All eyes are on the Nintendo conference later today (June 2). Nobody knows what the big N has got up its sleeve, but it has to be good. For the first time, its niche is genuinely threatened by a better - and potentially cheaper - product in the shape of Microsoft's full-body motion techology, code-named Project Natal.
We asked Nick Ellis, editor of the UK's best-selling unofficial Nintendo magazine NGamer, for his thoughts on what Nintendo needs to announce today and he told us it has to be about the games.
"The Microsoft tech doesn't matter," Nick told us. "It smacks of Sony's E3 2005 conference. It's all very nice, but it probably isn't quite as good as it looks - and I can't imagine stuff like that being ready for Christmas". He's got a point. E3 2005 was full of huge promises such as the infamous Killzone 2 and MotorStorm trailers. MotorStorm didn't quite live up to the amazing target footage, and while Killzone 2 did indeed look amazing on its release, three years of waiting dampened its impact. Could the same be true of Project Natal?
Even if the Natal tech is near manufacturing stage, there's still the fact that development kits were said to be 'arriving at our partners today' at Microsoft's event on Monday. If you haven't seen Microsoft's new challenger yet, take a look at this video and decide for yourself:
Above: Project Natal recognises your whole body. Wii Motion Plus does not
Nintendo has, we'd guess, about a year to turn things around in terms of their core fans, to ensure it has a user base for its next machine. So what could they announce? Here are Nick's five suggestions:
We already know Miyamoto has plans for the next Zelda game. But while it's rumoured the great man won't be making an apperaance at the show, a new Zelda is extremely likely. With Twilight Princess unveiled in 2004 and reportedly finished (on Gamecube at least) by Christmas 2005 - a whole year before its eventual release - it makes sense that the next game is at a stage where it's ready to show to the public.
And if it does appear, it's more than likely it'll make use of the Wii's most exciting new tech. And after Microsoft's rousing show, it needs to do it well. Link is the man for the job.
If one announcement would be enough to keep hardcore Nintendo fans happy, it would be a proper new Mario game. Super Mario Universe? While N64 and Gamecube only have one 'proper' Mario game to their names, there's no reason Wii can't have another one.
If one announcement would be enough to keep hardcore Nintendo fans happy, it would be two proper new Mario games. Joking aside, there's actually a big possibility of this one being true, especially as we heard a rumour that a new Mario Bros game has been glimpsed at the show. If we knew more, we'd tell you. But whether on DSi or Wii, a new side-scrolling Mario title would be enough for us.
Basically, we can't think of anyone who wants to see the whole conference taken up with Wii Fit 2. Not that there's any harm in announcing Wii Fit 2 - it's just that this has to be the year that Nintendo rewards its long-term fans. A long list of proper games is needed - and we don't want to see a single Z on the end of them. Or the word 'Wii' at the start, for that matter.
Nick's absolutely right about this one in our eyes. DSi is a gorgeous piece of kit, but it needs more software to really show it off. The WarioWare taster available from the download store is fun and shows great promise - but today we need to see the meat in this DS pie. Not to mention its own version of the Virtual Console...
Those were Nick's ideas for Nintendo's big announcements, but we've got one more possibility. Nintendo could announce new hardcore games for the existing consoles...
Before Microsoft's conference, we really didn't expect Nintendo to unveil a new console, but it really needs one now. Seeing as Microsoft's console can render better graphics with vastly more complex AI than Wii, with a cheaper base unit (albeit with an unannounced price-point for the future Natal kit), the next step surely has to be a 'Wii HD' with more grunt than a mere souped-up Gamecube. Well, either that or a massive price cut.
Above: Xbox 360 is poised to beat Wii at its own game
One potential problem for Nintendo is the rumour that Microsoft entirely owns the Natal tech, and therefore all the patents. While Project Natal is similar to an EyeToy, the tech involved is vastly superior and if Nintendo should want to mimic the full-body control for their next machine, they might come across some legal barriers.
But an improvement in Wii's motion sensing is necessary - when the girl was demonstrating the ball game on Natal, she stepped 'into' the screen and back again in true 3D spacial recognition. It makes Wii Motion Plus look horribly outdated and it hasn't even been released yet.
Tonight, even if Nintendo fans' prayers haven't been answered, our questions will have been. A return to traditional Nintendo values would be enough for the fans, and us. A new console would be highly unlikely this year, but it's the only thing we can imagine that will secure Nintendo's market share for the future. Suddenly, that 'better technology doesn't make more fun' argument doesn't sound so assured. Wii has been usurped and Nintendo has to counter. And it has to be today. Bring it on!
What do you think Nintendo should announce at E3 today? Let us know in the comments below
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