Nintendo's E3 2014 'digital event' is a breath of fresh, fun air

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Source: Nintendo

Yesterday I talked about the "press conference battle" at E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) between Microsoft and Sony. Today I want to talk about Nintendo.

Nintendo has been really struggling to find an audience for its Wii U console, though just recently the release of Mario Kart 8 resulted in a healthy up-tick in sales. No surprise there, right? A great game can sell a console.

For the second row in a year Nintendo skipped doing a traditional press conference and opted for airing a pre-recorded "digital event." And you know, I think they're on to something. Watching the event felt pretty fresh after sitting through four 'live' press conferences on Monday. They interspersed game news with some pretty entertaining claymation 'intro scenes' and in general weren't afraid to laugh at themselves a little. In fact if you can spare 45 minutes I suggest you stop reading and just watch it yourself:

So what'd we learn? Well Bayonetta 2 is finally arriving this holiday season, as is a new Super Smash Brothers title. New reveals queued up for 2014 launches included Hyrule Warriors (which looks like a Dynasty Warriors game using Zelda characters) and a puzzler called Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

I don't think any of these will be huge system sellers but it means that the Wii U has more exclusives than the Xbox One or the PS4 this holiday. (While technically true, that's meant as a joke. Don't freak out on me. I realize there are a ton of titles coming out on both PS4 and Xbox One but not on Wii U.)

The other big announcement for this holiday is the introduction of Amiibos. These are toy figurines similar to Skylanders or Disney Infinity characters. They work with the Wii U tablet controller's NFC abilities and can be used in Super Smash Brothers at launch; support will be added to Mario Kart 8 as well as other titles at a later date.

They look good and I suspect at least some of them would be popular with Nintendo fans even if they didn't do anything. Have a look:

Even more exciting was the tease of titles to come in 2015 and beyond. There's an open world Zelda game that looked amazing from the very short trailer we saw. There's a new 'yarn-motif' game starring Yoshi (Yoshi's Woolly World). There's a colorful online multiplayer 'shooter' called Splatoon where you fight with ink rather than bullets. We're getting a new Kirby game (Kirby and the Rainbow Curse), a new Xenoblade Chronicles title and Mario Maker which lets you create your own Super Mario Brothers courses (I learned that Super Mario Brothers has courses, not levels).

Not shown in the event itself for some reason was a new Star Fox title that Shigeru Miyamoto is working on. Apparently it's very early in development, so I wouldn't expect it before 2016 which may be why they kept it out of the presentation.

After all the death, violence and entrails we sat through during the Sony and Microsoft press conferences, the Nintendo event was like a breath of fresh air. Every game they showed just looked like happy family fun, with the exception of Bayonetta 2 which felt like a 'left-over' from the Wii U launch window.

I think the Wii U will continue to struggle through 2014, but if all these games hit their 2015 launch dates the console could finally start getting real traction next year. For the first time in ages I'm happy to be a Wii U owner.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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