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E3 2013 Preview: Nintendo

Nintendo is first up in our daily series of E3 Previews, as they will be holding a Nintendo Direct on Monday, June 10 at 7 AM PT/10 AM ET.

Nintendo surprised everybody recently with the announcement that they would not be holding an official press conference at E3. That news caused a lot of concern from fans and press that this news foreshadowed worse things to come. At the moment, that doesn’t seem to be true since everything else they’re doing at E3 is the same as every year. We’ll have to wait until Monday to see if the pessimism was for nothing, so let’s just get right down to the rest of the preview.

The 3DS is Nintendo’s strongest platform worldwide with new Monster Hunter games and strong Nintendo releases keeping them afloat as the Wii U struggles in every region. The big question about the 3DS is whether this is a good time to drop the price for the normal and XL models to increase the system’s appeal while trying to twist the knife into the back of Sony’s floundering Vita. There have been a lot of sales and gift card offers for the 3DS lately, which is sometimes a sign of an impending price drop at E3. The 3DS hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire, so Nintendo may be looking to push their best-selling platform a bit further. It doesn’t seem like there should be any major hardware news for the 3DS at E3, as it would probably be a good idea to promote what’s there instead of releasing another iteration of the handheld.

We’ve been waiting a long, long time now for major firmware updates to finally bring a real account system to the 3DS along with Miiverse support and presumably other big enhancements to the 3DS’ OS, which should hit E3 to give 3DS owners more reasons to buy games on the eShop. It would also be nice to see the eShop get an overhaul to make it easier to navigate and find quality content, because it’s kind of a mess at the moment. I’m interested in finding out if Nintendo’s commitment to eShop development on the 3DS diminishes in favor of bolstering the digital library on the Wii U, which has only had about a dozen releases in the first eight months of its existence.

The 3DS has been on a great tear this year with Nintendo’s output and the upcoming lineup of 3DS games looks to keep that going with The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past 2, Mario & Luigi, Mario Golf, Mario Party, Monster Hunter 4, Pokemon X& Y, Scribblenauts Unmasked, Sonic Lost World, Super Smash Bros., and Yoshi’s Island that have already announced. The 3DS is full of quality upcoming games, so Nintendo probably wants to focus as many teams as possible on Wii U development to help improve its library quickly. I’m sure that there will be a surprise or two for 3DS, but they’ve already shown most of their big cards over the past few Nintendo Directs.

The Wii U is the system that Nintendo needs to spend most time on at E3 because the library is barren at the moment and the amount of upcoming games that we’ve seen in action is still small. The systems themselves have sold really poorly because of that lack of releases in the system’s most important months following the launch, so look for Nintendo to try to reinvigorate the platform with lots of hardware announcements and game demos. It seems likely that Nintendo drops the 8 GB Wii U in favor of replacing it with a stronger SKU along with price drops to drive sales before the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One hit at much higher prices this fall. They’re not going to be able to compete with those systems on the tech inside the boxes, so they have to compete with their price and their classic IPs that will hit this fall. The only new hardware news I can see happening is support for using two GamePads on one Wii U could very well be unveiled during the show.

On the software front, Nintendo has promised a summer firmware update for the Wii U that should provide some major enhancements, though I don’t believe that there are many details on what to expect. The most important features that are needed is an actual console-agnostic account system like what's offered for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network along with further improvement on the loading times for apps and the Wara Wara Plaza. The eShop needs a much bigger commitment from Nintendo, as they’ve completely ignored it since launch unlike the 3DS's increased production over time. For an easy way to win over fans and supporters, a cross-platform purchasing program to reward owners of both the 3DS and Wii U would be great news to make up for the requirement to pay twice for content that has appeared on both systems up to now. Getting rid of the requirement to do the system transfer from Wii to the Wii U to be eligible for the Virtual Console discounts is another way to get the fans on their side.

Earlier this year, Nintendo dropped a big list of names for Nintendo games to expect on Wii U at some point, but  we’ve barely seen anything of these games. This is the list of upcoming Nintendo games for Wii U without definite release dates:

  • Bayonetta 2
  • Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei
  • The Legend of Zelda Wii U
  • The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
  • Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games
  • Mario Kart Wii U
  • Sonic Lost World
  • Super Mario Wii U
  • Wii Fit U
  • Wii Party U
  • X (Monolith Soft)
  • Yarn Yoshi

Only the Sonic games have been detailed since their announcements, so Nintendo has a lot of questions in their lineup that everybody wants to be answered on Monday. I’d expect to see Wind Waker HD, Super Mario, Mario Kart, Wii Fit U, and Wii Play be announced for release this fall with big reveals for Mario Kart and Super Mario particularly since those are heavy hitters. The new Legend of Zelda game will likely also get a big reveal along with the potential Xenoblade sequel from Monolith Soft, though I’m not expecting those two games for a while. Retro Studios’ new game should finally get an announcement, though that could really be anything with the lack of specific rumors on that subject. I’ll throw out a few titles that may not actually happen, but it would be nice to see them happen in some way for new Wii U games: Kirby, F-Zero, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, Metroid, and some new IPs that do some cool things they don’t do with their usual stable of games. Third-party support is in really bad shape at this point, so it will be interesting to see who still supports the Wii U on their own and who gets paid by Nintendo for exclusive titles like the Sega games listed above.

That is Nintendo’s E3 in a nutshell at the moment. They have one platform that is stable but could use some extra help to do even better while their other platform is stuck in limbo at the moment until its future is revealed by Nintendo. There is a lot of uncertainty about whether Nintendo has the right cards to put down on the table to show that they can right the ship before the two next-gen behemoths arrive this fall to steal the show with pure power.

We will be liveblogging the announcements on Nintendo Direct on Monday, June 10 at 7 AM PT/10 AM ET directly from our Twitter account, so feel free to follow us in ahead of game to get ready for all of E3. There are press conferences all day long, so be sure to stick around all day as we keep you up-to-date on the latest announcements at each show.

To cap off this E3 Preview, I’ve asked my fellow staffers for their thoughts on what to expect from Nintendo’s showing at E3:

Alex Quevedo:
“I'm not really sure what Nintendo can really do to improve their position. Sure, they beat Microsoft and Sony to release a console first, but it's easy to forget it even exists, unfortunately. I won't say they're dying, but even perfect world announcements would be hard to propel them into a great position.”

Danreb Victorio:
“I don't think ANYBODY, short of Patrick and myself, including even Nintendo knows how great of a console the Wii U is. Its problem, like the 3DS, is its library isn't especially impressive and if Nintendo doesn't show their big guns, they'll have more than just a bad marketing problem, especially if the rumors about the PS4 and Xbox One launching at under $399 are true. We need more than Super Smash Bros. and now that the 3DS is finally profitable to the company, E3 should primarily be Wii U.”

Filippo Dinolfo:
“To me Nintendo is in a bad spot. The Wii U is a system that by its focus on a second screen does not appeal to me. They would really need to show me a mind-blowingly good Star Fox game to get my attention. Anything else I have no interest in.”

Patrick Mifflin:
"Microsoft has set Nintendo up for a monumental rally we've never before seen the likes of, and if Nintendo can bring an E3 Nintendo Direct presentation that's even a slight step above their already-impressive bimonthly Directs, they should have no problem at least putting on a solid showing. Of course, the time for pipeline is winding down, and gamers are going to need great titles in their hands sooner than later if Nintendo is going to capitalize on the huge opportunity they've been handed to come out strong in a post-PS4 world. Setting the table for the holidays is key, and this must include a strong July-to-December software lineup as well as a generous price drop."

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