LOS ANGELES--Nintendo had already unveiled the Wii U well before E3 started, but there were a lot of things going into this show that we didn't know. Nintendo's keynote spent a great deal of time detailing what the Wii U can do, what its online and app services are, and what games we can expect to see. A small amount of time was also spent on the Nintendo 3DS, but today's event was clearly dedicated to the Wii U.
What we didn't get, however, was a date and price. Not surprising, but anticlimactic all the same.
Wii U gets social and connected
The Wii U will have Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube support, covering most of the bases for what many home consumers would think of as a set-top streaming-video box. Yes, cable-accessory streaming apps like HBO Go are missing, but the four services Nintendo announced don't require cable subscriptions to activate.
Asynchronous gaming and a socially connected Miiverse app accompany Facebook and Twitter connectivity, providing what look like some significant boosts to Nintendo's online services. Still, what Miiverse really does, outside of socially sharing achievements and currently played games, is a little unclear.
Wii U and its games
In addition to Nintendo's own games, a significant assortment of third-party games -- many of them mature-rated -- are Wii U-bound. The teased games included Mass Effect 3, Batman Arkham City, Assassin's Creed III, Scribblenauts, Darksiders II, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Director's Cut Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Aliens Colonial Marines, SiNG, Lego City Undercover, ZombiU, Avengers: Battle for Earth, Just Dance 4, and Rayman Origins.
On the first-party side of things, New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, and the minigame compilation NintendoLand were the focus. New Super Mario Bros. U showcased some social features and collaborative gameplay, while NintendoLand, a virtual theme park collection of 12 minigames covering major Nintendo franchises, looks like it's aiming to be the Wii Sports of the Wii U. Could it be a pack-in game?
Wii Fit U
Nintendo's dormant fitness game franchise was unveiled again, using the same Balance Board peripheral. Many of the Wii Fit U minigames look like they would have been at home on the Wii; others use the GamePad for target-practice exercises, and for remote play away from the TV.
3DS Games: Round Two
The Nintendo 3DS got short shrift at the keynote, although Nintendo has a separate 3DS-oriented breakout session later on at E3. The few first-party games that were shown were already-known quantities: New Super Mario Bros. 2, which comes out August 19, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. Luigi's Mansion was playable at last year's E3. All of these are Mario universe games, not surprisingly.
Third-party games teased at the keynote were sparse: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Kingdom Hearts 3D.
Was this enough?
Nintendo has a lot of ground to cover to get back in the game, and the Wii U needs a real price to be taken seriously. How much will the GamePad tablets cost? Will the Wii U be sold without the GamePad? The selection of Wii U games shown feels like it's leaning heavy on current-gen catch-up titles (Mass Effect 3), and lean on first-party magic.
Nintendo undoubtedly has more to unveil during E3, so stay tuned...but as for this keynote, you couldn't help but notice it ending with a whimper instead of a bang.