Nintendo E3 Impressions

Engage, Enrich and Enthuse. That was the overall theme and message that Nintendo delivered during its media conference. The 3Es at E3...ahhh, how clever Nintendo. Did they do a successful job delivering this message? I think so.

So what's on the horizon for Nintendo Wii and DS gamers?

Let's begin with the Wii.

The first upcoming title announced was Shaun White's Snowboarding. Nintendo revealed the game with Shaun himself demonstrating the game using the Wii balance board. While it's no surprise that the Wii balance board would be incorporated into a game of this type, I gotta say that this looks to be a very fun experience. All aspects of motion are utilized via the Wii balance board to affect how you board. Tilt forward to speed up, side to side to steer, etc. The graphics looked fairly good from what the demo showed. All in all, this seems to be promising game for the Wii that will likely have casual and even hardcore gamers carving snow with their balance boards. This is planned for an end of year launch.

The next game announced was Animal Crossing City Folk. This game incorporates a completely free and open world where there are no real objectives or goals to achieve. Literally, you can do whatever you feel like. Environments are artistically stylized in 3D and life and the world itself runs on a virtual 24h clock. This means that if you decide to sit around and do nothing, the world around you will continue to run and behave in a normal fashion. The really cool aspect of this game is the interactivity it provides. You can personalize your character and world to your unique style. You can also play with friends and interact with the world/environments they've created. To enrich the interactive experience even further, a new peripheral called WiiSpeak (a microphone attachment placed on top of the Wii sensor) will allow players to speak with other players when playing online or locally in the same room. My sense is that this is definitely a game for the casual gamer audience that Nintendo appeals to. Nothing wrong with that as this is Nintendo's focus. As they put it, they work towards breaking the "psychological barrier between gamers and non-gamers". This game has the right combination of gimmicky and innovative features to interest all levels of gamers. This game is set to launch at the end of 2008.

To wrap up the Wii segment, Nintendo quickly showcase 3 new upcoming games in the form of Star Wars The Clone Wars (sweet), Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party (can be used with Wii balance board) and Call of Duty World at War (in-game graphics look impressive from the video shown). All seem to be strong and solid titles that should make Wii gamers very excited.

The second half of the conference focused on the DS. But before I get to that, I wanted to spit off some interesting stats that Nintendo shared.

- Total worldwide sales of Wii is 10MM units and of DS is 20MM
- Combined total revenues generated from the sales of Wii and DS equals $5 billion
- This year, DS hardware sales are 12% ahead of last year - DS is still going strong
- This year, DS software sales are 29% ahead of last year
- Fast growing segment for DS hardware sales are females (48% of DS sales attributed to females this year)

These stats really speak to the fact that Nintendo has indeed broken the typical gamer mould and have been able to attract a wide ranging gaming audience.

Now to the DS.

Nintendo showcased a handful of upcoming games that look to be promising titles.
Guitar Hero on Tour Decades. This is the sequel to the current Guitar Hero on Tour game. While the overall game play remains the same, this game will allow gamers to share their music with each other between both versions of the game. This feature should provide more fun and replay value.

Spore Creatures. The much anticipated nextgen console and PC game makes its way onto the DS with a game that has players creating and customizing creatures with the use of the stylus. Game play is also unique to the DS using the stylus. Once again, interactivity is a key feature that will allow gamers to share creatures with friends and play together.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars. Did I hear this right??? A GTA title for DS? It's been years since the last GTA title for a Nintendo handheld (Gameboy Advance back in 2004). Not much was revealed about the game other than it would be set in current Liberty City and feature the same open world environment with a custom game engine and new characters. I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more about this game!

Pokemon Rangers Shadows of Alma. Surprise!!! Another Pokemon game for DS...need I say more? Yet another way to keep kids of all ages happy.

Finally, Nintendo touched on the fact that the DS is more than just a gaming system. It is being used for non-gaming applications as well. Some current and in testing uses include:

- Accessing flight information when at an airport
- Getting info on hotels, location of ATMs, etc when travelling
- In Seattle at Safeco Field, fans can use their DS to access box scores, watch highlights, participate in contests, order food and drinks and more
- Interactive cook book via the Cooking Navi game (currently only in Japan, but set for a North American release in Nov 2008)

Strong upcoming title launches and development for non-gaming use will continue to make the Nintendo DS an appealing and versatile gaming system that will likely translate to more and more DS sales in the future.

To wrap it all up, Nintendo finished with 2 more announcements. The introduction of the Wii MotionPlus peripheral and WiiMusic game.

The Wii MotionPlus is a small peripheral that attaches to the bottom of the Wii remote. Using the Wii MotionPlus enhances the motion sensitivity of the Wii remote. It renders any slight movements from your wrist and arm to provide a more realistic game play experience. The game that will launch with the Wii MotionPlus is Wii Resort. This is another set of mini-games that include frisbee fetch with a dog, sword duelling and water jet skiing. The demonstration of the frisbee game was cool as the different wrist/arm angles and movements with the Wii remote translated accurately and effectively into the game.

WiiMusic is - you guessed it - a music based game that uses the Wii remote and Wii balance board to allow you to play 50 different instruments. Some of the ones demonstrated were drums, saxophone, guitar and piano. The co-op option allows 4 gamers to play together and collaboratively create a music video of their performance. Seems like an interesting game, but in all honesty could get boring pretty quickly.

My final impression is that Nintendo did deliver on their message of Engage, Enrich and Enthuse. None of the announcements were mind-blowing or shocking, but that wasn't necessary. The upcoming titles and advancements in store for both the Wii and DS clearly demonstrate Nintendo's ongoing focus to create a balanced gaming experience that appeals to people from all walks of life. This fact is strongly supported with their impressive stats on worldwide units sold for both Wii and DS. And at the end of the day, who can argue with that.