Just days away, boys and girls…E3 is upon us once again. It’s that special time of year when airport food prices expand all across Los Angeles, hotel rates jump 33%, and hot dog carts can be found 2 blocks in each direction around the LA convention center. Yes, even in its terribly scaled back form E3 is stirring up the industry and its supporters. Nintendo has their conference on Tuesday, and as usual, knowing what to expect is like cracking into a fortune cookie. You’re expecting something cute, but there’s always a chance you’ll be highly entertained. Usually, however, you just kind of nod and say, “well, that’s sort of what I was expecting.” Either way, Nintendo is always the company to garner the most pre-show hype. Here is what I’m expecting to see:
Bringing Back the Classics – Nintendo’s greatest strength has always been its franchise characters. Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and others have been driving Nintendo profits for more than two decades now. Because of this, and because the fans demand it, we’re going to get more classic characters getting new games. We know Mario will be there with a sport game or two, Pokemon will have some sort of presence, but we should also be seeing Kid Icarus’ return, along with a balance board supported version of Punch-Out!!. Animal Crossing is going to be there, and I really hope it’s announced alongside a hard drive solution for the Wii (more on that later). Much like Capcom is doing with Mega Man 9, look for 3rd parties to jump in on the retro love with the Wii in some fashion.
Fixing Things That Need Fixin’ – It’s no secret that the Wii needs a better storage solution than its built-in memory. I’m hoping that along with their Animal Crossing unveiling that Nintendo will also announce that it will come bundled with a hard drive. I’m out of space on my Wii, and I’ve been swapping things on and off my SD card, and it’s a bit obnoxious. A hard drive would immediately fix these issues. Also, without a hard drive, Nintendo would be severely limited in what they could offer as DLC for Animal Crossing. I also hope that they’d make the hard drive available separately. In addition to the storage issues, Nintendo needs to bring voice chat to the Wii. I’m not real confident in it happening just yet, but there’s always a chance that Nintendo has paid attention to the complaints.
LOOK AT ME!!! – As always, Nintendo will parade around with their chest out and show how completely insane the sales have been for the Wii and DS. They’lll reiterate that they’ve become the media darlings, and continue to showcase products that illustrate just how they’re going to keep soccer moms buzzing about the Wii. Continued support of the balance board can be expected, and there’s an outside chance that some other crazy peripheral will make its debut.
Eye to the Future – Nintendo is hot now, but they have got to realize internally that the DS and Wii are getting old in a technological sense. While high power has never been the focus of either platform, there are cell phones pushing out visuals on par with the Wii (almost) and much better than the DS. I was doubtful a few months back, but now I’m beginning to think that Nintendo may start to hint at the successor for the DS or even another possible redesign (removed GBA slot, slimmer form factor, better battery life, etc.). Without showing too much, Nintendo will definitely attempt to instill faith in their fans that they are actively working on their future beyond the Wii and DS.
Nintendo always has 2-3 games that everybody wants to play in each conference, another 3-5 that are interesting on some level, and then a whole bunch of games that just seem to be for “someone else”. With the revival of Punch-Out!! and Kid Icarus, I’m pretty much happy with things already, but I really hope we can see some quality 3rd party efforts beyond Fatal Frame and Mega Man 9. Capcom has done very well on the Wii, so I can really see them tossing some love in the Wii’s direction.