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Making The Grade: How Nintendo Can Improve Its E3 Performance

by Mike Futter on Jun 06, 2015 at 08:00 AM

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We're in our final day of looking back at last year's E3 2014 Report Cards. Microsoft and Sony have both been under the microscope. Now, the house of Mario gets its time in the spotlight.

Last year, Nintendo completely abandoned in-person presentation in favor of a Nintendo Direct-style presentation. This move worked out in the company's favor, in part due to the assistance of Robot Chicken's signature claymation humor. 

The awkward not-a-press-conference of 2013 gave way to a well-paced, informative, and information-packed pre-recorded event. Here's what we had to say about Nintendo's E3 2014 presentation:

Give Nintendo credit; this Direct was its most entertaining, polished E3 presentation in recent memory. It was short and to-the-point (something last year’s E3 champ, Sony, should learn from) and it put the emphasis squarely on the company’s strength: its excellent first-party games. Big franchises like Zelda and Super Smash Bros. made waves, but Nintendo also revealed promising new properties like Yoshi’s Woolly World and Mario Maker. While Amiibo appears to be the rare case of Nintendo following the crowd instead of leading it, Skylanders and Disney Infinity have proven that collectible figurines are a lucrative market segment. Overall, Nintendo comes out of this E3 enjoying better PR than it’s had in a few years. 

However, it’s important to understand the difference between “winning” E3 and winning the console battle. Despite this strong showing, we saw few indicators that the Wii U is going to seriously challenge the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. As with Sony and Microsoft, many of the products Nintendo showed this year won’t release until 2015. Add in the fact that the third parties have almost totally abandoned Wii U, and you have a company that still faces some considerable challenges. That said, E3 2014 was a step in the right direction for Nintendo. 

Nintendo's final grade for its E3 2014 presentation?

This is better than the "Incomplete" Nintendo earned in 2013. Still, it's only average. Nintendo has a long road ahead between now and its next console, but there are things it can do to keep fans happy.

First-Party Exclusives

All hail the king.
If there is one thing that makes Nintendo look like Mario stomping Xbox and PlayStation-shaped Goombas, it's the first-party software lineup. The company isn't flawless in its execution, but its in-house titles are polished, colorful, and a heck of a lot of fun to play. For instance, Splatoon had everything going against it (no voice chat, only two maps in rotation at a time, slim mode offerings) and it still earned a loyal following overnight. E3 needs to be a showcase for holiday 2015, because right now we don't know nearly enough.

It's time for release dates for previously announced games.
We should be coming out of E3 with solid release dates for Mario Maker, Yoshi's Woolly World, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Star Fox. Nintendo is also brewing two Miyamoto-driven titles called Project Giant Robot and Project Guard. We suspect those are not final names.

Can we talk about Metroid, please?
Many publishers have untapped IPs sitting on the shelf. Capcom has Mega Man. Square Enix has Crono Trigger/Cross. Ubisoft has Beyond Good & Evil. Nintendo, you rely on first-party, and your fans have been crying out for a hero in power armor. Can Samus come out and play?

Fans need to know they didn't buy a New 3DS for nothing.
Xenoblade Chronicles is still the only game that requires a New 3DS. Only one other has been confirmed: The Binding of Isaac Rebirth. If you're going to make any moves on the hardware front (more on that later), it's time to start taking advantage of the increased power in the new handheld. 

Fire Emblem If looks great, and we'd love to find out more about a North American release.
Fire Emblem is going in a slightly different direction with two different versions of the next game, at least in Japan. This Pokémon-style approach plays into the story as the main character needs to choose sides in a war between two kingdoms. Thankfully, the other side of the conflict will be available as DLC, so you won't need two distinct copies. We're curious if the title will be handled the same way in North America when it comes out in 2016.

Extra Credit

Put those Amiibo figures to better use.
We don't know if it's going to be a MOBA (or Nintendo's take on that genre) as Reiner and Dan Tack posit, but a game that substantially increases the value of the figures would go far. Of course, there is that little problem of Amiibo scarcity, which we've also written about.

Keep pumping out quality DLC.
Nintendo was late to the DLC game, but it has handled the concept well for the most part. Mario Kart 8 DLC has been a huge hit with fans, and you likely won't hear arguments about adding characters to the Super Smash Bros. roster. Adding Splatoon to that plan ups the appeal.

E3 isn't the best venue to talk about non-game media.
We're still interested in seeing more of Miyamoto's animated films. Those are better left to other Nintendo Directs, though.

Animal Crossing on Wii U gives us a reason to turn the system on every day.
We know an NFC-enabled Animal Crossing game is coming to 3DS. If that connects to a Wii U game in the series, even better. The adorable franchise is a huge hit, and one that gets people to turn their systems on each and every day. For months after the release of A New Leaf, social media was abuzz with turnip talk every weekend. Giving people a reason to turn the Wii U on every day will likely have a splash effect on sales of other software.

More information about Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem, please.
Both the SMT and Fire Emblem franchises have huge followings that have been not-so-patiently waiting for solid information about the cross-over title. Nintendo promised we'd get more information in the future. Hopefully, that "future" means E3.

Pokémon isn't just for handheld fans.
It's been a long time since Pokémon made a solid outing on a living room console. The Wii U gamepad would make a perfect camera for a Pokémon Snap sequel, wouldn't it?

Speaking of Pokémon, the 3D remakes are solid (so let's see more).
It's been a long time since Pokémon Red and Blue. If Nintendo were to go back to the beginning with the features introduced in X and Y, nostalgia would likely drive big numbers (even for the Pokémon franchise).

The Year of Luigi is over, but that doesn't mean we don't want more.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon was an adorable, fun, and enthralling adventure. Luigi isn't a traditional hero, and his characterization as a terrified, unwilling ghostbuster made the game a hit. We'd love to see him return in that role.

Hardware and Services

It's time for a Wii U price drop.
Nintendo has held the line on the Wii U price, but it's time. The console is overpriced compared to competition, and component prices have likely come down. Going into the holiday, this could be a competitive advantage.

American fans are willing to buy a smaller New 3DS for the faceplates.
If Nintendo has cleared enough of the older models from the retail channel, we may see the smaller New 3DS arrive in North America. Fans seem ready to upgrade (even if it means a smaller screen) thanks to the customizable faceplates. 

We need to have a serious talk about Amiibo, Nintendo.
Nintendo has benefitted greatly from the increase in perceived value due to Amiibo scarcity. But you're walling off content behind figures that can't be purchased from anyone but eBay scalpers. This game isn't fun anymore, and it's time to stop role-playing OPEC. Open the faucet, reissue impossible to find figures, and let's all move on with our lives. Don't worry, you've created enough lasting fear that people will still snap them up immediately. If a solution isn't part of your presentation, go back to the drawing board now and figure it out.

Extra Credit 

The coins must flow. Give us an idea of what the Club Nintendo replacement looks like.
It's surprisingly heartbreaking to open up a Wii U or 3DS game and not find a Club Nintendo code. The service was great, even after Nintendo started transitioning to digital offers. We know DeNA is working on some kind of broader service for Nintendo. Even some basic details for the service that is supposed to be launching this year would be great. 

If there's a way to store more Streetpasses, please enable it.
We love bringing the 3DS to major gatherings, but we often miss out on dozens of Streetpasses because we reach the limit of 10 so quickly. Any increase to this would be lovely.

Solve the Game Boy Advance problem.
Nintendo released 10 Game Boy Advance games to early 3DS adopters as a make-right for dropping the price of the handheld so quickly. Those were never re-released because the emulation is imperfect. It's unclear if the problem can be solved, but if it's possible, the 3DS would just print more money as people snapped up digital versions of hard to find titles.

Third-party and Indies

We've all but written off AAA third-party on Wii U.
Publishers have largely fled the Wii U, with even stalwart backer Ubisoft cutting its losses. Sega is still supporting the console, but its recent efforts have been lackluster. Tomonobu Itagaki's Devil's Third is coming to Wii U, so we should hear more about that at E3. Any third-party support for the core audience is a win at this point.

Nintendo's indie developers need better promotion.
Microsoft and Sony both do a much better job of promoting independent developer-created games on its platforms. Nintendo needs to up its game before that community walks away. Highlighting some bigger indies that are focused on Wii U and 3DS (like Shovel Knight was) would be a smart use of time.

Send Atlus and Capcom flowers (or just include them in the presentation).
These two third-party publishers have done wonders for the 3DS. Atlus' Persona Q and other Etrian Odyssey games and crossovers, both Devil Survivor games, and Shin Megami Tensei IV have kept the handheld stocked with RPGs. Capcom's contributions include Ace Attorney and the increasingly popular in North America Monster Hunter series. Give these teams time during the E3 presentation to show off what's coming next, like the Monster Hunter spin-off titles (Monster Hunter X and the Monster Hunter RPG).

Extra Credit

Partnerships like Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Edition are wise.
When Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Edition was first announced, we didn't expect much from it. Imagine our surprise when it was revealed as a worthwhile (and meaty) application of the mobile progenitor's gameplay. More unlikely tie-ins are smart uses of Nintendo's popular characters.