Talking Point: What We Expect From Nintendo at E3 2014
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Hype train incoming
The Nintendo Digital Event is just hours away, which means forged MK8 DLC images and many more besides that we've ignored will be consigned to another year of irrelevance. Nintendo will lay out its major projects for the remainder of 2014 and, we suspect, one or two of the biggest titles of 2015. With its current gen rivals in a tricky spot of having to show a lot of projects destined for next year, Nintendo's biggest opportunity may be to focus on 2014 games.
What the big N does perhaps have up its sleeve to distinguish itself is variety. The main trump card of 3DS and, increasingly, Wii U, is that it offers a range of titles and genres not prioritised on other systems. That can be deemed as a weakness for some, yet both systems are increasingly targeting families and young gamers with a select range of software for dedicated fans. It's a tricky balancing act for Nintendo, yet after a relatively slow release schedule on Wii U in its early life — arguably — it's perhaps in a position to unveil a host of titles that have been in development for a solid amount of time.
We shall see soon, but below are some of our expectations based not on our hopes and dreams, but what we feel are likely announcements. Some are definite, while others have a degree of logical conjecture behind them.
Release Date Bonanza
There are a number of titles with loose windows and, in many cases, lengthy development periods behind them. We should see a release date for Super Smash Bros. on 3DS as it's due in the Summer, while the Wii U version is clearly progressing well due to its consistent appearances on Miiverse and the fact it will have its own Invitational Event during E3. In terms of mechanics and physics, we would certainly expect that Masahiro Sakurai must be happy with progress for it to have such excessive exposure; as a result, a release date must be on the cards.
On top of that we have other Wii U games that either have release dates or 'Summer' windows in Japan, making localisation a priority. Two specific titles in this bracket are Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2, both of which are due in the relatively near future in Nintendo's homeland.
On the 3DS front it's all about Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, which may have its November window pinned down.
Nintendo Figurine Platform (NFP)
We expect this to take up a meaty portion of Nintendo's Digital Event, especially with the Wii U products targeting the all-important Holiday season. The concept seems solid — one set of core figurines that, using the GamePad, can be utilised across a suite of different software products. It wouldn't surprise us if a range of games are offered and that these will have been Shigeru Miyamoto's focus, as it was explained to investors in January that Miyamoto-san and his core team were tasked with emphasizing the GamePad's qualities. If the unconfirmed "Mario Maker" is indeed real, we'd anticipate that as part of the NFP platform.
This could be a huge market for Nintendo, if bundled sensibly and positioned as a creative, fun and less expensive alternative to Disney Infinity and Skylanders, not to mention the fact it can leverage those famous IPs. It's already been let slip that it may play a role in Super Smash Bros., too, though we would expect its impact on the fan-favourite to be minimal and limited to aesthetics — new skins for characters, as one example, or the ability to store custom move-sets (a neat new feature for the series) on the figurines in order to scan in and use that character on another copy of the game.
The Legend of Zelda for Wii U Initial Reveal
This will be a short entry, as no-one truly knows what the new Legend of Zelda title will bring. Will it reflect the style of that E3 2011 tech-demo? Will it follow the art-style of Skyward Sword. Will Eiji Aonuma's desire for innovation bring the series into an environment that "no one has ever imagined before"?
Who knows, but it's likely to be shown in some form, with rumours of a short playable demo on the show floor.
A Major Surprise or Two
If you may recall, last year The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was first shown at E3 for 3DS and arrived just 5-6 months later. For the 3DS, in particular, we'd expect a big-name title or two to come out of the blue as late 2014 releases; Nintendo's kept itself quiet on the handheld's lineup, so expect some exciting news for games that'll join Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire. Some ideas in our office include a Mario Sports game (potentially a Strikers title, follow up to Mario Hoops 3 on 3 or another 'Mix' game). Another potential fan-favourite as a big hit could be good old Metroid Dread, or any 2D title in the franchise.
Moving onto Wii U, we're certainly curious to see what Next Level Games is doing, as it's stated it's focused on Nintendo games and has been all-quiet since the terrific Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. We'd be surprised if Nintendo didn't give one of its most acclaimed partners a Wii U project, and recent trademarks for "Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. Strike Team Eliminating the Alien Menace" certainly have us intrigued. Is it too soon for Retro Studios to show its next project, meanwhile? That depends whether another project was being developed alongside Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
In terms of franchises that could do with a Wii U boost, there are too many, and fan-favourites that frankly have relatively slim odds. That said, the fact that Animal Crossing: New Leaf director Ms. Kyogoku and producer Mr. Eguchi recently appeared on Nintendo Minute makes sense; combined with the Animal Crossing Plaza on Wii U, a home console entry on the series to cash-in on its ongoing popularity seems like a solid bet. We'll throw Metroid in there for Wii U as a sane prediction too, as it's been a good gap since that last entry in the franchise — see Retro Studios above.
Minecraft is inevitable, surely?
Making the old new again on Virtual Console, and with a controller to match
We expect to see more of DS on Wii U Virtual Console, perhaps even an 'out now' announcement as the service has already had a soft launch in Japan. Due to the announcement of the GameCube Controller Adapter, no doubt with a Smash Bros. focus, it opens the door again for GameCube titles on the retro platform. Everything is in position, assuming there are no crippling hardware / emulation issues, and we'd anticipate a Wii U-only wireless GameCube Pro Controller to arrive alongside the adapter. If GameCube is coming to Wii U, now is the time.
Another area we feel Nintendo could win fans is by applying incentives to cross-platform Virtual Console purchases, which applies to NES titles — potentially more in future — across 3DS and Wii U. Satoru Iwata has spoken about the company exploring new pricing models to reward loyal gamers, so to have the option — thanks to Nintendo Network ID unity — to own both versions across systems would be welcome, at long last. We can only hope.
Showing off the eShop
Nintendo has already released a huge number of trailers for new download-only games on the way to Wii U and 3DS. We expect a sizzle reel along those lines, but the recent release of Pushmo World is a continuation of Nintendo producing first-party content for its store. We'd hope for fresh projects on both Wii U and 3DS from Nintendo, fun little experiences that existing fans will no doubt embrace.
There are plenty of major franchises that have disappeared from the retail scene, too — yes, Star Fox, F-Zero, Wave Race et al. If Nintendo unveils an underutilised franchise or two as eShop-only exclusives, we wouldn't be surprised.
So those are some of our ideas of what's to come. Some are almost certainties, others can be argued as reasonably logical guesses. What do you think will be shown? Let us know.
FYI — We will be live streaming and live blogging all of Nintendo's E3 goodness today right here on Nintendo Life.