Nintendo fans had a lot of optimism heading into E3, despite that the company chose to not hold a traditional press conference. Nintendo Directs have become an incredibly satisfying way to satiate our appetite for Wii U and 3DS news.
At 7 AM PDT, I forced myself out of bed and attempted to watch the live stream of Nintendo's E3 related Nintendo Direct. The key word here, though, is attempted; the stream's quality was far from perfect. I actually missed out on the Pokemon announcements, caught a few buffered clips of Super Mario 3D World, and barely saw footage of Mario Kart 8. While the quality eventually stabilized, it was still far from perfect.
Little did I know that the stream's quality would be the perfect metaphor for their entire Direct Connect presentation.
Nintendo absolutely needed to knock it out of the park; they didn't necessarily need a grand slam, but they needed at least a homerun. Microsoft delivered 90 minutes of games. Sony received multiple applauses and ovations. Both console manufactures hit 450-foot homeruns. Nintendo hit a soft ground ball through a hole for a base hit. Or, in other words, they played it extremely safe.
Just as it was last year, you really needed to play the games to fully comprehend how Nintendo did. Thankfully, you'll have that option at participating Best Buys this week. But the one game everyone wants to play (Super Smash Bros.) won’t be there. Retro's big game that "everyone wanted them to make" wasn't a new IP or Metroid; it was Donkey Kong Country. I honestly don’t know anybody who wants another DKC over Metroid/a new IP. Super Mario 3D World is an enjoyable title, but I don't think it's the system seller that a Super Mario 64/Galaxy-esque game would be. Star Fox, F-Zero, Pokemon, Metroid, and a new Zelda title were absent from the Wii U's E3 lineup.
"Maybe they'd have a few surprises during their software showcase," I thought. Others would echo this idea, but the only surprise was Mario hitting on everybody before the show began and the Wii U Fit trainer becoming a new playable character in Smash Bros.
Is this officially the end for the Wii U? Far from it--Sonic Lost World is an absolutely fantastic game, Mario Kart 8 is still Mario Kart, Pikmin 3 is still excellent, and Smash Bros. is still coming. But there weren't any megaton bombs dropped. There weren't any "holy crap!" moments.
There weren't any home runs.
For now, the Wii U remains reliant on first-party games to succeed. There's nothing wrong with that, but they'll still struggle to gain mass support.