Nintendo at E3

I just watched the entire Nintendo E3 conference so you don’t have to.  Long story short, it wasn’t pretty.  Here’s my report of how it went down…

Wii Motion Plus – Nintendo biggest announcement is yet another Wii accessory that people will line up to buy just so they can play with it for a few hours until they get bored and never use it again. This time it’s in the form of an attachment to the Wiimote that will add the ability to determine the controller’s exact orientation in 3D space. While Nintendo is spinning this to be exciting new technology, it seems like it should have been part of the controller from the very beginning. It is very likely that because it comes at an extra cost there will never be wide spread acceptance by players or developers. Possibly the only game we will ever see that takes full advantage of it is Wii Resort, which will actually ship with one of the devices, but you’ll still need to purchase another one separately for two player action of course.

Wii Resort – Much like Wii:Sports this is a collection of several overly simplistic mini games. The first game they demoed was “Disk Dog” where you throw a disk (Frisbee) and then without the player doing anything else a dog runs and catches it. That’s seriously the whole game. The second game was a “Power Cruiser” (Jet Ski) race that failed to impress because there was only a single racer, waveless water, and nothing to interact with. So far it seems like both of those games could have worked fine without the motion plus attachment. Is throwing a Frisbee so different from throwing a bowling ball and controlling a jet ski so different from controlling a go-kart? Those things actually worked really well with the plain old Wiimote. The final game they showed was sword fighting, which could theoretically be awesome, but from what was shown it just looked way too similar to Wii Boxing. Here’s a shortened video of the demo. Pay careful attention to the sword vs pencil part and notice that what’s on the screen doesn’t always accurately reflect what the presenter is doing. This probably caused by a combination of factors like lag, low sample rate, and rushed implementation but it doesn’t show the tech in the best light.  It’s clear that the fate of Wii motion plus attachment relies on the success of Wii Resort and from what was shown I just don’t see either taking off.

Wii Music – This is the much anticipated game where you use the Wiimote to control a variety of musical instruments. The demo opened with a professional drummer (Ravi Drums was his name, I kid you not) sounding awful and reminiscent of “Hit Stix”. Then Miyamoto himself came out to play some saxophone and revealed the control mechanism for that instrument only involved alternating between 2 buttons! I like Nintendo’s approach of making this more of a musical toy then the typical rhythm/memorization based game, but what I hoped to see was more control, depth, and most importantly freedom given the controller’s motion sensitivity and amount of buttons available. What they showed was clearly passable only as a child’s toy and it was funny to watch the finale as top Nintendo execs pretended they were having a blast while butchering the Mario theme song.

Wii Speak – Finally Nintendo has announced a microphone that sits on top of the TV so everyone in the room can communicate. It’s about time because several online games have already been released that would have greatly benefited from this, specifically Mario Kart and Smash Bros. What most players found is that it’s not as fun playing with your friends when there’s no way to communicate. The omni-directional mic seems like a cool idea and fits Nintendo’s philosophy better then the headset approach of their competitors. However I see one snag in this technology: feedback seems like it would be a major problem. It will be interesting to see how they solve the feedback issue that can sometimes even effect headsets.

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