The Digital World with Ryan Simon: Pre-E3 2012: Nintendo’s Recovery Plan

This year’s E3 presentation from Nintendo, which is scheduled for June 5, will be the company’s most important yet. For the first time in 30 years Nintendo has posted a net loss. In their fiscal year statement ending March 31, 2012, Nintendo announced over $530 million in losses. The company blames declining Wii hardware and software sales, along with a slower than expected adoption of the Nintendo 3DS in Western markets. With the NPD Group recently announcing a year-over-year decline of 42 percent for all game-related sales, the game industry as a whole seems to be in a rut. Nintendo’s new Wii U has a chance to rekindle the interest of gamers, but the House of Mario has a lot to prove at their press conference.

Winning Back the “Hardcore”

One of the many complaints gamers have had over Nintendo’s Wii game system is the lack of “hardcore” games. My interpretation is that by “hardcore” they mean the game should contain gore, violence and a bleak militaristic art style that screams “badass.” Beyond obscene violence, these “hardcore” gamers absolutely need top-notch high definition graphics in their games—something the Wii is simply not capable of. Nintendo knows that this is a problem, especially when considering the impressive sales numbers surrounding games like the “Call of Duty” series. It has become a priority for Nintendo to win back these “hardcore” consumers, and the Wii U is being designed with this in mind.

The Wii U will be capable of full 1080p graphics, and has been rated by many third-party game developers to be more powerful than the PS3 and Xbox 360. Nintendo’s commitment to the “hardcore” goes beyond just graphics though; Nintendo announced a handful of gritty third-party content at E3 last year. Recent rumors also suggest that Nintendo will be partnering with Activision to launch the new “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” with the Wii U’s release later this year. Other popular game series’ like “Assassin’s Creed,” “Batman: Arkham City,” and “Ninja Gaiden” will also be making an appearance at launch. Nintendo will need to show these games and more during their press conference to convince gamers that the Wii U won’t be just another “kiddie” console.

Exclusive Content

Beyond presenting E3 attendees and viewers a good amount of third-party games, Nintendo has to give people some good reasons to ditch their current game systems and invest in the Wii U. Better graphics is an obvious addition, but what about the Wii U’s hardware and software makes it a unique game console? This is a question Nintendo will have to continuously answer throughout their presentation and all the way through Wii U’s launch. Leaked footage of a new “Rayman” game shows how people will be able to interact with the Wii U’s tablet controller and its NFC (near field communication) capabilities, and Nintendo would be smart to have more innovative ideas up its sleeves. Many of the third-party launch games for Wii U will also be released for existing platforms, so Nintendo has to make sure that developers implement features that will make the Wii U version of each game the best version in comparison to the competition.

Embracing a Nintendo Network

If it wasn’t the “kiddy” games or the last-generation graphics that bothered gamers then the Wii’s weak online infrastructure did, and I wholeheartedly agree. Nintendo has infamously avoided implementing any kind of real online gaming network for the past two console generations, but they have finally seen the light. With the announcement of the Nintendo Network earlier this year, the company is making large strides in providing a unified online gaming service—no longer requiring the cumbersome “Friend Code” system that plagued the Wii’s online network. Nintendo will need to come out strong on this front during their presentation; they have to prove to gamers that online gaming and digital content is going to be supported well from day one on the Wii U. Positive comments about Nintendo’s new network from companies like EA should excite gamers as we get closer to this year’s E3 showcase.

Just One Last Thing…

Everything I laid out here is to be expected from Nintendo if they want to improve their financial situation, but with a few surprises Nintendo will be able to completely steal the show. With the announcement of the new “Super Mario Bros.” and “Pikmin” games being shown at E3, Nintendo’s most obvious Wii U exclusives have been revealed. This alone hints at Nintendo showing some other more impressive and interesting games during their press conference that truly use the most of the Wii U’s specs and tablet controller. That said, Nintendo must not forget about their 3D handheld. Gamers will want to see new software on the 3DS that will sway them away from Sony’s recent handheld, the PSVita.

Nintendo has a lot to prove at this E3, and they have a lot to lose if they fail to impress both the gaming media and gamers alike. Considering they will be presenting after their competitors, Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo has a great opportunity to stomp on any hype the competition has created. With so much riding on their E3 performance, all eyes will be on Nintendo. Let’s hope Wii U lives up to the hype.

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