Nintendo is by no means a small player at E3. With the possible exception of last year, they've absolutely dominated mind share with each E3 press conference they've run. This year, Nintendo is poised to regain the hearts and minds of gamers worldwide, with game exclusives worthy of their top position in the marketplace.
I don’t expect Nintendo to shy away from what’s been making their coffers full lately – we’ll see a new Wii Fit trotted out, probably immediately. Wii Fit Plus is likely to have an online component which will keep long distance weight loss buddies in contact, and it’ll feature a whole new exercise regimen to keep the housewives and exercise nuts busy. Given that it’s a sequel, there will probably be two packages on offer, the game, and the game packaged with the Wii Fit Balance Board. Yes, us “hardcore” journalists will be reminded that not only are we in dire need of a fitness program, but we’re no longer the only market that Nintendo serves.
That said, we all know that Nintendo has learned its lesson from last year. There will be no Ravi Drums. There will, however, be a new Mario game or a new Zelda game announced. We are the hardcore, we demand Shiggy. And Shiggy we shall have, or I’ll eat my hat. I’m not placing “even money” on a Mario rumor either – I’m telling everyone, right now, that Mario on the Wii is coming this Holiday season, I can feel it in my bones. Our journey into “core gamer land” will likely include more information about The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (likely playable on the show floor), Red Steel 2, No More Heroes 2, and more.
The Conduit is on the Nintendo Wii to remind the hardcore that companies out there still care about them. Expect at least a trailer of the game at the conference, and expect that it’ll be playable on the show floor. So far, the game looks amazing, and if you don’t agree with me on this one, you’ll need a catcher’s mitt once you see the new trailers. Why yes, you’ll need that catcher’s mitt to collect your JAW before it hits the FLOOR. Oh sure, it’s not high def, but it’s definitely state-of-the-art when it comes to Wii games. If you hadn’t heard of the Conduit before the show, you most certainly will during / after.
I don’t know quite which audience this next title speaks to, but I keep hearing about Art Academy, the title of which has been revealed through a recent trademark filing. Once a company goes through the process of trademarking a name, you can bet they’ll be wanting to talk it up. I expect that this will be a “game” similar to Art Alive, but with the advantages inherent in using the Wii Controller. At this point, it’s actually kind of difficult for me to imagine an art game without an online component, so I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that this game will likely have an online gallery to show off your creations, and maybe even an associated web site which would then allow you to print out hard copies of what you create. Yeah, that’s right – I came up with all of that based on the name of the game. We’ll see how accurate that ends up being… But it sure would be cool, wouldn’t it?
There is another audience that Nintendo serves that I don’t quite know how to classify. I’m going to call these people the “gateway” gamers. We’re going to see Pokemon at the Nintendo Press Conference. At a minimum, Nintendo will talk about their previously announced Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver. I’m sure that Pokemon Platinum’s success will be at least mentioned during the financials section of the press conference, but more importantly, we’ll get a look at Gold and Silver, and finally have some substance behind the titles. Pikmin is a gateway title, too – it introduces the strategy genre to younger players, and also markets well to women. I’ll put even odds that we’ll see a Pikmin title at the Nintendo E3 2009 Press Conference. I haven’t heard even a whisper about this possibility, but Nintendo has always been known to be good at keeping things under their hats.
It’s time for Nintendo to really give DSi owners something to look forward to as well. The Nintendo DSi is a great little device, and I think that it’s about time for us to see why. It’s my hope that Nintendo takes the initiative to announce a DSi specific online store. I would be delighted if Nintendo announced the DSi Virtual Console. I think it’s a strong possibility that this Virtual Console will allow the playback of Game Boy Advance games (which you’d buy from the store), as well as games from less recent libraries, like the Game Boy Color or even the Game Boy (can you say Tetris?). This only makes sense, as Nintendo has already started up the DSi Ware store. In their eyes this would be a simple brand extension, and frankly, it’s about as close to free money as you can get.
Speaking of money, I think that there’s about a one in three chance that Nintendo will announce a price drop for the Nintendo Wii. I think that this move, while unneeded, matches what they’ve done in the past. If Nintendo moves on price, expect the drop to be small, in the 30-50 dollar range. I place low odds on this occurring because the Yen is so strong right now. Although I’m certain that Nintendo realizes that they need to do so, I’m equally certain that they do not wish to harm their margins by making a move on price at this point.
Potential for Surprise
Of all the companies at E3, Nintendo has the biggest potential to surprise us. Given last year’s showing, I don’t think there’s much room for them to completely disappoint us – we’ve been down that road already.
Will Nintendo announce any third party Wii exclusives? Will the DS / DSi see something crazy? Will there be a Wii HD (no!)? Will there be Wii / DS integration announced? Will there be better integration of Mii’s? Will they finally drop moronic Friend Codes (no!)?
Stay tuned to Stage Select for all the news out of the E3 Press Conferences.
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