With their online press conferences and fan events Nintendo has been doing E3 differently for a couple of years now. This year, though, it broke one of the golden rules of show business — never work with children.
A Kid’s Corner initiative brought some hand-picked children into E3 to try out the new games and experience the thrills of the big video-game show. With parents and guardians in tow, the lucky youngsters toured the Nintendo booth getting hands on with games like Fossil Fighters: Frontier, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse and Yoshi’s Wooly World.
Getting the biggest reaction, though, was the new multiplayer first person tactical paintballing game Splatoon. The ability to instantly see who was winning by the colour of the map, along with its playful take on shooting, appealed to both children and parents alike.
Beyond the excitement and exuberance though, one moment stood out in my mind. Up above the show floor in a special Kid’s Corner space — which you can see here — the children got to meet their hero creators of classic Nintendo games. Mr Miyamoto spent time with the group introducing his new Mario Maker title, and then working with the kids to create their own levels. Then Mr Ishihara, CEO of The Pokemon Company, introduced Pokemon Art Academy and showed off his Pikachu drawing skills.
During the course of the hour long session the whole feel of the event really changed. What started off as some lucky kids getting in on the E3 excitement turned into something more creative and family focused.
Maybe it was partly because I was missing my own family back in the UK, but seeing Mr Miyamoto laughing and gesticulating as he worked on designing a new Mario level with some of the children felt more like any normal Sunday afternoon in a family living room than a marketing exercise. There was a sense of joyful understanding from these famous creators that the young players were at the heart of what Nintendo does best, and for the kids there was a sense of genuine appreciation of what these creative individuals had brought into their lives.
After the event Reggie Fils-Aimé, President of Nintendo of America, explained the thinking behind this Kid’s Corner initiative at E3 this year. “It was a fabulous opportunity for kids to experience the magic that is Nintendo. Kids are so important to Nintendo, they make up such a large piece of our user base. But typically an event like E3 doesn’t talk to kids.”
Focusing on this, rather than the press conference arms race of Xbox and PlayStation, means that this year at E3 Nintendo extended its strong connection to young players and young at heart gamers who remember growing up with Nintendo consoles and want their kids to do the same.