Talking Point: Nintendo's Innovative E3 Approach is a Breath of a Fresh Air
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Going its own way
As this article goes live Nintendo's Treehouse team will be well into its second day of live demonstrations, showing off projects and titles revealed in the Nintendo Digital Event. It's an approach from Nintendo to offer rolling coverage and continually seize attention, while the company has fulfilled an obligation for a major live event with its Super Smash Bros. Invitational; let's not forget that Best Buy stores in the US and Canada are hosting Super Smash Bros. for Wii U demo booths, too.
In contrast to past years, when the opening day — or day before in the case of various press conferences — was the main event before the focus shifted to sampling demos and interviews, Nintendo is maintaining its efforts with continual live coverage. As in past years it's also planning additional reveals of previously unannounced projects, with a new 3DS title due today. Whereas closed door press meetings have been the norm in the past, however, this year it seems Nintendo is keen to target gamers at home; the pitch has been that it's bringing E3 to everyone.
To start with the Nintendo Digital Event, in some respects it was only different to a Direct broadcast in style and branding, though the principle remained the same. It wasn't an 'event' in the sense that it was anything other than a video presentation, as there were no interactive aspects such as Twitter hashtag voting to determine content, for example. That said, the brand change made sense as it was a very Western broadcast in tone; gone was the 'Direct' gesture and formal tone seen in some of those broadcasts, and in their place were humorous animations from Robot Chicken and that fight scene between Reggie Fils-Aime and Satoru Iwata. It was typical Nintendo, or at least standard of Nintendo once it loosens up.
It was a slick presentation, in any case, with the pre-recorded nature allowing for plenty of post-production and polish, which was a veneer inevitably lost with the switch to live broadcasting immediately after the event. There were some fairly embarrassing early hiccups, with pre-prepared videos not loading, dead time and some peculiar camera angles. It wasn't disastrous, though it'd hardly be described as smooth.
To Nintendo's credit, and the team running that Treehouse open studio, in general the broadcast has been relatively well organised for a live event. As a team we've been a little divided over the approach of zooming out and showing the workings of the broadcast between segments, showing the camera operators and technicians rushing around between sets. The flipside is that Nintendo is being good to its word in helping us get a sense of the 'E3 experience', as these shots give a solid perspective of the layout and size of the booth.
Wherever you stand on the style of the Treehouse broadcast, its very existence can surely be argued as nothing less than a success. It is, after all, the vast majority that follow E3 from home, and it's given terrific insight and footage into titles far beyond what the standard trailers can offer. On top of that, at the time of writing, there have been guest appearances from Shigeru Miyamoto to show off his GamePad projects, Eiji Aonuma for the Hyrule Warriors demo and an appearance from Reggie Fils-Aime. There have been many others too, mainly developers from the games in question, including some of the spotlight being reserved for indies.
As for the Super Smash Bros. Invitational, that was also an impressive event. Despite some empty seats in the arena and some typical live-show slip-ups, it was a terrific opportunity to see a variety of stages and challengers in action. It was a lengthy event, but the enthusiasm of the crowd was infectious, while seeing the Mega Man Final Smash, for example, was hugely exciting. There was the perfect finale, too, with an intense battle over the championship.
When you combine this rolling, always-on approach to broadcasting E3 with the diverse range of content, we'd suggest that Nintendo has found a near-perfect method for presenting itself in the best light. Microsoft and Sony, for example, are widely acknowledged to have delivered solid presentations, yet it's been the usual all-in-one effort of the live conference, in addition to the fact that a number of reveals were titles for 2015 and, in many cases, shown in the form of cutscenes. That's exciting in its way, but in comparison to that approach and mature genres such as shooters and driving titles, Nintendo's offerings are full of colour and, it must be said, offer notable diversity in gameplay.
The Wii U, in particular, has been the focus, with the GamePad getting a major push. Regardless of whether you agree that the system's controller has been given a stronger case at E3, the range of experiences on offer is certainly promising. We have creativity in Mario Maker, a fun twist of online shooter action in Splatoon, a breathlessly expansive RPG in Xenoblade Chronicles X, platforming, puzzles, fighting and more. Nintendo's point, eloquently made in a surprisingly impassioned speech by Fils-Aime in the Digital Event, is that the company is focused on fun above all else.
What its E3 approach has succeeded in doing is sharing that fun. The company's not following the template demanded by rivals and — it should be said — aspects of the press, and is putting players first. This E3 has been shared in a way like no other.
Based on the reaction to titles like Splatoon and some positive buzz from gamers and media alike, it seems Nintendo has won over many with its approach. Bucking the trend has been brave, so perhaps fortune will follow.