E3 2009: IGN's Wii Trends and Predictions

Find out what gaming's biggest show has in store for Nintendo fans.

May 13, 2009 - Nintendo has remained calculatedly coy about its plans for the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009. The publisher's stateside executive staff has refused to make any promises about the anticipated show, even when queried repeatedly on the subject. We tried and failed about a half-dozen times to bait Nintendo of America's vice president of corporate affairs, Denise Kaigler, into teasing something for the event. She flatly refused. No doubt, the company's America executive branch is making a concentrated effort to avoid overhyping its E3 presence -- a tactic that has backfired for exhibitors in the past.

The same, however, cannot be said of Nintendo's global leadership, which has been uncharacteristically outspoken. Shortly after E3 2008, NCL president Satoru Iwata apologized to traditional players for Nintendo's lackluster showing, telling Forbes, "If there is any perception that Nintendo is ignoring the core gamers, it's a misunderstanding and we really want to get rid of that misunderstanding by any means." And earlier this year during an investment breakdown, Iwata said that it was "not impossible" for Wii to overtake PlayStation 2 in lifetime sales. "With what kind of software is Nintendo going to achieve this goal? Well, it will be shown at E3 to be held in the U.S. this June." That sounds like a tease to us. Careful, Mr. Iwata -- you might just build some hype.

For these reasons and more, including the fact that production head Shigeru Miyamoto admitted last year that the Zelda and Mario teams were reunited and officially confirmed Pikmin 3, we believe the publisher's E3 2009 showcase will be bigger and meatier than its American subsidiary is letting on. It is, after all, always better to over-deliver and not the other way around, especially when you've got a rabid, nearly-insatiable fanbase to appease. Don't deny it because you know it's true, dear readers.

Mr. Iwata's apology to core gamers stands as a public acknowledgement that he is aware E3 2008 was not all that it might've been for traditionalists. We therefore fully believe that the company will attempt to correct this oversight and appeal to the hardcore during this year's show, demonstrating with conviction its commitment to the demographic by way of the aforementioned franchise sequels. We also expect at least one major new 'core' game from Nintendo that makes use of Wii MotionPlus.

That said, Nintendo will obviously not ignore the fact that Wii, DS and now DSi are successfully expanding the audience. Wii Sports Resort, which ships shortly after E3 2009, seems certain to enjoy prominent placement at its media briefing. We would be surprised if Nintendo did not also unveil the next in its line of casual software, perhaps something along the lines of Nintendogs for Wii complete with MotionPlus controls. The functionality to play frisbee with your dog is already in place in Resort. On the same note, we expect the publisher to make a big deal about DSi and push the system's downloadable content in one form or another, possibly with some announced additions.

Third-parties are a little easier to predict. With Wii's installed base rocketing past 50 million worldwide, publishers continue to see dollar signs. Companies like Electronic Arts will show off robust lineups complete with AAA quality titles, like Dead Space: Extraction. Ubisoft will have Red Steel 2 and some other very notable software. The list goes on. There will also be a handful of big announcements from smaller, but dedicated development studios, many of which have really come to grips with Nintendo's system. That said, E3 will also house all the low quality mini-game-fests disguised as casual entertainment and subpar ports that Wii traditionalists have come to dread.

Turn the page for 5 predictions about Nintendo and its software line-up at this year's E3.

At E3 2008, Nintendo's legendary master designer and recognized international superhero Shigeru Miyamoto said that the Mario and Zelda teams had reunited and were actively working on their next projects. Vague, but enough for us to throw parties. He also admitted straight up that Pikmin 3 was in development. More parties on our side. Miyamoto later commented that he liked the foundation that the company's Tokyo studio laid down for Super Mario Galaxy, but wished the concepts were taken farther. With so much critical praise and equally strong sales, we think a sequel to Galaxy would be ideal, and timely. Meanwhile, we know from separate interviews with long-time Zelda director Eiji Aonuma that he is once more involved in the next major Wii title and it's bound to use MotionPlus in some capacity. We would not be shocked if Galaxy 2, Pikmin 3 and even a teaser for the next major Zelda debuted at the big conference this June.

Nintendo trumpeted the benefits of Wii to the casual crowd at last year's E3 -- maybe not the best move given that the attending audience consisted of slobbering hardcore fanboys. Soon afterward, global leader Satoru Iwata apologized for not showing more 'core' titles. We think the Big N will correct that glaring oversight at this year's exhibition. We already mentioned Mario, Pikmin and Zelda sequels, but expect to see more traditional software to complement the big guns. Games like Cosmic Walker, Takt of Magic, Dynamic Slash and Sin & Punishment 2, for starters. We fully anticipate that at least one if not more of these titles will showcase the gains of MotionPlus to the core in the same way that Wii Sports Resort does to the casual.

Okay -- a bit of an open-ended prediction, we admit. The point is, with slowing sales in Japan and the sluggish economic climate around the globe, it might finally prove time for Nintendo to offer Wii buyers a couple of incentives. A price drop is a possibility, especially since the cost chasm between competing high-definition consoles is no longer so wide. Yet, at least outside of Japan, Wii and DS continue to sell very well -- the two systems remain at the top of sales charts every month. There's still life in them. For that reason, the publisher may opt instead to do what it always does to increase demand: offer new colors or develop some kind of attractive bundle. Black and silver are the obvious choices for colors, but Nintendo showcased Wii in all sorts of primary hues, including red, green and blue, when the system was unveiled. As for a bundle, Nintendo has traditionally included hot new releases in console packages, but with the ridiculous shelf life of Wii Fit and the high price of the peripheral, we would not rule out a Balance Board bundle without an overall price hike. That'd be a great value.

The Texas powerhouse behind the Metroid Prime trilogy has publicly busied itself recently with Wii updates to the two GameCube titles in the series, now complete with remote support and new widescreen modes, among other things. By the way -- hey Nintendo, whenever you want to bring those games to America, feel free. But we know for certain that Retro Studios also has something else underway for Wii. Something big. And it could finally be time to show off that title at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009. Bear in mind, we haven't heard anything so there's always the possibility that we'll have to wait even longer. However, if Nintendo is planning to dazzle the core fanbase, it usually draws on Retro Studios to help do so. And we're convinced that the developer's next big thing will blow people away.

The Big N's Virtual Console Wii service has proven to be an easy cash cow for the company. Take catalog titles, untouched, and put them up for sale. Easy money. It's only a matter of time before Nintendo offers a similar feature for its connected DSi via the DSiWare service. Imagine that you connect to DSiWare and can click on 'Portable Generations' to download classics from various portables, including Neo-Geo Pocket, Atari Lynx, SEGA Game Gear, Wonder Swan, and the obvious Nintendo systems like Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. For a small fee, you could download and play through the Golden Sun series on Game Boy Advance, Capcom Vs SNK: Match of the Millennium for Neo-Geo Pocket or even the cult-favorite two-button real-time strategy game Warlocked on Game Boy Color. These, and all of the iterations of Nintendo's own big games that have persisted through the generations.

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