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E3: Nintendo's New Direction

Opinion: What happened to the gamers' games?

There's a strange atmosphere in the office today. A bit like when England lost its Euro 2008 qualifying match. Except this time, it's not our predictably-terrible national side causing our deflation, but Nintendo.

This much is clear: For some reason, we expected Nintendo's E3 press conference to be all about the games. With the hardware established, rumours of classic IP returning, and Reggie stating that "There's gonna be a big game for the holiday that gamers will want," it seemed like this years' Christmas line-up would be great.

Instead we got a casual title, a DS version of a much bigger game we've already played on 360 and PS3, a sequel to a game bundled with the machine and... well, we're not even sure how to classify Wii Music.

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Compare these games to the list of titles rumoured to be making an appearance - Kid Icarus, Pikmin 3, Star Fox Wii, Pilotwings, F-Zero - and it's no wonder the internet is upset. Just take a look at the reaction to the Nintendo conference here.

We don't think for a moment these games aren't in production somewhere. Nintendo isn't stupid enough to just dump franchises guaranteed to make money. But even if they are not scheduled for 2009 or even 2010, Nintendo's policy on withholding information until a game is near release does it no good in the eyes of us, the core gamers.

This year, both Sony and Microsoft spoke of games and services in both the short-term and long-term, bombarding its audience with names to expect in the next two years. In contrast, we think Nintendo namechecked less than ten titles and all due to hit shelves in the next eight months.

It makes it seem like Nintendo hasn't got much in the pipeline, and what it does have is of little interest to core gamers. Whether or not that's true is irrelevant. It's the perception the E3 conference has created that's the problem.

Had Nintendo just dropped in a quick montage of Link, Mario and Star Fox at the end of yesterday, the reaction would have been far more positive.

Even showing off some new titles from third-party developers would have helped bring balance. Today we learned from magazine scans that Dead Rising is coming to Wii. Surely that deserved a mention last night?

It seems Nintendo really didn't think about the audience that would be watching. Looking over what was shown and how time was divided up, we can't help but feel it was aimed at a completely different audience to the one addressed. Our mums and dads don't log on to websites for live feeds of Nintendo announcements.

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Wii Sports 2 and Wii Music are obvious contenders for whatever constitutes as Cosmo gadgets pages, but even the third-party stuff mentioned came from mainstream franchises like Star Wars. Where was MadWorld, the Sega game tapped to be one of the shining highlights of Wii?

It's a shame, because buried underneath the uninspiring software were some genuinely intriguing peripherals.

Wii MotionPlus could turn the Wii Remote into what we all imagined it would be, whilst WiiSpeak could become the new Balance Board and be incorporated into everything from CoD: World at War to Mario Kart.

Yet the software demoing the devices simply wasn't interesting enough to get us excited. Say to me that Star Fox uses voice chat to coordinate a group of friends in an Arwing squadron and I'll cheer. Talk about Wii MotionPlus working in a lightsaber game and see me cry. But show me a dog catching a Frisbee I threw and I'll hurl... in the bad way.

There's plenty of stuff we're excited about seeing on Wii that we know will make great use of what is one of the most diverse games machines ever created. The constant release of hardware peripherals is slowly turning the Wii into a platform capable of almost anything.

Unfortunately, if Nintendo keeps holding its cards so close to its chest, real core gamers are going to lose faith long before these games come out.

We expect to see more at GDC and Leipzig. We'll give you another chance Nintendo. But people are beginning to say that you're not for us any more and that's a thought we can't bare to deal with...

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