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Our thoughts on the state of the Wii U

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LOS ANGELES — Nintendo was only half-lying. The publisher previously announced that it wouldn’t have a press briefing at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. But yesterday morning, Nintendo gathered journalists in its booth at the video game trade show to discuss newly announced titles, the state of its Wii U and 3DS platforms, and other news. In other words, it was a press briefing. Just without the traditional big-stage, big-lights, big-deal pomp and circumstance.

The company saved a few bucks with this massively scaled-down approach, but more strategically, it avoided more direct comparisons to the fireworks shows that were the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation briefings. Nintendo isn’t playing by the same rules as the big boys of this E3. How does that affect everyone’s perception of its flagship living-room console? Is the Wii U still in the game?

Here are some of our thoughts after seeing the “press briefing” and getting some hands-on time with future Wii U offerings.

Dan “Shoe” Hsu, editor in chief: I know we — GamesBeat staff and readers alike — are all thinking the same thing: Nintendo’s become predictable. Its overreliance on its established brands (Mario, Mario Kart, Zelda, etc.) is nothing new, but this year, it feels particularly tiresome in the face of exciting new next-generation content on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Yes, Nintendo’s first-party software will continue to appease the company’s fans and financial managers. And yes, I can’t wait to play more of nearly everything we’ve seen for the Wii U thus far. They’re fun. But these games are awfully safe. And that’s a little boring now.

Nintendo’s been steadily losing relevancy over the years, and this E3 only served to be a very public reminder of this. The company, however, has been nothing but consistent about this. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the Wii U — like its predecessors — will end up being another delivery system for fantastic first-party games … and little else.

Dean Takahashi, lead news writer: Nintendo’s chances don’t look great. While other competitors are showing off true next-generation games with superior graphics, Nintendo keeps showing cute games that appeal to its own hardcore group of fans. That hasn’t been enough to inspire enough sales for the Wii U. If sales don’t pick up, Nintendo faces the tough choice of ongoing losses or abandoning its console early. Neither prospect is attractive.

Pikmin 3Jeff Grubb, news writer: As the industry struggles to figure out what its future is going to look like, Nintendo is still dancing to the same old tune. On the first day of E3, the company failed to take any chances. It is working on the games it is always working on, like Mario, Mario Kart, and Smash Bros. It’s disappointing to see that another year is going by without Nintendo showing us something new.

But the company’s hands are a bit tied. It squandered whatever mass audience it found with the Wii, and that left it with nothing but Nintendo superfans who want nothing but more Mario, Zelda, and Metroid.

Nintendo’s creative genius, Shigeru Miyamoto, addressed this issue in passing during the press briefing at the company’s booth. He said that Nintendo is working to bring new ideas to these well-worn franchises. This is good to hear. The games are probably going to be great. It’s just unlikely that the company can drag the spotlight away from Sony and Microsoft.

Eduardo Moutinho, contributing writer: Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime clearly summarized his company’s current position when he addressed the group of journalists at its E3 space: “What matters is how you feel when you play the game.”

The Mario maker has a clear game-centric stance, but I feel the Japanese publisher is relying too much on its staples. The majority of Nintendo’s big E3 2013 titles are remakes or sequels of established franchises. Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Super Smash Bros. Wii U, and even the third-party Bayonetta 2 — all sequels or remakes.

With competitors releasing far more powerful consoles, which will have broader support from big-time publishers and indie developers, Nintendo needs more than its familiar comfort titles. It needs innovation in the form of exciting, new intellectual properties. A tuned-up, supercharged Mario Kart — even with gravity-defying hovercraft power — isn’t going to help Nintendo keep pace with Sony and Microsoft.

I agree with Fils-Aime. How I feel when I play the game is everything. But when I’m bored, that’s not a good thing.


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