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:28:41  - Edited by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:29:00
@Jargon
What do you mean? They announced a new Metroid game that was a complete surprise, that was fun IMO.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:31:25
@deathly_hallows

And most people agree it sucked and it was a huge bomb at retail. People who like to play good games lost and Nintendo lost. People who care about exciting E3s won. Good for them, I guess.


Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:34:32
missypissy said:
This was the Metapod of E3 Conferences. The World Championship was like this badass Caterpie that was pulling well above expectations and blasting along at a nice pace only to evolve into some deformed monster that can't walk and it's only move is to harden its cocoon from the outside world. And no-one else present dare mention that this deformed creature exists except for the one guy who likes to dance because he probably just did a line of coke.



Posted by 
 on: 06/18/15, 02:41:02
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