Oh, Nintendo. The good Nintendo giveth, and the good Nintendo, it taketh away. That's how I felt during this year's Nintendo press conference. The conference got off to an amazing start with a small orchestra playing Zelda tunes followed by quick looks at Skyward Sword, Ocarina 3D, two new Zelda CDs, free Four Swords DSi, classic consoles appearing on 3DS Virtual Console, and 3DS demos later this year. Then, they showed Super Mario 3DS which looks as fantastic as you'd expect. Plus, it's allegedly coming this holiday (I say "allegedly" because I have a hard time believing that Nintendo will allow Super Mario 3DS to compete with Mario Kart 3DS).
Anyway, I was loving this conference until they showed the WiiU. At that point, everything went downhill. Aside from the stupid name, I think Nintendo is making a huge mistake by trying to appeal to both the hardcore and casual at the same time. The enormous controller looks ridiculous, and its key feature, the touchscreen, doesn't even have capacitive multitouch. So, instead of being like an iPad mixed with a classic controller, it's just a giant DS. I'm not sure what to think about the whole streaming of the game from the console to the screen so you can free up the TV to watch TV. As a single person, that feature isn't remotely relevant to me since my home is my castle, but maybe that's something those of you with families will appreciate. Concerning new gameplay possibilities enabled by the extra screen, camera, motion sensor, etc., I'm kind of at the point where I don't care. These are all gimmicks. I just want to pick up a controller and play a game. That is all I want to do.
I think Nintendo will have a harder time selling this than the original Wii because it's just too many features. With the first Wii, it was simple: motion control, a whole new way to play games. Now, they're showing off all these different demos that are cool from a pure "neato! look at that" standpoint, but I'm not sure that's going to play to the casuals, especially considering how well Kinect is doing. Anyone can understand how Kinect works immediately after seeing it in action. I don't sure that's the case with WiiU. Nintendo made a big deal when the original Wii came out by saying that video game controllers had become too complicated and that the Wiimote would be less intimidating. Five years later, here's Nintendo showing the most complicated video game controller since the Jaguar.
And now we come to software. In short, they got nothing. A tech demo of what a Zelda game might conceivably look like on the system is not a game announcement (those who are still bitter about the 'ol Wind Waker switcheroo would do well to remember this). Saying that Sora will develop a Smash Bros. game after it finishes Kid Icarus is an announcement of game that probably won't be out for at least two years, well after the console's launch. Showing a bunch of PS3/360/PC games from third parties is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Nice try, Nintendo. I hope they don't launch this before Fall 2012 since clearly software development for this system is in its infancy.
Lastly, there's what I'm going to call the "Dreamcast Effect." By releasing a new system one to two years prior to its competitors that isn't much more powerful than its competitors' current systems, Nintendo is putting itself at the significant risk of having a system with a very short lifespan. Nintendo's best hope here is that the Xbox 720 and PS4 will be so prohibitively expensive that their adoption rates will be slow enough to allow Nintendo to squeeze another year or two out of the WiiU.
Based on what I saw today, I am not excited for the WiiU. That said, of course I will buy it because I am fan of Nintendo's games, and this is something I will have to buy in order to continue playing them.
While that makes for a logical conclusion to my Nintendo thoughts, I want to add a few more thoughts based on Nintendo info that's come out since the end of the conference:
-Excited to see that Rhythm Heaven Wii is confirmed for the U.S. and that both Kirby Wii (4p!), and Kirby Mass Attack (DS) are coming later this year, the latter of which looks like a mixture of Kirby and Pikmin.
-Surprised to see that Nintendo is bringing the latest in Enix's long running Itadaki Street series to the U.S. Wii as Fortune Street, especially in light of their also announcing Mario Party 9 (Wii) -- I always figured the MP series was the more Western-accessible version of the Itadaki Street series
-Curious to know what Reggie will say later this week about the online functionality of the WiiU. He's promising an "open platform" that will offer a comparable experience to his competitors. I think the whole internet is highly skeptical of those remarks, so we'll see what happens.
-Not surprised that Xenoblade and Last Story are completely absent. Nintendo of America hates you, JRPG lovers.