Following a super-successful new videogame console with another super-successful videogame console is no easy thing — just look at the journey from the PS2 to the PS3. Having put off the inevitable need for high definition graphics with a host of other innovations (Balance Board and MotionPlus to name a couple) Nintendo is finally asking families to upgrade from its Wii to new HD Wii U hardware.
At E3 this year the challenge was for Nintendo to offer enough novelty, new functionality and games to make intelligent use of the new tablet Wii U controller and warrant the extra expense. After all, it could have offered the Wii U controller as another upgrade for the Wii, in a similar way to Microsoft’s Kinect upgrade.
This comparison in the minds of consumers means that price will be key here, and I was slightly surprised that this was not addressed at E3. Also it was left unclear how powerful the Wii U is in terms of visuals. While its HD credentials were underlined, many games looked only on a par with their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 counterparts.
Beyond these niggles though, Nintendo wisely focused on game-play and new interactions in the press conference. This included the Wii-Sports like NintendoParty that offers a series of 12 first party themed games to show off the Wii U controller. Nintendo also unveiled Super Mario Bros U, a new 2D Mario game on the new console as well as more information about New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS. Then there was the new Wii-Fit U offering that will make use of the controller’s extra screen in conjunction with the Balance Board, as well as introducing an exercise tracking pedometer. There were also more details of what seemed to be a Wii U/3DS exclusive new open world Lego game Lego City Undercover that looks very mouth-watering.
As I say in my E3 Nintendo roundup video, it’s the more hard-core games that feel slightly at odds here. While there have been plenty of great core games on the Wii (Conduit, Madworld and No More Heroes to name a few) they haven’t been front and center like Zombie U, Batman Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed III were at this year’s Nintendo presentation.
Nintendo will need to carefully balance this renewed courtship of core gamers with the trust and loyalty of families. It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out as we approach the big holiday season.
The Wii U is expected to be released later this year. Amazon Wii U pre-orders have not yet started.