Features: The Joys of Following Nintendo at E3
Posted by Nintendo Life Staff
A rollercoaster ride
E3 2013 is entering the final stretch, with one final day of the show floor being open for thousands of keen gamers to rush to their favourite booths. The PR campaigning will start to fade, too, as executives and developers pack up and try to remember where they put their passports.
Rather like last year, this E3 has arguably passed relatively quietly, or perhaps without the killer moment that shook the gaming world. We've had two new consoles on display, but it's a strange world indeed if the biggest cheers and most coverage went to a system promising not to enforce ludicrous anti-consumer DRM and online requirements — a feature known from every games console ever released.
From Nintendo's perspective, however, it's been a strange mix; there was no live presentation, replaced by a pre-recorded Nintendo Direct, but everything else has been business as usual. The company's released a good number of interesting videos, conducted a lot of interviews — keep your eye out for a particularly exciting interview from us in the coming days — and done the media rounds. Apart from the absence of a live press conference, it's largely been business as usual.
Yet as is typical, the roster of games revealed by Nintendo stand out from the crowd of hyper-realistic offerings from other studios, with driving, FPS and online games being mainstays elsewhere at the conference. Nintendo always has a unique identity at E3, and has shown a lot of what will come to define the Wii U in the next 12 months.
With the doors getting ready to close in LA, members of the team that have been based in Nintendo Life Towers this week decided to share their personal thoughts on what's come to pass.
When Nintendo said it wasn't going to do the traditional E3 presser, part of me died a little inside. E3 is the time of year where big games need big announcements, and shirking away from this event in such a fashion seemed like an admission of failure. However, now the dust has settled I'm happier with the Nintendo Direct we saw; I think it was a wise move on Nintendo's part, if only because it allowed the company to avoid the various technical issues which usually plague E3.
The disappointment of hearing Mario Kart 8 isn't coming until next year was balanced by the fact that it looks amazing, and Super Mario 3D World is equally impressive. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze could only be a disappointment when you consider the amount of hype that has grown up around Retro's rumoured new title (I was hoping for a Star Fox reboot myself), but I'm sure I'll play it and love it, and it will sell like cakes that are exceedingly hot.
Given the media's negative reaction to Nintendo's E3 showing, you'd think that the company had shown nothing but a blank screen for 40 minutes. However, when compared and contrasted against what other companies have displayed so far, I think Nintendo has possibly the strongest line-up of software right now — certainly in my eyes, as I'm keener to play Mario Kart than I am The Crew or the latest Need for Speed title.
E3 is always a tense/hectic time for me, not only am I waiting to see what Nintendo will be presenting for the year ahead, I'm also busy attempting to organise the Nintendo Life team and trying my best to keep our servers running smoothly on what always becomes our biggest traffic day of the year – which it was, again!
Every year I have mixed emotions the day before, during announcements and then the following day on reflection – there is never a dull moment being a Nintendo fan. Strangely I'm feeling much better about the show after digesting all of the info – Nintendo fans are probably sobering up after expecting titles like a new Zelda, Star Fox, Metroid and F-Zero; those are always craved.
The rollercoaster ride of E3 is changing too, I expect something different again next year with more highs and lows as a Nintendo fan, bring it on!
Nintendo's E3 Nintendo Direct felt like a bit of a mixed bag to me. On the plus side Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World both looked superb. There were lots of other great games to look forward to on Wii U this year, too.
After watching the announcements, however, I must confess as a Nintendo fan that I felt a little bit disappointed. I would have loved for a surprise announcement of a new Star Fox or F-Zero game to shake things up on the Wii U a bit. I was also half-expecting Retro Studios to reveal a new Metroid game, but it didn't materialise. Perhaps the most frustrating thing for me was the news that I'd have to wait until next year to get my hands on Mario Kart 8; I was sure that this would be out in time for Xmas.
Having slept on it I have to say most of my disappointments have subsided. This is a really strong line-up for the Wii U for the upcoming year. While some of the games don't feel terribly innovative as they are based on previous Nintendo adventures, I have no doubt that they will deliver the goods.
While on day one I couldn't help but feel a little deflated due to the lack of shock announcements and the fact that we knew almost every game announcement ahead of time, a good sleep and a few hours of reflection made all the difference to me. Nintendo barely delivered any of the new and unexpected news that I love so much this E3, but it did throw forth a solid line-up, a handful of first party Wii U games that, without exception, look excellent.
I can say with confidence that I'll be buying most, if not all, of the games shown during the E3 Direct. This is the first time that we've seen what Nintendo can really do with the extra power and high definition. Its titles all have a wonderfully clean look, and Mario Kart 8 in particular was a pleasant surprise – I never anticipated it to best a 3D Mario title visually, but Hideki Konno's team have pulled off a blinder. Similarly, Monolith Soft's X is right up there as one of my most wanted titles.
The lack of third party activity on Wii U was disconcerting, however – outside of decent support from Ubisoft, Warner Bros., SEGA and encouraging indie movements – so I really hope things pick up on that front. From a first party perspective, though, I have no problems whatsoever with the near future – I can't wait to play all of these titles, and the 3DS line-up isn't exactly looking shabby either.
Following Nintendo at E3 kind of feels like being the one kid in class that likes a quirky, niche pastime. Describing a multi-billion dollar corporation as niche is a peculiar comment, but when you look at what Nintendo brings to the table compared to its rivals, it feels appropriate.
That’s what I love, but also a reason why the big N often gets a rough ride on social networks and less coverage in the mainstream media. Games are apparently about realistic visuals and in many cases shooting enemies and aliens in the face, and then Nintendo has come along with Super Mario 3D World and a Wii Fit Trainer bringing the hurt in Smash Bros. Utterly bonkers, but colourful and brilliant.
If I could have had one wish it’d have been that Nintendo would deliver one additional exclusive a year – probably from a Western studio – that provides an intense, story-driven experience. Not a popular view (I know from recent experience!) but if you added a landmark title like that to all of the delights that Nintendo's brought to E3, then it could maintain its quirky status while drawing some extra headlines.
But still, Nintendo’s charm means a lot to me, that almost childish enthusiasm to make games fun above all else. Beyond the occasional indie, it’s the only company that consistently delivers on that score, and that's what it showed us at E3.
Following Nintendo at E3 is always a fun experience as predicting what it will showcase is a little bit like predicting next week's lottery numbers - it could literally be anything. This year was a little easier to predict though, considering Nintendo had already told us the majority of what to expect.
Obviously, it was a typical Nintendo Direct this time round instead of a big loud presentation and it seemed to work well. There wasn't as much, but considering we get more information served up at regular intervals throughout the year, it was almost expected. If Nintendo was not doing the regular updates, it's highly likely all of that 3DS goodness from a few weeks back would have been shown too and we'd all be running around high-fiving everyone and anyone.
Having time to digest what I saw from Nintendo this year, I'm actually thrilled. On the first day I was being all grumpy because Star Fox didn't emerge but, hey, Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze all looked fantastic - it's just a shame we won't be able to play them anytime soon.
Over the years, even including the latest one, Nintendo's presentations are always a little bit more fun than the other two big names in my opinion. For example, while Microsoft often puts its best business hat on and talks to the audience as if they're shareholders, Nintendo will add a bit of fun to the mix. From the company president pretending to be a green grocer to zombie Reggie scaring poor old Yves Guillemot, Nintendo always shows that in the end it's a games company operating in the games industry - it's supposed to be about having fun.
Look, the games that Nintendo showed off yesterday will undoubtedly be great. I'll buy them, I'll play them, and I'll most likely enjoy them. Nonetheless, hours after the Direct had finished, and as I moped around the Nintendo Life offices exhibiting a look of sheer nonpluss-ery, the overwhelming feeling was one of chronic disappointment.
The complete lack of surprises - both first-party and third-party - was a real sickener. You may argue that, had Nintendo kept Mario Kart, Super Mario and Smash Bros. all hushed up until E3 week, then I'd have been hailing this as a solid showing. Yes and no. The problem is, whether Nintendo tells us about them or not, we know those franchises are coming - we expect them. Don't get me wrong, I love Mario Kart as much as the next person, and I don't subscribe to the train of thought that suggests Nintendo milk their franchises more than any other publisher does, but I just wish we'd have seen something out of left-field, something a little bit different.
Over the space of 40 minutes, Nintendo surprised me once, and it was most certainly not a pleasant surprise. On Tuesday morning, we were discussing our ideas of what we would personally describe as 'worst case scenarios'. We talked about the horrifying possibility of Retro Studios' talent being wasted on a Donkey Kong Country Returns sequel. Half-jokingly at first, but with a niggling, foreboding sense that it could still very much be on the cards. Thomas raised insightful and largely indisputable points in his feature the day after; the games that Nintendo announced at E3 - Tropical Freeze included - make perfect sense from a financial viewpoint, but as a fan, I was still thoroughly underwhelmed.
I understand the Wii U is struggling, and I understand that these are the sort of titles that Nintendo needed to show in order to drive the install base and, ultimately, regain the faith of investors and shareholders. I get that, I honestly do, and to be honest, I was half expecting a show like this. I just wish Nintendo would have thrown us a bone - just a little something - to say, "Hey, do you remember spending £350 on our console back in November? Yeah, thanks for that."
So those are some of our thoughts on this year's E3 from Nintendo, and also in broader terms about the quirks of following the company. Let us know your feelings in the comments below, as always.