The excitement is usually pretty high at Nintendo's E3 press conference. It's the first actual day of E3, and after this, the doors at the Los Angeles Convention Center will burst open and the entire gaming industry will swarm the show floor. Before any of that could happen, though, we needed to find out what Nintendo had to say. The publisher's pre-E3 video indicated that today's press conference would focus entirely on the Wii U, so hopes were high for a release date, price, and some technical details about the new console. Sadly, the press conference left a lot of questions unanswered, and raised even more.
The show opened with video of Shigeru Miyamoto in his dressing room, digital Pikmin running amok. As he pulled on his jacket and headed, presumably, to the stage, the Pikmin followed him excitedly. His actual entrance, as always, was met with huge applause. The camera cut to members of the audience, who now also had Pikmin perched on them. It was a fun, playful gesture that had the industry laughing, which I hoped would set the tone for the rest of the show.
Miyamoto quickly switched gears and spoke about the development of the Wii U. He said that Nintendo had started working on it right after the Wii launched, with the intent of giving gamers a console experience that wasn't dependant on the television. The idea still seems a little odd to me (isn't that what handhelds are for?), but from what we saw, the tablet-like Wii U GamePad will offer a unique control scheme whether you're playing alone or with friends. Whether that unique control scheme actually makes gameplay better remains to be seen.
Pikmin 3 was the first Wii U game shown, and the video of the real-time action management game was met with huge applause. Miyamoto discussed struggling to find the correct camera placement when they made the first Pikmin on the Gamecube ten years ago, because they wanted to show off the movement and details of the Pikmin while also highlighting the surrounding environment. With the Wii U's higher resolution, as well as the map provided by the GamePad, Nintendo can now do both. The reveal ended with a heartwarming moment of Miyamoto playing with a Pikmin plush, which the audience loved.
Miyamoto left the stage, and Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime made entered, stating that he felt "like a purple Pikmin." He talked a bit about how Wii U would change the way gamers interacted with each other, as well as with their television, and said that it would have Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and Amazon Video. Then he said that this press conference wasn't going to focus on hardware so there would be more time for games. That was worrisome-weren't we there to hear all about this new console? The promise of seeing 23 Wii U games on stage renewed my excitement, however.
Right after saying that the presser would be all about the games, Reggie proceeded to not talk about games. The Wii U GamePad supports what he called "asymmetric gameplay," with one player using the GamePad in a solitary role to support or compete against other players. The audience was happy to hear that the Wii U would support two GamePads, though Nintendo only focused on single GamePad challenges this morning.
Then we got another look at the Miiverse, which was first revealed in the Nintendo Direct announcement on Sunday. It looks like an enhanced version of the Wii's Mii Plaza, and was described as your Wii U's "Main Street". Miis strolled the Miiverse, while tiles, which Reggie said would represent gamers' personal tastes or currently trending entertainment, were scattered throughout. The Mii interaction made the Miiverse look a little deeper than the Mii Plaza, which is great, but it's hard not to be wary of anything Nintendo does with online gaming. Eventually, gamers will be able to join the Miiverse from their 3DS, PC, smartphones, or other web-enabled devices, so you can always be connected to your Miis-assuming you want to be.
Next up was the obligatory Wii U Mario game, New Super Mario Bros. U. NSMBU will utilize the Miiverse to connect with friends and see what they're saying, like a social window that opens as you're playing. The game itself looks awesome, and the audience was clapping and cheering before the trailer ended. Yes, it's more of the same, but if you love New Super Mario Bros. (which I do), it really looks like a lot of fun. I'm not sure how I feel about a fifth player using the GamePad to help or hinder the other four players during challenges; much like the "coopetition" employed by New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it will probably lead to lots of screamed obscenities and shattered friendships.