Nintendo Bombs At E3

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For a company that’s led a lot of video game innovation (and fun!) this decade, Nintendo’s showing at the E3 expo this year was a snooze fest. And it was the second boring E3 for Nintendo in a row. Dawdle founder and SAI contributor Sachin Agarwal explains.

Yesterday’s E3 briefing by Nintendo was the most disappointing performance by far from the three console makers. Nintendo didn’t have a focus, and that should be cause for concern for Nintendo investors.

The major new peripheral announced at the press conference was a fingertip heartbeat sensor called the Wii Vitality Sensor that connects to the Wii Remote; Nintendo offered no concrete demonstrations of how it would work, leaving it up to developers’ imaginations. Coming on the heels of Wii Fit, you could be forgiven for thinking that Nintendo was repositioning itself as a competitor to 24 Hour Fitness. 

The games are pretty boring, too. The “new” Mario game for this year is all but a port of the New Super Mario Bros. released for the Nintendo DS in 2006.  The new Zelda game?  Semi-announced at a developer event after the keynote.  Super Mario Galaxy 2 is next year; what’s noteworthy is that Nintendo has only had one successful Mario game per platform since the breakthrough success of Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES — follow ups like Mario Sunshine have been relative flops. The other major franchise, Metroid, was announced, but Metroid is a game that has always had more success in Western markets than the Japanese market. Again, the choice of Team Ninja to develop it is nice, and should make for an excellent game, but it’s no game-changer.

Wii Motion Plus is also shaping up to be a large disappointment. Nintendo hasn’t yet announced another major title that requires the peripheral, potentially leaving it stillborn before it ever launches. In addition, the Wii Sports Resort demos at Nintendo’s booth did not have the longest line; that honour went to the hands-on Demo of the upcoming DS Zelda game, Spirit Tracks. The people playing with Wii Sports Resort had a palpable sense of frustration when they attempted to throw the virtual frisbees at targets; rather than play with the 1:1 controls, it seemed like most people would rather play with the actual plastic frisbees being given out as swag.  Ubisoft’s Red Steel 2, a sword and gun fighting game, was announced as a Motion Plus exclusive, but nothing additional from Nintendo.

The DS/DSi was also given short shrift, with some new titles, but no real emphasis on new gameplay types that utilise the touchscreen or the dual cameras of the DSi.  The DS is Nintendo’s most successful platform — ever — but Nintendo seems content to let it ride.

This is two E3 conferences in a row where Nintendo has dramatically underwhelmed; it’s now time to question whether Nintendo has run out of ideas for this generation.  I’m a Nintendo fanboy — I’ve owned every Nintendo system other than the Virtual Boy and Game Boy colour (I’ve owned an Advance, Advance SP, and a Game Boy micro).  Every single major innovation in console gaming — direction pads, analogue sticks, rumble controllers, motion controls — has come from Nintendo.  (No, new disc media and online play don’t count — they’re PC innovations that came over to consoles after the fact.)  Nintendo is the company we turn to for major innovations in the video gaming space, but all they have give us are rehashes and remakes for years now.

Nintendo had an absolutely inspired run with the DS, the Wii, and the Wii Balance Board, but it looks like it’s over for now.  It’s time to sit on the sidelines until they get their act back together again.

Sachin Agarwal is the President and CEO of, an online marketplace for gamers to buy and sell new and used video games, systems, and accessories with other gamers online. Sachin is covering E3 Expo 2009 for The Business Insider.