At the start of this week, Nintendo had a slight uptick of good luck when the Wii U’s sales figures shot upwards in response to the release of Mario Kart 8. Having said that, an uptick from a crawling start means the console can still be considered limping along, and the company’s E3 Digital Media Event (what happened to presentations?) had to inspire fans and new players alike in order to rescue it. So what happened, and what can we expect in the future? Let’s take a look.
Nintendo’s presentation was almost entirely about games – only a good thing since the Wii U has such a shortage – and mainly kept to its existing franchises. That said, the breakout hit of the show was Splatoon, a multiplayer shooter set in a cartoony world and based around controlling territory by spraying it with paint. A bit like a reverse Super Mario Sunshine, although you play as a squid. It was weird, but seemed to be fairly well-received and at least it’s one more string to Nintendo’s bow, which has been using the same five or six strings for about twenty years.
The company has to innovate if they are to survive. They’ve never been well-served by third parties, but now that’s even more important than ever. What might have been useful, but which we didn’t see, was more encouragement for independent development, a segment showing the new indie games being made for Wii U or some information on how they can revitalise their digital content.
Another major event of the presentation included the revelation that the next Zelda title will adopt a similar graphical style to Skyward Sword and take place in a more open-world environment than before.
This could have interesting consequences for the series if it’s done right. While the previous games have all had some element of free roaming, they’ve always relied on a linear story progression and adjusted their difficulty accordingly. This might not result in dungeons being made any more easy to accommodate new players but it could mean players can tackle the hardest areas first, then storm the easier areas without difficulty. Designing a non-linear story which works well might be difficult though.
This dedication to redesigning their existing properties to better serve an explorative spirit seems to be a key part of Nintendo’s strategy, also present in the new Mario Maker. It’s a sign, possibly, that they recognise the appeal the games have for fans while also taking on board the criticisms of being samey.