Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2013 will feature big, traditional pre-show press conferences from both Sony and Microsoft, focused on their upcoming PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, but Nintendo is stepping half out of the spotlight.
Yarn Yoshi: one of several anticipated Wii U games.
The company is instead opting for a lower-profile "Wii U Software Showcase" on Tuesday, 11 June, just as the E3 Expo is about to open its doors. With expectations thus lowered, the hope is that anything Nintendo unveils will be a case of under-promising and over-delivering.
Nintendo's problem is simple: the Wii U is suffering sluggish sales, and has failed to excite gamers. And with the PS4 and Xbox One on the horizon, the challenge is only set to ramp up.
Can Nintendo stage a comeback? Here's what we expect the folks at Nintendo to do at E3 — mixed in with some free advice on how the House of Mario can get its mojo back.
Wii U: the second big wave of games
Nintendo lined up an impressive list of third-party launch titles for the Wii U last year, but neglected to stock up on AAA-exclusive games. Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros U remain the only two significant Nintendo games on Wii U, nearly eight months later. (You could count Lego City Undercover, too.)
This year's show promises popular fan franchises like Super Smash Bros, a new Mario game or two, an entry to the Mario Kart series and a remastered version of the classic GameCube Zelda game Wind Waker, plus the trotting out of long-awaited but not-yet-released games like Pikmin 3. There might be more. Forget about third-party gaming; this is Nintendo's big chance to show that the Wii U's game library can be something worth investing in.
Wii U price drop: be wallet friendly(er)
The Wii U's already been on the occasional fire sale at certain retail stores, and with rumours of the 8GB Core Wii U going away, the time seems ripe for a discount and/or added value package for the Wii U, especially if there's no new hardware.
The Nintendo 3DS faced a similar challenge a couple of years ago, and managed to overcome it — in part, because of a price drop. So, there's hope. The Wii U has plenty of hurdles, and facing the XBox One and PlayStation 4 are just two of them. A price drop on the Wii U Premium package from AU$429 to AU$350 would be a start.
Nintendo 3DS: keep the good times rolling
Nintendo's once-maligned successor to the Nintendo DS has become a bit of a critical darling in the wake of an excellent run of first-party games: Luigi's Mansion, Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Animal Crossing have given the system relevancy, even if it isn't anywhere near as vital as the DS once was. The 3DS still feels like a niche product; it's up to Nintendo to push the system farther, and keep the flow of games coming strong. A price drop here would be helpful, too, but the 3DS has already seen several price cuts since its 2011 debut. A new version of the 3DS with improved battery life would help, but don't expect anything at E3.
Forget the "next-gen" arms race and TVii — just be Nintendo
Nintendo doesn't need new technology and games that take advantage of the Wii U GamePad — it just needs great games. And family-friendly games, at that. Nintendo's strength over its competitors is a truly kid-safe spirit. Competing technologically against what Microsoft and Sony can bring to the table is nearly impossible. Sound familiar? This is the same challenge that the Wii has faced over its entire life cycle. If Nintendo can try not to directly compete, and instead just be the best maker of classic Nintendo games it can be, there's a chance of carving a niche. The 3DS has gotten traction by revisiting great franchises. Expect the Wii U to copy that formula at E3. Hopefully.
Talk directly to the fans
In fact, Nintendo's press conference-free showing is a nod of acknowledgement to the strategy shift in the way the company spreads its news: numerous "Nintendo Direct" streaming broadcasts have taken the place of physical events. Some of Nintendo's key hardware, including the 3DS XL, were debuted at surprise moments: the XL was announced last year in late June, just weeks after E3, and it debuted in mid-August.
Nintendo has already promised to show some of its future software at certain Best Buy stores around the US, taking some of the mystique away from the show in Los Angeles, and putting it into the hands of gamers. There is no such news on a similar program in Australia, but we can hope.
Conclusion: keep expectations low
In the end, E3 might still bring a number of new game announcements, but these announcements now happen year-round. E3 is just another show to Nintendo. Just because things are quiet here doesn't mean that the company won't reveal something else down the road. But for next week, expect Mario to take a back seat to Sony and Microsoft ... by design, and by necessity.