Nintendo's job at E3 was to get fans reinvested in the platform, and to get new customers excited about the idea of picking up a Wii U. Both Microsoft and Sony have enjoyed wonderful starts to a long life in the "next-gen" console race, but Nintendo's hardware sales need a boost if the Wii U is going to continue to be viable.
So did that happen at E3? Are we walking away shocked and amazed at what we saw?
Jokes and jokes and jokes
Nintendo isn't having a bad show, and there were a number of new things announced that should be exciting for fans of the company and console. They even joked about Mother 3 and made an Elijah Wood quip during the broadcast. In terms of making things fun for those who follow Nintendo closely, they did very well, and played to the hardcore audience perfectly.
A new that takes advantage of the title U GamePad is a great one-two punch — having Shigeru Miyamoto working on a title is interesting enough, but having Nintendo show its own commitment to interesting in GamePad ideas is just as important.
The downside is that the game is in an early state, and Nintendo almost never shows off ideas before their time. This reveal seems to be another bit of evidence that suggests Nintendo had to dig deep to have enough stuff to show that would get people talking at E3, and we shouldn't expect to be frustrated by Slippy Toad anytime soon.
One of the most interesting bits shown was the idea of the amiibos, which is spelled in all lower case, by the way. These are toys that will eventually work across multiple pieces of Nintendo software. They'll launch with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and be operated with the GamePad to share information both ways — the game will talk to the toy and the toy will talk to the game.
You'll give your personal amiibo all sorts of customization, and we were told support for the toys would also be coming to Mario Kart 8. This initiative will launch this year, but it's an add-on to existing games, not a reason to jump into something new.
Here's the big question: Was a lack of a Skylanders-like option the thing that was keeping people from buying a Wii U? The idea is cool, and Nintendo-themed toys will sell in large numbers to the true believers, but Nintendo's strategy has to be to move more pieces of Wii U hardware, and with Star Fox as just a tech demo and the toys serving as primarily an add-on to the hardware and games, there's little reason for people to get excited about picking up a Wii U.
amiibo are an add-on to existing games, not a reason to jump into something new
Even the new game shown is coming 2015. It's going to be a long 2014 if the only things we have to look forward to are Super Smash Bros. and toys. On the other hand, the little bit we saw of the game looked amazing; this is a game that will make people buy the system. That one scene, with the high-definition flowing grass and the redesigned look for Link, was enough to sell damned near everyone on the game. This is the power of Nintendo.
The Mario games have long had some of the best level design in the business, so the challenge of making your own in Mario Maker is going to be hard to pass up. But again, it's coming in 2015. What does this do for the company this year?
There is a new Kirby game coming, and a new Yoshi game as well that looked cute as hell, but again these titles are attractive to people who likely already have the system. Nintendo needs more tent poles like Mario Kart 8, a game that moved both massive numbers of games and got people into the stores to pick up the hardware.
There are some interesting-looking games on the way, but the things that will get people in the story to buy hardware are around a year away. All the funny jokes and fan service in the world can't change that fact.