The waiting is the hardest part, and when it comes to Nintendo we've been waiting for new information about the Wii U for a whole year. Next Tuesday the publisher will hold its E3 2012 press conference where we'll hopefully find out what the hell is going on. In the meantime, to keep ourselves sane, we decided to hash out the most interesting (and somewhat probable) predictions for the big show.
Here's what we think (or at least hope) will happen next week, starting with...
A new Smash Bros will be shown, but it wont be playable, and wont be a launch title
Ok, so theres definitely a new Smash Bros game on the horizon. The developers have said it will come to both the 3DS and the Wii U, but the game could still be in the drawing board phase. Still, theres no way Nintendo will miss out on the elated cheers of fanboy ecstasy that will come with name-dropping this flagship fighting series. Smash Bros will get a name check with a video presentation or two, but thats all. It wont be playable, and it definitely wont be a launch title.
This isnt a bad thing, chalk it up to high standards. Nintendo and developer Project Sora dont want to create a Smash Bros game that isnt worthy of the title. A new entry in this much-loved brawling series cant be just a roster update and a pile of new stages. Even though weve talked about what new characters we want in the next Smash Bros and the stages wed like to see, we know it comes down to more than that, and Nintendo does too. Expect Smash Bros Wii U/3DS to introduce brand new gameplay elements to the series. Hopefully well get a peek at them during Nintendos E3 presentation.
3D Classics of SNES games will be coming to 3DS
Nintendo loves to please the old school fans, just look at the 3D Classics series on the eShop. Classic NES games, 3D-ified and made available for download on the 3DS. Kirbys Adventure, Kid Icarus, Nintendo even made Excitebike free for a limited time. So what will be the downloadable fan service this year? Were thinking 3D SNES games in the eShop.
What will the games be? Super Mario World seems like an obvious choice; Super Metroid and Final Fantasy III would be real crowd pleasers. Were really hoping for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which would look great with a layered 3D effect. Last year Nintendo gave 3DS owners a free copy of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. Is it too much to hope that well get another free Zelda game this year? Weve got our fingers crossed.
Mario Wii U game announced for launch, will interact with 3DS
In 1996 the N64 didnt just launch with Super Mario 64, the controller and entire launch of the system were built around that instant classic. Since then Nintendo launched both the GameCube and Wii without an original Mario platformer to varying success. But now that Nintendo needs to hit the ground running with a big launch built around its friendly mustachioed plumber. But just what type of game will it be?
As much as wed like a successor to the Galaxy games from the 3D Mario team at Nintendo EAD, that team just shipped Mario 3D Land last year, so thats expecting a lot. Meanwhile, New Super Mario Bros Wii was a markedly bigger sellers than the Galaxy titles, so a new console entry for that seems like a guaranteed success for the new system. And with New Super Mario Bros 2 coming to the 3DS, it could also showcase whatever connectivity Nintendo plans for its current consoles.
There will be a 3DS remake of Majora's Mask
Nintendo seems to have slowed down a bit on the remakes, but a 3DS version of The Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask is still a smart bet. Like Ocarina of Time, its a beloved Link adventure thats been ported to nearly every Nintendo system since its initial release on the Nintendo 64. Also, it sports slightly spiffier graphics than Ocarina (remember the N64 Expansion Pack?), so itll adapt well to the 3DS and 3D-ification.
Not only would putting Majoras Mask on the 3DS keep the N64 port tradition alive, it would give Nintendo a great excuse for a new limited edition 3DS bundle. A lot of gamers missed out on the Zelda 3DS bundle last year. This would be a great incentive to get customers who still havent taken the 3DS plunge to pick up Nintendos handheld.
The Wii will get a price cut
Is the Wii a dead system? We dont like to think so. Sure, there havent been a ton of AAA releases for it lately, but it has a nice back catalogue of stellar games (just look at our list of the best Wii games) all going for cut rate prices. Thats why its the perfect time for the Wii to get a big fat price cut.
So then the question becomes how big of a price cut? Currently a black Wii with a copy of New Super Mario Bros goes for $150. A drop to $100 would be great, but $125 is a possibility too. Or maybe Nintendo will just introduce a more generous bundle. Perhaps theyll toss Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Mario Kart Wii in the box as well? Its up in the air, but bottom line: Nintendo would love to keep selling Wiis until the day Wii U arrives, and a price drop is the way to do it.
The Wii U will HD-ify old Wii games
Backwards compatibility can be a technical nightmare - just ask Sony. So Nintendo is really doing consumers a favor by supporting Wii games on Wii U, but its doing itself a favor as well. The fact that the Wii U will play old Wii games means people will keep buying them up until, and maybe even after, the new system launches. Especially if the Wii U could bump them up to 720p.
Thats right, expect Nintendo to announce the HD-ification of Wii games via Wii U technology. It has already been proven possible through less-than-legal means, so why shouldnt Nintendo pick up idea for its HD system? Imagine Mario Galaxy 2, Skyward Sword, all the best Wii games, bumped up to a resolution that will make the Wii U your HDTVs new best friend.
Nintendo will announce an Xbox Live/PSN equivalent for Wii U, and membership will be free
If theres one place where Nintendo needs to catch up with the competition, its on the internet. Weve seen them take some big steps, including downloadable demos for the 3DS, but theres more ground to be covered. They need more games with online multiplayer, and a competitive offering of streaming media services.
E3 2012 will bring details to light on the online presences for the Wii U. Netflix is a given, and since Xbox just got Amazon Instant, it wouldnt be a stretch to see Wii U receive the same. The real question is, what will Nintendos online network be like, and how will it be branded? To really be competitive, Nintendo needs an equivalent to Xbox Live and the PSN. Our bet is, the networks name and its features will be revealed at E3, and just like Nintendos past online efforts, it wont have any subscriber fee.
GameCube games available for download at launch of Wii U
Old school Nintendo fans were sad to learn last year that the Wii U would lose the GameCube backwards compatibility that they previously enjoyed on the Wii. Thats an unfortunate but not unexpected change to functionality, probably to cut costs, but it at least opens a door for Nintendo. As part of their further expansion of its online plans, GC games can finally join the Virtual Console.
Selling retro titles as downloadables were a huge early success for the Wii, and even though Nintendos support for the Virtual Console on the Wii and 3DS have slowed to a trickle, we highly doubt the service will be gone on the Wii U. What better way to rejuvenate it than offer downloads of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker or Super Mario Sunshine?
Nintendo finally announces Fire Emblem 3D for US and use it to showcase bigger DLC plans
Fire Emblem has always been a series more aimed at the Japanese crowd and is famous (or infamous) for its highly traditional, hardcore gameplay. Despite that fact the most recent entry for the 3DS is surprisingly forward looking for Nintendo, especially with the amount of downloadable content on offer. The game has yet to be announced for the US yet, but we think Nintendo of America was waiting for the perfect time, like, say, its E3 press conference.
Nintendo needs to prove it has an aggressive new online strategy both on consoles and handhelds. Fire Emblem 3D is a big step in Nintendo changing it policies, so itll be a big part of the presentation.
Pikmin 3 will be a Wii U launch title
Miyamoto himself has confirmed that Pikmin 3 will be at E3 this year. Thats not too surprising, as fans have been waiting since the GameCube days for another outing with Olimar and friends. So again, were confident Pikmin 3 will be on the show floor at E3, but the surprise up Nintendos sleeve? Pikmin 3 will be a Wii U launch title.
The Wii Us release will be a recentering of the Nintendo brand, meaning franchises we havent heard from in a while will be coming out of the woodwork. Thats why its important for Olimars Onion to land on day one with the Wii U, to show that Nintendo is serious about servicing the fans, and that its still capable of surprising its audience.
Dragon Quest X or some other MMO will be on hand
Nintendos online strategy has been so anemic for the past decade that the company needs to make several huge stride to make up for lost ground. Another big move to prove the viability of its new internet strategy is to talk up what a great home the system can be for MMOs, including Square Enixs ambitious Dragon Quest X MMO.
A Wii U version has already been announced in Japan and if Square Enix intends to bring the game to the US, the publisher would be better off skipping the US release and going straight to the next system. Even if the Japan-centric MMO is skipped over, Nintendo could showcase some other MMO, free-to-play or not, to prove Wii Us commitment to online.
Nintendo will reveal multiple new third-party games...
Nintendo has never been the frontrunner for third-party support. To really win consumer confidence for the Wii U, it will have to prove its serious about bringing the biggest cross-console games to the Wii U. Thats why Nintendo showed a Battlefield game running on the Wii U at E3 last year, and why Assassins Creed III being confirmed for a Wii U release is a big deal. Showing off games that are grittier and more technologically advanced than what the Wii offered is a step in new direction.
Previously announced games like Darksiders II and Batman: Arkham City will be a part of the show. They wont just be ports though, expect exclusive features for these AAA games that only the Wii Us unique interface can provide. And can other like Far Cry 3 or BioShock Infinite be next on the list?
...then blow everyones minds by demoing GTA V with exclusive features
This may be the most far out prediction on this list, but hear us out. If Nintendo could pull off the right premiere the first footage of the next Grand Theft Auto in action, itd firmly establish them as a source for mature, western games. Itd have tablet weapon selection, touch-interface city maps, and online play just like the big boys. Demoing an immensely popular, genre-redefining title like GTA V is how Nintendo can make the console wars into a true three-way battle once again.
Itll prove that Nintendo is ready to embrace gamers of every age, and not just senior citizens looking to Wii bowl. Itll also prove that the Wii U is technologically capable of playing the biggest games on the market. Itll prove that Nintendo is here to win.
No 3DS redesign
Thats right, no 3DS redesign. Redesigning the 3DS would be a thumb in the eye to everyone whos already picked up Nintendos latest handheld, and would certainly be a death sentence for the Circle Pad Pro, which we think is worth picking up. Not only that, but itd kill the momentum the 3D system is finally gaining.
Even if you havent ponied up for the second stick, the 3DS works just fine. Expect a new bundle, maybe a limited edition color or two, but no 3DS redesign, at least not this year at E3. We wouldnt be surprised if by the end of the year we heard some rumblings of a potential redesign, but doing it now would be in danger of overshadowing the Wii Us coming out party.
What do you predict?
That's everything our crystal ball is telling us, but what reasonably plausible events do you think will occur during Nintendo's press conference Tuesday? Let us know in the comments and keep your eyes on GR next Tuesday morning to watch the news happen LIVE. Be there!