Reaction: Our Thoughts on Nintendo's Big Day at E3
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Lots to consider
With day one of E3 now long closed, it gives us an opportunity to look back at Nintendo's efforts. It was arguably the most sustained onslaught — over the course of 8-9 hours — that Nintendo's ever produced, starting us off with a Digital Event, following up with rolling live demonstrations from the Treehouse team and rounding it off with the Super Smash Bros. Invitational. On top of that, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime was a high profile presence, cajoling the media into exploring the latest that the company has to offer.
It was a long, at times frantic, day, so some members of the team are now taking the chance to think back on what occurred. Did Nintendo succeed on its big day at E3?
Following on from the predictable 'same-ness' of Microsoft and Sony's presentations, I felt Nintendo's E3 broadcast was like a breath of fresh air. They certainly had a lot of upcoming games to show for the Wii U and surprises which they have been keeping up their sleeves.
Aside from the big heavy hitters, it was refreshing to see Nintendo focussing on unique experiences which can only be offered with the Wii U GamePad. This was a clear message to everyone, they are not going to be de-bundling the chunky peripheral any time soon and that they still have faith in the concept. Certainly games like Splatoon, Mario Maker, Captain Toad really hammered this point home, and during the Treehouse session with Miyamoto afterwards the theme continued with Project Giant Robot and Project Guard, which if anything felt laboured on a little too much.
One of the highlights of the presentation for me was seeing more of Yoshi's Woolly World, which looks even more visually stunning now. The revelation that the game will also have two-player co-operative play was the icing on what was already a very delicious looking cake.
IGN's reveal of Devil's Third was a pleasant surprise too, it's great to see the Team Ninja spirit alive and kicking in the newly formed Valhalla Game Studios. The only real disappointment for me during the events of yesterday's presentations was that we didn't get to see even a fleeting glimpse of Star Fox for the Wii U, which Miyamoto had clearly demonstrated to TIME; even a one minute look at this most anticipated game would have been appreciated.
While sectors of the gaming press seemed to have issue with Nintendo once again skipping the traditional press conference for a pre-recorded presentation, I think ultimately the much-hyped "Digital Event" was a success. It allowed Nintendo to engage its audience more effectively, and the humorous segments which were included simply wouldn't have worked as well if shown during a staged press event. In that respect, Nintendo proved the doubters wrong. The Treehouse Live broadcasts have also gone down well, technical issues aside. We're basically getting to see more of these games than ever before, which is great.
However, I still think the company needs to learn a little about pacing when it comes to its E3 presentations; Splatoon looks amazing, but it was given perhaps a little too much screen time and should have come earlier in the event. Zelda on the other hand didn't get enough exposure in my opinion, and would have arguably been a better choice as the final game to be revealed. However, this is a fairly minor complaint — overall, I thought the entire broadcast was excellent.
Moving away from the Digital Event and looking at the games themselves, I think there's a lot to be positive about — despite the lack of Retro Studios or Next Level's work-in-progress titles. We all wanted a Metroid or F-Zero, but in the cold light of day it's obvious that Nintendo is wiser putting its efforts into projects like Amiibo, which could be a massive success for the firm. Sure, Nintendo is following where Activision and Disney have already been, but the concept of a single figure being compatible with multiple games across wildly different genres is a truly groundbreaking one.
Elsewhere, Smash Bros. is surely going to find its way into the homes of many Wii U and 3DS owners this holiday season, and while it's perhaps not as recognisable a franchise as Mario Kart, I'm sure it will trigger another surge in hardware sales. Yoshi's Woolly World looks scrumptious, and Mario Maker could be the game which illustrates most keenly the benefit of the GamePad — that touchscreen is going to be the perfect interface for such a title.
Overall, I think it might be a little overzealous to say that Nintendo "won" E3, but it certainly didn't lose it, as some had predicted.
First of all, what I think is exciting as we look back at day one is that, unlike previous years, it feels like there's more to come. I'm well aware of past instances where Nintendo's used press briefings on days two and three to reveal big games, but the difference this time is that Nintendo seems set to share most information with the public through its live videos. That, to me, is what's really mattered so far in this E3.
Sony and Microsoft are following a formula that works for them, there's no getting around that, as its live press events do earn serious concentrated buzz from the media. I think Nintendo's innovative streak this year — delivered as a reaction to being on the back foot, I suspect — may have stolen a march, however. Even today there'll be hours of Treehouse coverage, which is promised to be fresh from what we saw yesterday. As a result I'm still buzzed about following things closely today, rather than having a sense of scaling back after an initial blowout.
The first day, however, was terrific, because of that always-online approach. Like Damien I thought the Digital Event was pretty strong, though the running order and pacing could have arguably been better, but that's always a source of debate. It was solid overall, though, and after a stuttering start on Nintendo Minute and Treehouse, it all settled down into a nice groove — though, I'm sorry Miyamoto-san, the two 'Project' games didn't do a great deal for me, and skipping Star Fox was disappointing. The Super Smash Bros. Invitational, meanwhile, was excellent. The announcers occasionally seemed off-form, but for a live event using a pre-retail build for a competitive tournament, it all went through smoothly; huge praise to the Treehouse chap that managed the debug system and organised the matches. It all made Super Smash Bros. on Wii U look fantastic.
So I thought Nintendo nailed it as a whole, one of the best days I remember of any E3 — the bold format really worked. To finish with the games that excited me, Zelda is a no-brainer, Mario Maker intrigues me, though my fanboy moments mostly came with Xenoblade Chronicles X; 2015 can't come soon enough.
Nintendo really knocked it out of the park for me this year; it had clearly been listening to its audience across various channels and, as a result, is now working to deliver what they wanted. It wasn’t a perfect showing by any means, but it certainly showed that Nintendo is taking some pretty big steps in the right direction.
The biggest part of Nintendo’s Digital Event for me was the unveiling of Splatoon. It’s crazy enough that Nintendo is actually developing a third-person online multiplayer shooter, but what made this game so special was the hugely innovative gameplay concept behind it. Painting the arena to mark your turf adds a whole new strategic element, but then you can also transform into a squid and speedily zip around this tagged area makes the combat must faster paced than your average modern competitive shooter.
Otherwise, the main Digital Event had a lot to show, although I’m curious as to how much of what was unveiled will appeal to consumers outside of Nintendo's core following. The major exception here could — and if Nintendo markets it appropriately — should be the Amiibo NFC figures. I’m personally excited to see how these will work across different games, and I’m really hoping the feature will allow for more than superficial changes; the NFC usage in Super Smash Bros. is a good start as it seems to already have some depth to it.
As for the rest of the day, I found the Treehouse Live @ E3 demos slightly disappointing; the team looked a little out of its depth when technical hitches arose, and the demos themselves were a tad too long, repeatedly showing the same things over and over. Thankfully, the production values increased quite considerably when it came to the Super Smash Bros. Invitational. I really enjoyed getting a close-up, unscripted look at the game, and the Grand Final match was perfect evidence that the game potentially has a very bright future within the competitive scene — which I imagine Nintendo was keen to highlight.
Those are some of our thoughts on day one, let us know what you thought in the comments below.