In this analyst roundtable (following our look at Microsoft and Sony at E3), we examine what is arguably the most important of the three E3 press conferences: Nintendo. The house that Mario built is no doubt going to do its best to steal the show. Everyone is eager to see what Wii U will really be like.
Nintendo is facing intense scrutiny and has numerous questions to answer, and even with E3 the company may choose to deliberately not answer them all. Will Mario and Zelda both grace Wii U's launch? How much will Wii U cost? Can Nintendo strike a balance to retain its casual Wii audience while also attracting the core Xbox/PlayStation demographic?
It's going to be a very interesting E3 for Nintendo. Here's what the analysts had to say:
Jesse Divnich, EEDAR
Nintendo has the most to lose or gain this E3. Their backs are against the wall as their hardware numbers have fallen below expectations in recent quarters--but it is a position they've been in before and I'd argue some of their best decisions came while under pressure.
"Nintendo needs to demonstrate how Wii U will change gaming in a way that other systems cannot"
Nintendo is likely to put a big focus on all the third-party partnerships they have obtained for their Wii U line-up. My only concern with Nintendo at E3 is that they might cater too much to the core audience by announcing/showcasing a plethora of HD ports that are already in development for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. I think going head-to-head with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 is a bad proposition. Nintendo has succeeded on their ability to go against the grain and create demand where there wasn't any before.
And yes, I am more than positive that any HD Wii U port will each have Wii U specific features, but I don't foresee any of them being able to sway gamers who are already entrenched in these franchises on other consoles (Darksiders, Ghost Recon, Assassin's Creed, etc).
I am sure Nintendo will give us the usual Nintendo IP love with numerous Mario and Zelda trailers, which the fans will eat up. Personally, I would prefer that Nintendo focus on why the Wii U can offer a superior differentiating entertainment experience.
If Nintendo really wants to impress the E3 crowd, they will focus more on content that is exclusive to them. We all own an HD console and most see little reason to own another one, so it will be Nintendo's goal to persuade us that the Wii U is not "just another" HD platform.
Billy Pidegon, M2 Research
The stakes are very high for Nintendo this year. Nintendo's heavily promoted E3 2012 press conference will focus mainly on Wii U, the only known new hardware at the show. Millions of consumers will be watching. Fans and haters both will be entertained. But gaming enthusiasts and mainstream gamers are going to be a tough crowd for Nintendo.
I think the Wii U launch window library will have more quality titles than any previous console, but expectations are higher now than ever before. No Wii U launch line-up will satisfy everyone, unless it includes Mario, Zelda, Super Smash Bros, Metroid... you get the idea. There will be third party titles, but these must be more than just updates to games already released on other platforms. I'll be looking for hardcore third party titles in addition to the popular categories that do well on Nintendo platforms, such as dancing and party games.
Nintendo needs to demonstrate how Wii U will change gaming in a way that other systems cannot. Last year we saw impressive gameplay integration with the tablet controller. The tablet controller's NFC features will support interactions with other objects including toys (a la Skylanders). That's a start, but not enough to sell a new system. Similar features have been or will be replicated in iOS, Android and Windows 8 ecosystems.
Surprises could include more changes or details to hardware specs to counter criticism that Wii U is no more powerful than PS3 or Xbox 360. Also, supporting only one tablet controller per console limits the local multiplayer scenario, so Nintendo may announce that two or more can be used with a single Wii U. Nintendo says price and date won't be revealed, but timing and value are crucial details in a console launch.
"The limited information announcement of the Wii U at E3 2011 was a major tactical error on Nintendo's part"
Online features for Wii and 3DS have improved somewhat, but still lag far behind the competition. I'd like to see Nintendo roll out completely upgraded online network services at E3 2012, not only for Wii U but also for 3DS and Wii. Microsoft and Sony are constantly improving their game-centric networks to improve multiplayer gaming, gamer interactions, digital distribution and online marketing. Nintendo must not only match or surpass Microsoft and Sony here, but all three vendors must compete with online marketplaces and multiplayer services for PC and mobile devices.
For 3DS specifically, I'd like to see more quality software showcased at E3 to help move hardware units faster. And if Nintendo plans to cultivate a core gamer audience for 3DS, they need to offer gamers better multiplayer interaction so they will be motivated not only to buy 3DS but also to bring it with them when they go out. StreetPass and SpotPass were a good start, but Nintendo can and should do better.
Nintendo also needs to boost software sales for Wii. Sales have been sluggish and could get slower with an impending Wii U release. I'd be surprised if Nintendo did not reveal value bundles. Price cuts for Wii, DS and 3DS would move units faster and would be great for retail, but these are less likely, particularly for DS, given the recent cuts.
David Cole, DFC Intelligence
The limited information announcement of the Wii U at E3 2011 was a major tactical error on Nintendo's part. DFC estimates that it probably caused Wii sales to be 25% below what they would have been if Nintendo had focused just on their current platform. Much of that business went to Microsoft and Sony. We hope that Sony and Microsoft have learned about the damage that can be caused by such an early announcement.
So at E3 2012, the Nintendo Wii U will probably be the big story and we hope Nintendo answers as many questions as possible. This would include of course price, launch date, software, but also a lot of questions around the tablet control device. Can two or more tablets work with a single Wii U? If so, how do they plan to utilize that feature given that many users will only have one tablet? We have been hearing many good things about the Wii U recently but right now they are just rumors. There will of course be some 3DS software that we will be looking at, but with Nintendo the Wii U is their future and E3 needs to be a true coming out party.
Lewis Ward, IDC Research Manager
For Nintendo, besides a lot more detail on the initial Wii U bundle, I suspect a piece of the surprise will involve how connected the 3DS and Wii U will be. I think a reveal along these lines is that the 3DS will be usable as a second Wii U controller via the $20-30 Circle Pad Pro. That should draw a few oohs and ahhs. I also think video calls over WiFi will be enabled across 3DS's and the Wii U controller (and thrown up on living room big screens).
"The system looks to position itself to remain competitive with not only current, but next-gen offerings from rivals Sony and Microsoft"
One concern I have about Nintendo is how powerful the Wii U's CPU/GPUs will be. I think it'll beat out Xbox 360 and PS3 from a processing and rendering perspective but it may not be by a lot. Now, the company's customer base may not be as swayed by these sort of issues as much as the hardcore crowd but computational power will impact system reviews and so forth.
The larger issue is that once the next-gen Xbox and PlayStation arrive in the next two years, if those platforms are a big leap forward in terms of processing/rendering, then the Wii U may find itself back in the same position as the Wii in recent years. But it's good for the industry if Nintendo has a strong E3 - so let's give them their honeymoon period if they deliver a couple big twists.
Scott Steinberg, TechSavvy Global
E3 2012 is ultimately Nintendo's to win or lose - the success of the Wii U will be paramount to reassuring investors and consumers, and securing the company's future place in the retail console market. Our team expects a wealth of announcements in terms of new software products, third-party developer support, digital offerings, and hardware feature announcements designed to clearly illustrate the system's core value proposition, and promote the idea that it's not simply a passing fancy targeted solely at casual admirers.
A broad launch lineup of third-party software should be forthcoming to complement Nintendo's usual first-party hits, supplemented by later launches by several major publishing houses. Also expected at the event are much more tangible and direct examples of potential real-world uses for the hardware, and/or ways in which it may interact with other systems, such as the Nintendo 3DS. Key series such as Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda and Mario Kart should also be present in myriad form and fashion, and of course a large push will surround upcoming feature and software launches for 3DS handheld.
More details on digital and multimedia capabilities for the Wii U should also be revealed, as the system looks to position itself to remain competitive with not only current, but next-gen offerings from rivals Sony and Microsoft.