E3 2014: Five Things Nintendo Has To Do At The Show

This year’s E3 is going to be a crucially important one. All the major console makers have launched their new machines, and so far things aren’t playing out according to plan for any of them. The Wii U is bordering on disaster, Microsoft can’t go a week without changing their Xbox One strategy and the PS4 is selling solidly, but the system’s software calendar is a wasteland.

Over the next week or so I’ll be running down what the three major console makers need to deliver at this year’s E3 if they want to justify this generation of consoles to consumers. First up, Nintendo…

At his point, this lady will sell more new Wii U’s than Mario.

Give Hardcore Nintendo Fans The Franchises They Want

The dream that the Wii U is going to be another casual gamer baiting, money-printing machine is dead and buried. Nintendo’s last hope for turning the Wii U into a modest Gamecube-esque success is getting reluctant hardcore Nintendo fans who felt burned by the original Wii to part with their money. That means delivering the franchises the cranky core Nintendo fan wants — Metroid, Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero. At this point Mario and Miis are going to do little to improve the Wii U’s fortunes.

Even if the next Metroid or Zelda is years away, you need to get those trailers out now Nintendo. Sure, people will bitch when the inevitable delays come down the pipe, but hopefully they’ll be bitching because those awesome initial trailers actually made them buy a Wii U. Now’s not the time for conservatism — Nintendo fans need something to look forward to.

Justify the GamePad

If the Wii U GamePad is going to continue to be an essential (expensive) part of the console (and it seems like it is) then Nintendo needs to justify it. They’ve done a terrible job of that so far. Since the Wii U’s launch Nintendo has been pumping out platformers that barely make use of the second screen. Pikmin 3 worked best with your old Wiimotes. Mario Kart 8 doesn’t do much with the device either.

It’s not that the GamePad is useless — I think it has great potential for role-playing, adventure and strategy games. Some of the minigames found in Nintendoland and Game & Wario are hugely entertaining. Unfortunately Nintendo has become incredibly timid in their decision-making. “More platformers! More Mario!” they shout, even if another Mario game or platformer is the last thing the Wii U needs.

In the past Nintendo was willing to step out of their comfort zone to justify their unique hardware. They made a first-person shooter (Goldeneye) to show off the N64’s analog stick, they delved into real-time strategy (Pikmin) to demonstrate the Gamecube’s processing power. Nintendo has said they’re planning to unveil new games at E3 that will demonstrate the potential of the GamePad — hopefully they’re as bold as some of Nintendo’s past showcase titles.

Deliver Basic Third-Party Support

Yeah, nobody buys Nintendo consoles for third-party support, but it’s hard to justify buying a machine when not even the basics are there. The Wii U is never going to be a third-party hotspot, but Nintendo announcing that they’ve at least got the new Madden, Call of Duty and a port of the rumored Xbox 360/PS3 Assassin’s Creed will go a long way towards making the Wii U seem like a viable system.

If Nintendo’s willing to publish the fetish hair witch game, they should be willing to publish anything. 

Announce Partnerships With Newly Independent Japanese Creators

Shortly before the release of the Wii U, Nintendo announced they’d be footing the bill and publishing Platinum Games’ Bayonetta 2. Of course that sparked a lot of fan outrage, but it also got Nintendo a lot of attention and at this point Bayonetta 2 is the Wii U’s only major upcoming third-party exclusive.

Well, over the past few years a number of big name Japanese game designers have joined Platinum Games on the indie scene. Keiji Inafune (Mega Man) Koji Igarashi (Castlevania) and Tomonubu Itagaki (Ninja Gaiden) would probably be all too willing to make exclusive titles for the Wii U if Nintendo were to fork over the money and handle publishing. Nintendo could grab multiple top-notch exclusives from some of the industry’s best talent for relatively cheap — hopefully they don’t leave the opportunity on the table like everybody else.

I want to hear what 2014 Reggie thinks about asses. 

Bring Back the Swagger

Lately it seems like Nintendo issues more apologies than game announcements. From Iwata’s constant mea culpas for Nintendo’s poor financials, to the company’s less than graceful handling of the Tomadachi Life same-sex relationship controversy, the Nintendo of 2014 comes off as confused, unsure of itself and often just plain scared.

Nintendo needs to stop apologizing and reclaim some of their ass kicking, name taking, “we’re doing things our way and we don’t give a crap what you think about it” swagger. Nintendo’s advertising has been a mess for years — hopefully E3 sees them debut a forceful new manta or slogan. Playing nice is getting you nowhere, Nintendo.

The One Thing Nintendo Shouldn’t Do At E3

While we’re listing off things Nintendo needs to do at E3, here’s one thing they definitely don’t need to do…

Reveal New Hardware

Rumors have been flying that some sort of new Nintendo hardware is going to be unveiled this year, but I think it would be a big mistake to do so. The gaming public has absolutely no desire to hear about yet another new gaming machine at the moment. E3 should be about shoring up Nintendo’s current consoles (the Wii U in particular) and announcing new hardware would just detract attention from that mission. E3 is also not the time for Nintendo to unveil their new “quality of life” platform — E3 is about video games, and anything not strictly video game related will not be received with any enthusiasm. Save the new hardware reveals for later.

Well, that’s what I think Nintendo needs to bring to E3. What about you? What are you hoping for from Nintendo?

Next up — Microsoft!