E3 media briefing: Nintendo innovates but stays the course

Posted by Mark Raby

Santa Monica (CA) - As the company with the most momentum in this hardware cycle, Nintendo was able to just focus on new games that fit the mold it has created with the Wii and DS.

The Microsoft briefing ended with the shooter Halo 3, and the Sony briefing ended with the shooter Killzone 2.  Meanwhile, Nintendo's briefing ended with a virtual workout game.  That pretty much sums up the position Nintendo has carved for itself, and from the looks of its press briefing, Nintendo is carving a little deeper.

The main title that was announced was Wii Fit.  Using a new "Balance Board" controller, there's really no game element in it.  It's another extension of the new genre first brought to life with the DS's "Brain Age".

Mario and Zelda were once again at the front lines, with The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass as the featured DS title.  Mario took the reigns of two major Wii announcements, the November 12 release date of Super Mario Galaxy, and the announcement of Mario Kart Wii, which will come out in the first part of next year.

In an unusual twist, Nintendo spent a fair amount of time talking about online console gaming with the Wii.  The newcomer to online gaming, Nintendo said Mario Kart Wii, Madden 08, FIFA 08, and Guitar Hero III will all carry online functionality.  That adds to Pokemon Battle Revolution, which came out last month, and Mario Strikers Charged, heading out to the US on July 30.

Nintendo will also bring out a new online-powered Wii channel called "Check Mii Out".  Details are scant, but the first announcement is that it will let users compete in Mii creation contests, sending Mii characters, and submitting Mii videos all via the Wii's Wi-Fi connection.

It's all still such a tepid introduction into the online scene for the Wii.  It almost exudes the feeling that Nintendo wants to create a special, unique online experience but doesn't know quite how to offer that, leaving basic Wi-Fi connectivity to tide the online gaming crowd.

Nintendo knows its momentum is not infinite, however.  The introduction of the Wii Zapper and the Wii Wheel will come out in a bid to attract more fans of shooting and racing, two genres with a fairly weak link to Nintendo.

After eight months of smashing success with the Wii, Nintendo's E3 briefing met expectations.  It showed off the games that people were talking and thinking about, and it brought forth yet a new way to play on the Wii.