E3 2011: Nintendo press conference impressions
While Microsoft’s press conference was more of the same, Nintendo’s offered something new and exciting. From the opening, where a full orchestra accompanied a video celebrating Zelda’s 25 year anniversary, the audience was captivated.
There was a teaser of a new console early on. Nintendo, they said, were trying to not just appeal to one casual audience, but all gamers. This was as close to an admission that the Wii went too far away from Nintendo’s traditional market as we’ll see. The next console would redress the balance, but details would have to wait.
The 3DS’s upcoming portfolio was shown in depth, with new Star Fox, Super Mario, Luigi’s Mansion and Zelda games announced for the handheld.
Yet the real excitement was reserved for the announcement that we’d all been anticipating. The WiiU is a combination of a new hardware unit and a new controller. The console alone offers a straightforward HD upgrade to the existing platform. In the screens shown, it looked similar, but smaller than the existing Wii. Unlike the current model, there was no upright stand, as it lay flat like a traditional console.
The controller was the focus though. With a 6.2 inch screen at its heart, it offers a huge range of possible game concepts. If the TV is taken over to be used for something else, the game can continue on the controller itself. It can also be used to enhance the onscreen action, much like the bottom screen on the DS and 3DS.
That is perhaps the easiest way to summarise the WiiU: it’s conceptually the same as the DS, but on a larger scale. There is, however, plenty more it can do. One interesting concept shown placed the WiiU controller on the floor, acting as a tee for a golf game. The player then used the normal Wii controller to strike the ball, which flew off down the fairway on the HDTV. There are eight concept demos on the show floor this week and we’ll report back again once we try them.
There are many unanswered questions, primarily the price of the two units and the graphical power of the WiiU compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360. What is clear though, is that its potential is huge. It has the obvious appeal that the existing Wii does, but is likely to make core gamers curious about what Nintendo has to offer again.