Why Nintendo Won E3

No one panders quite like Nintendo.

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Within seconds of Nintendo's E3 conference starting, I was already smiling with unabashed glee at the sheer whimsy emanating from the stage. Famed designer Shigeru Miyamoto, in his dressing room, with Pikmin frolicking hither and fro--pandering has a bad connotation, but when you have a wealth of beloved franchises in your impressive history, you can rely on playing with people’s nostalgic leanings to win over the hearts of everyone who grew up loving these games.

But it's not just fond memories of my past that makes it clear that Nintendo won the trophy; it's the future that makes me incredibly excited.

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The Wii U controller--the blandly named GamePad--should be able to capitalize on the potential of the GBA-to-GameCube connectivity that died before it could ever take flight. One of its major benefits, asymmetric multiplayer, isn't just a marketing buzzword; it's a way to rekindle local multiplayer. The beauty is that the player with the GamePad has different goals from those using the Wii Remote, and that completely changes how games are played.

Do you take joy in causing misery in other people? Well, I certainly do, so I'm squirming with delight at the prospect of griefing friends with Wii U games. Remember when Reggie Fils-Aime explained that you could add blocks in New Super Mario Bros. U to help players struggling to cross pits? That's all well and good, but you can also use it to bar their path unexpectedly. Maybe build a makeshift wall in an unexpected place or construct a jail for your more unruly friends. In a sense, you get to play the role of an ill-tempered digital god, which is going to lead to chaotic laughs of equal parts happiness and anger once people start pushing the boundaries.

I'm excited for more conventional games as well, even though what we saw at the conference was far from the revolution you would expect with a new console. Admittedly, I would usually be disappointed to see the same old ideas recycled once more, but there's a reason why I'm left with a feeling of optimism rather than jaded cynicism. The most interesting sequels--Pikmin 3, Luigi's Mansion 2, and Paper Mario: Sticker Star--are the latest entries in smaller franchises that haven't been milked to death with untold rehashes. A significant amount of time has passed since I've last played any of these series, so I can't wait to have another go. And it just so happens that everything we saw, from the feeble cries of Pikmin to Luigi's rainbow flashlight and Mario's windmill sticker, make me antsy for these games to hit shelves.

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But the biggest surprise is that a third-party entry might be the best thing in the Wii U's initial library. Lego City Undercover started with the prospect of having a bit more freedom than a typical Lego adventure, but gradually transformed into something truly impressive. The trailer made it seem as if the blocky city would be akin to Grand Theft Auto, encompassing the craziness that makes that franchise great without all the violence and profanity that I've begun to sour on. I desperately want to see more of this game because it seems as though it could be something really special. We've already seen how beautiful the city looks, the freedom it offers, and even some clever building sequences (warp pipe!), so I'm confident it's moving in the right direction.

Nintendo didn't set the world on fire today. There was nothing that rivaled the Wii Sports demonstration from E3 2006, and I am disappointed at the lack of new IPs. But I can't deny that it had the strongest group of games I want to play right now. And that's the most important thing that Nintendo, above all other companies, seems to understand. All the superfluous social features are well and good, but to make a real impression, you need actual games, and that's where Nintendo delivered in spades.

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