Few Surprises From Nintendo at E3

By  |  Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Super MarioNintendo didn’t look like a trendsetter at its E3 press event today. Instead, we got an earful of cockiness.

The Wii and the Nintendo DS have the broad appeal that Sony and Microsoft can’t capture, and Nintendo knows it. Today, the theme was “everyone,” with the slogan “everyone’s game” repeated several times throughout the presentation.

But with all the innovation out of the way, appealing to everyone just isn’t that exciting. Most of the topics discussed were already known about, and even the breaking news wasn’t surprising.

There was a feeling before the show that Nintendo would unveil new Zelda and Mario games, but only the latter came to fruition. Mario will star in two Wii games this year and beyond: New Super Mario Bros., due this holiday, is a classic two-dimensional platformer with four players at a time (this is not revolutionary, despite Nintendo’s insistence) and Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a straightforward sequel to the 2007 hit.

Nintendo’s confidence continued with the announcement of Wii Fit Plus, a sequel to the Balance Board game that has dominated sales charts since its US release last spring. The expanded collection of exercise games is sure to keep those sales alive when it arrives this fall.

I hoped to see some clever use of the Wii MotionPlus — an accuracy-boosting Wii Remote extension due this month — but instead Nintendo merely demonstrated Wii Sports Resort, a collection of minigames that’s been known about since last year. Nintendo didn’t discuss any MotionPlus games from other publishers besides those we already know about, including Red Steel 2 and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10.

And then there’s the Nintendo DS. I won’t dwell on the facile attempts to draw in female audiences with games like Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion and Style Savvy, but the audience was chuckling.

It wasn’t all bad. The announcement of Metroid Other M — a return to third-person shooting for the classic franchise — tickled this long-time fan’s heart. And at the end of the show, I spent a few minutes fencing in Wii Sports resort, and I had fun as expected. But the lack of any bombshells at Nintendo’s press event was a letdown.

I imagine that all the talk of broad appeal is exciting to analysts and investors, but for a journalist that came to see some cool stuff, well, it was just dull.

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