Nintendo at E3 2011: what to expect
20th May 2011 | 13:00
Project Café reveal in LA: Wii 2 comes on Stream
Nintendo at E3 2011: rumours, hype and opinion
Nintendo has already announced its plans to reveal the successor to the hugely successful Wii home console at E3 2011, with pre-show excitement levels about Wii 2 tech and games amongst the company's hardcore fanbase immediately putting its rivals at Microsoft and Sony on the back foot, long before the major three press conferences have even begun.
We have already considered the many pre-E3 rumours, speculation and confirmed info from Microsoft and Sony, with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation companies both set to run their pre-E3 press conferences on Monday 6 June.
Breaking with E3 tradition, which usually sees Nintendo's E3 conference sandwiched between Microsoft on the Monday morning (LA time) and Sony on the Tuesday lunchtime, at E3 2011 Nintendo's E3 conference is the final of the major showdowns from the big three console giants, taking place at LA's Nokia Theatre at 9am PST (5pm GMT) on Tuesday 7 June.
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"Nintendo is in an interesting place due to the rumours about a new console," is the personal opinion of Nvidia's European PR manager, Ben Berraondo. "They've always been innovative so there's a lot of expectation. I think they'll have more than simply an HD Wii. All of their biggest franchises have been a bit quiet of late so in addition to Zelda on the 3DS we may see a new Mario or Metroid."
New Nintendo hardware and iconic system-sellers
As for the key elements of Nintendo's new console - codenamed Project Café (with Nintendo Stream rumoured to be the final name) online rumour and speculation to date all points towards a powerful, high-definition machine to allow the Kyoto-based Mario factory to finally compete with the graphics and processing grunt of the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Nintendo has already sold 86 million Wiis since its launch in November 2006, though sales were down considerably (around 25 per cent) in 2010, which is a clear pointer that it is time for the company to progress to the next stage in the home console tech race.
Wii clearly succeeded in Nintendo's stated objective of opening up the gaming market to new demographics outside of the teen-to-thirties male hardcore gaming crowd. But can the company successfully disrupt the market yet again?
After all, Nintendo faces a whole host of new commercial challenges in 2011 - with new and improved Kinect and PS3 Move experiences on the way from Microsoft and Sony, alongside a multitude of new smartphone-and-tablet gaming and cloud/web-based casual and hardcore gaming experiences on offer.
"In terms of what we're going to see from Nintendo at E3, we know for certain that the Wii's successor will be unveiled and will be playable - but beyond that, it's very much a case of 'wait and see'," says NGamer magazine editor Charlotte Martyn. Nintendo are masters of keeping things under wraps."
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Martyn also reminds us that "the internet is fixated on the idea of a controller with a built-in touch screen, almost akin to a self-contained handheld console in itself [and] given Nintendo's track record of innovation - with Wii, DS and 3DS - it wouldn't be a total surprise if these rumours turned out to be true."
In addition to these reports of what is a rather unique-sounding gamepad with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, dual analogue sticks and a built-in camera, if the rumours that the Wii 2 is set to be powered by a three-core IBM Power PC chip with an ATI R700 GPU for fully high def 1080p/3D visuals and be fully backwards-compatible with Wii 1.0 games and feature improved 3DS syncing-and-compatibility features and the promise of far-better online gaming capabilities, then it is not hard to see why Nintendo may well steal the show at E3 2011.
Online GTA 5 for Wii 2?
That last point about the limited online gaming options with the first-gen Wii, in particular, has been a sticking point with Nintendo's customers and publishing/development partners, ever since the console first arrived in stores back in November 2006.
"[Nintendo CEO] Satoru Iwata has recently admitted that Nintendo's approach to online gaming has been underwhelming in the past," the NGamer editor reminds us, "which heavily suggests 'Wii 2' will improve upon Wii's online showing. HD is a given, as is a significant power hike.
"More powerful than PS3 and Xbox 360? It would be short-sighted of Nintendo not to make its next console at least as powerful. Another recent comment by Iwata acknowledging Nintendo's keenness to work with third parties hints at easier portability between platforms. Could we see the likes of GTA on Wii 2? We've had Chinatown Wars on DS already, so why not?"
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Sony looks set to announce one of the first major new hardware tech stories of the week, with the final reveal of its new Next Generation Portable set for its press conference at 5pm PST on Monday 6 June.
Following this, Nintendo really needs to consolidate its position on the recently-launched 3DS handheld (otherwise it risks losing its first-mover advantage). So Mr Iwata and Nintendo's creative chief Shigeru Miyamoto really need to announce some concrete exclusive 3DS content news and show off some seriously impressive demonstrations of new triple-A 3DS system-sellers due for release this coming Christmas holiday season.
We hope to see a lot more demos on (and a final name for) Super Mario 3D which "could be the system-seller that Nintendo is looking for," notes Martyn. "There were some really strong games in the 3DS launch window, but there's been no big first-party title for people to get their teeth into. Ocarina Of Time 3D is a big game for Nintendo, but a totally new Mario game - not a remake - could really drive hardware sales."
Also on the 3DS front, Nintendo plans to release a firmware update bringing the new Nintendo 3DS eShop with plenty of new gaming and other downloadable content available for people to test out immediately after the 7 June press conference.
ZELDA IN 3D:Link will no doubt feature heavily in Nintendo's E3 2011 press event
The 3DS eShop is essentially an online store housing Virtual Console, DSiWare and 3DS games and content, as well as web browser support. Let's just hope that Nintendo doesn't spend too long talking about the 3DS eShop, as it really should have been an out-of-the-box feature that arrived at the console's launch back in March.
Publisher support for Wii 2
In addition to its own first-party titles, Nintendo really needs to convince the games industry and consumers alike that it intends to improve the third-party publisher and developer support for its new HD home console.
Initial signs look promising on this front, with Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot recently going on record claiming that Nintendo's Wii successor is "really a fantastic platform."
Speaking on a recent Ubisoft investor's conference call, Guillemot added: "We think that it will be extremely successful," explaining that cross platform development (ie releasing the same games on PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii 2) will soon be much easier for the major publishers.
"What we see is that we will be able to leverage a lot of the work we do for the Xbox 360 and PS3 when we create games for the platform," Guillemot explained. "So we will not have to completely redo the games we create. We will be able to use all of the capacity the console offers and also use all of the work that we do for the other platforms."
There are likely to be a few teasers about new Wii 2 and 3DS games from major publishers such as Konami, Electronic Arts, Rockstar, Ubisoft, Activision, THQ and others and - we hope - a decent smattering of playable demos of the major new titles from all of the above on Nintendo's new hardware across the E3 showfloor at the LA Convention Center throughout the week.
Independent and smaller developers will also be watching Nintendo's latest hardware play closely, as Dr Richard Wilson, CEO of UK developer trade body TIGA, informed TechRadar: "The next Nintendo Wii will give UK developers a great opportunity to showcase their talents. Original content and games has always been at the heart of the UK industry and this provides another platform to illustrate this."
After all, once that initial press conference hype has died down by the start of the show proper on Wednesday 8 June, it is really that all-important "did you play this yet? did you see that yet? imagine what you could do with this new control method?" word-of-mouth that percolates throughout the event and, eventually, onto thousands of gaming websites and specialist magazines worldwide, that will decide who, in the longer-term, is the eventual "winner" of E3 2011.
Finally, it needs to be stressed that Nintendo is not simply going to forget about the Wii (just yet), particularly with the Project Café home console not set to arrive until later in 2012.
So expect to see plenty of new content on iconic franchises such as the forthcoming The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword. And let's just hope that online gossip of a $400 possible launch price for Wii 2/Project Café/Stream is considerably wide of the mark and notably higher than whatever the final price of Nintendo's new console ends up being.
Liked this? Then check out E3 2011: what to expect from this year's show
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